I Actually Hit My Goal!

So I did it: I hit my 50,000-word goal for the month. I’m actually a little shocked that I managed to do this. I’m not exactly known for following through on my plans in a timely manner. Hell, I’m not even big on following through on my plans! For reference, here is a short list of the things I said I was going to do in the last few years, and still have not finished:

  1. I was going to get a part-time job for a two or three years maybe and pay down a bunch of my debt. I was going to stop spending, and just work constantly to pay off my credit cards, and then look at graduate school. I’ve been at my job four years now, and am in slightly more debt than before (damn interest!). I am no closer to paying off my debt than I was four years ago.
  2. When I moved into this house, I had a three-year plan. I was going to save up for $3,000 to pay the first and last months rent on an apartment, and then buy some furniture. While I’m proud to say that I’ve saved up more than that amount of money, it’s been more than four years since I moved in here. And I’m no closer to moving out of here than I was back then.
  3. The whole “save for an apartment” idea started to turn to crap when one crappy management company started buying up as much property in this city as they could. So the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and I started talking about buying a house. I decided to start saving up the downpayment, using what I had already saved for an apartment. More than 8 months later, and we’re no closer to buying a home in this area than we were back then. Yes, I saved up some of the money we need, but it just never seems like enough.
  4. I was going to wait a year or two after graduation to apply to grad school. I figured that would give me time to gather up some of the research I needed to give my application an edge over the others. More than four years later, still haven’t even started it.
  5. I have some milk crates I made into shelves in the corner of the bedroom, and they seem to collect junk. I’ve been putting “clean off crate shelves” on my to-do list for months. Think they’re clean yet?

I just seem to let things go for too long. When I do follow through with something, it’s usually in a last minute panic. I put things off and put things off, and wait until they snowball into this massive task that is so intimidating it’s scary to even think about starting it. I think that living such an unstructured life, with nothing but my job giving me any sort of schedule or deadlines to follow, just makes me lazy.

You see, in university, I thrived on the chaos. One year I had four classes a semester, was a researcher for a Criminology professor, and a teaching assistant for a Sociology professor. On top of that, I was on the Board of Directors for an organization on campus and was the chair of their Events Planning and Fundraising committee. I also volunteered in the Academic Advising office, work with the Welcome Week team to run events the start of each semester, gave tours to prospective students and their parents, worked in public speaking a recruitment for the club that ran Welcome Week and did my usual charity work with my friends through their fraternity. I had two dry erase calendars on my wall: a one month calendar and a four-month calendar. I colour co-ordinated my schedule, using different colours for charity work and class work and for each job. I could somehow manage to make it to class 7 times a week, write two 2,500 word research papers, gather 350 website links for a professor’s research, monitor 100+ threads in an online discussion board for the class I was assisting, and still manage to make it to a charity kegger on Friday night. I was on fire back then.

The closer I got to graduation, the harder it got to keep on top of things. It was like I knew that this chaos was going to end soon and that there was nothing to replace it. Without the pressure, and the deadlines, and other people depending on me to get things done on time, there just seemed like nothing could motivate me. Then, just days after writing my very last exam for my first degree, I had the allergic reaction that resulted in 94 days of hives. I seriously couldn’t do anything when that happened. It was the middle of summer, and sweating made the hives worse. Moving made the hives worse. Basically, I sat on the couch and ate fast food, because being around the hot stove made the hives worse. I packed on 60lbs that summer and did absolutely nothing.

Ever since then, I haven’t been able to get back into the swing of things. The odd time I do have some sort of deadline to get things done, I rock that out like nothing else. But for the most part, I don’t do much these days. The pile of books I’ve been meaning to read is growing, and I just never take the time to read them. I haven’t done a massive clean-out of the bedroom in almost three years now, even though I mean to every spring and fall. I’ve started writing projects and just tossed them aside after a few weeks if they even last that long. I even went out and bought yarn and knitting needles, and can’t seem to find the motivation to sit around and attempt to knit. My usual schedule has become: wake up, make coffee, read random shit online. Shower, put on make-up, watch reruns of something I’ve seen 97 times already. Read random shit online, text AAB, get ready for work. Walk to work, work my usual closing shift, catch a ride home with a co-worker. Come home, pour a glass or two of wine, eat dinner, read Buzzfeed, go to bed. I don’t do anything!

This month kind of changed things. I was pushed to write every day. The NaNoWriMo website has a word count tracker on your stats page. Every single day I would write on here, and then go log how many words I wrote. I caught myself making lists of topics to work on later. I put reminders in my phone, shoved bits of paper with ideas scribbled on them in my phone case, and started carrying a very small notebook in my sweater pocket at work. I even started working on the piece I have decided will close out the month, which I started jotting down in a notebook almost 8 months ago! I’ve made notes, and research, and looked into more things to help with my writing. I was actually driven this month to accomplish something.

And you know what? I feel good. I’ve been happier this month. AAB has seen a change in me too I think. When I don’t work a closing shift, as soon as I get home we catch up with each other and then he tells me to go relax and work on my writing while he cooks. Doing NaNoWriMo not only let me get back into writing for myself, but it gave AAB the chance to discover that he is a fantastic cook.

So what’s next? It’s only November for a few more days, and then NaNoWriMo is over. A big part of me is worried that I’ll become lost again. Another part of me has a plan though. I’m trying to make a little word tracker of my own to use until next year. I mean, I love making spreadsheets. I’m sure I can work on up for each month to track myself. I still have a bunch of topics leftover that I didn’t use this month. And my big piece-du-resistance for the end of the month is the sort of thing I can continue, maybe make it a seasonal piece.

I don’t think I’ll be as motivated as I was this month, writing every single day almost. But I’m going to push myself to hit a goal every month again. I’m going to give myself something to work towards, keep jotting down those topics and planning posts out in my head. And you know what? This seems like something I just may be able to stick with for once.

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Got Degrees. Now What?

Just got home from work again. Seven days down, fourteen more to go until I get two whole, glorious days off. Then it’s on to the 6am shift for the rest of the year. The work BFF and I were talking about how great it will be to have days off again and to have afternoons to get things done. A bunch of us at work were talking the last few days about the strange hours and long stretches we’ve been having to work lately. It actually lead to a small mini-flip-out with the manager the other day, which is what started all of this talk.

I was chatting with the girls and the manager in the office while we grabbed promotional materials and organized for our holiday displays. Someone mentioned what they were going to do on their day off, and I jokingly said that I was counting down the days until I actually got a day off and that I can’t keep doing these long stretches much longer. The manager chimed in and said that the only reason I have any long stretches is because I sign up for them, taking people’s shifts on my days off. For the last long stretch, this was mostly true. I had offered to take a few shifts, switch a few shifts, and come in on days off to cover for people. I was supposed to get two days off one week, but those got taken away when a co-worker had to take a leave of absence. Since I already had that weekend booked off, I didn’t make a big fuss when my days off were taken away. This time, with the stretch I’m in the middle of, I didn’t take any extra shifts. The manager just scheduled me for 21 straight days. He tried to deny it, which is when I snapped a little.

All of our weekly schedules are on the magnetic board. I started pulling schedules down off the board, throwing them all down on the desk and laying out my schedule for him. I stood there and counted off the 21 days in a row that he scheduled me for. His response: Well, why don’t you just take a day off or call in sick one of those days?

The reason a lot of us have to take these stupid long stretches is because we can’t afford to just take a day off. Like I’ve said before, if I give away a shift or call in sick then I’m losing 5-8 hours of pay. If I give up a Tuesday night shift, the boss isn’t going to just add five more hours to my schedule later in the week. I have to hope that: a) it gets ridiculously busy and they need the extra help and have to call me in; b) a co-worker gets sick or injured and needs someone to cover their shift; c) a co-worker’s family member get sick or injured and they need someone to cover their shift so they can take care of them; or d) someone dies. The company is not in the business of just giving away money. When I give away those 5 hours, they’re given to someone else. Those hours aren’t banked somewhere for me to use at a later time.

The funny thing is, the work BFF and I both went to school so we could get jobs that are not in retail. We both worked towards careers where we were either salaried employees, or we would have set hours and wouldn’t be scrambling to pick up shifts all the damn time. Unfortunately, with the job market and economy being what they are in many fields, neither one of us has been able to achieve that. So what to do with those degrees I went into so much debt to earn?

I have two degrees a B.A. Honors in Criminology, and a B.A. in Psychology. I had a plan when I went into school to get these degrees. I had a career picked out, and was going to work towards a very specific goal. Unfortunately, a few different things derailed that plan, which lead me to where I am now. There is a huge part of me that still wishes I could have a dream career in some sort of criminological field. I read over true murder stories, keep up on certain crime statistics, I even have the outline I wrote for a Masters Thesis I wanted to do if I ever got the guts to go to grad school. Hell, maybe for fun I’ll work on some of that research! But what do I do with these damn degrees?

Of course, the Queen of the Internet Jenna Marbles has already tackled this problem herself. As another dual-degree holder working on something she didn’t go to school for, she had to find a way to use her degrees so they wouldn’t go to waste. Now, her ideas are a more hands-on approach to using the actual physical degrees than I’ve been looking at. I mean, I didn’t even get mine framed. Hell, I haven’t even picked up the second degree from the school yet! The first degree is still in the cardboard envelope they gave it to me in, sitting in a plastic shopping bag with my college certificate, wedged between a dresser and some shelves so they don’t bend. Someday I’ll frame them and hang them up. Today is not that day, so I really can’t go with any of Queen Marbles’ ideas here.

You see, I’ve been looking at some of the different things I can do now that I have two degrees. I mean, what the hell do you do with Criminology and Psychology? Unless you’re a sexy super genius in a TV crime show, being a criminal profiler is out (even though my goal was something close to that). My grades in psychology weren’t good enough for me to get into a Masters program in psych, so that destroys any dreams of being a counsellor or psychologist. So what other options do I have?

1. Just Be Content in the Job I Have

Ok, I get to play with the surveillance camera at work. And I get to write up the incident reports when we catch shoplifters. I mean, that’s got a bit of a crime-fighting edge, doesn’t it? And sometimes, when we catch a shoplifter and call the police, I get to talk to the cops. Today I got to chit-chat about criminals with a really Sweet constable (who was damn adorable and my girls couldn’t stop checking out).*

2. Go Back To School

Yes, this is something I’ve been thinking of at times. I was all ready to apply to grad school. I had a thesis proposal in the works, a research proposal for my applications, I even had academic references lined up. One of those references is a customer at my store.  It’s almost impossible to look her in the eye some days now. She was so sure I was going to get into grad school at the university I did my undergrad at. Then I would get immersed in some massively messed up crime research on school shootings, and mass shootings, and mass violent incidents, and crime statistics, and I would be so damn happy.

Instead, I chickened out. After getting my references all lined up, and working on proposals, I just didn’t apply. My boyfriend at the time was applying to grad school in his field, and I decided to just find work for the time being. The plan was to work for two years or so, pay off a good chunk of my student loans, pay off the credit cards, and then apply for school. Of course, that didn’t happen. I didn’t get the jobs I had applied to and took a very part-time job in retail. Over the years, I’ve been able to pick up more hours and make a bit more money. But I had to live on credit for a little while. And then kept using credit to keep my head above water and not starve for a while. And now I’m drowning in debt, and can’t even think about student loan payments without bursting out into tears. I know, it’s my own doing, and I’ll fix it all somehow.

But all of that debt threw my plans off, and now I’ve pretty much lost all confidence in myself academically. I’m like the Hiphopopotamus in a rap battle. I would love to go back to school, get a job in corrections and parole. And I’m still looking into that option, it just seems pretty far-fetched at the moment.

3. Go Back To School Online

Ok, this option is looking pretty damn good right now. The other day I made a post about all the different options available for online learning. I’m looking into a few different programs through Athabasca University right now. I’m also looking at just getting a little more education in a few areas that I’m lacking in. I mean, having two degrees is great, but what the hell is it doing for me right now? There’s obviously something I’m lacking in, so I may as well educate myself.

Maybe I’ll get a post-grad certificate in Addiction Counselling, or a diploma education counselling. Or maybe I’ll do something that has absolutely nothing to do with counselling.

Really, at this point, I have no clue what the hell to do with these degrees. I’ve been using the transferable skills I learned and trying to work with those, but it’s only gotten me so far. Maybe it’s time for me to get a new set of skills. Or maybe it’s time I just give up on the degrees and accept that I’ll be a lifer at my current job. What do you think I should do?

 

*he was NOT more adorable than the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend. Not by a long-shot.

And So It Begins……

Just got home from work, poured myself a glass of wine, checked my Snaps from my sister, and am settling in to try and order some new pants for work. I would seriously like to know who the hell is in charge of setting pants styles and deciding that stores will carry only those styles each year. We have to wear plain black pants at work. Any plain black pants or jeans will do as long as they’re presentable and have no visible rips or tears. No yoga pants, or leggings, or ripped up jeans, or pants with embroidery or patterns. Just plain black pants. Think I can find some? Nope!

I have looked at every store I usually shop at. Everything they have is either tights or full of holes. The only blank jeans I found all day that aren’t full of holes had giant embroidered flowers all over the thighs and butt.  Unless I’m willing to shell out $60 for a pair of pants that will be worn out in the inner thigh in a matter of months anyway, I’m not getting any pants today. The closest I’ve found so far are ankle length linen pants with flowers on the back pockets.

Of course, I’m doing this online. Today is Black Friday, so there is no way I’m am stepping foot within 100 yards of the mall today. I know that Black Friday is a huge deal in America, but it hasn’t been that big of a deal here in Canada until recently. I live in a border town, so the last few years we’ve started having Black Friday deals popping up here and there. We even have a little display at work with a handful of Black Friday deals that last the weekend. This year is taking it too far though, in my opinion.

Usually, American Thanksgiving signals the start of the Christmas season around here. The mall stays open later, people rush out to go Christmas shopping, there’s decorations and Christmas music everywhere. This year, instead of just keeping the mall open later than normal, stores in our mall were given the option to open at 6am in order to attract the cross-border shoppers who were coming home from a long night of deals at that time. People lined up at stores at 7am, and it wasn’t even the day after Christmas!

I admit I have done the 7am lineup once with my siblings. We made a day of shopping on Boxing Day, getting those post-Christmas clearance deals. I did it once, and once only. I’ve been offered a few times to go again and turned them down every time. There’s just something that bothers me about adding to the madness that causes people to have to get out of bed on a nice, relaxing day to head into work hours early to serve anxious shoppers who come through their store like a tornado.

Black Friday isn’t the only sign the Christmas season is starting, though. Today we had our first seasonal worker in training on cash! He seems like a really sweet guy, and he caught on really quickly. We’ll hopefully have the other four workers in very soon to get their training in because this is our busy season. For some reason, people go nuts this time of year even just shopping at my store.

I get it, this is a busy time of year for people. I mean, just for me this time of year means more hours, a tonne of baking, more shopping in a matter of days than I usually do the rest of the year, wrapping gifts, chasing the ever playful Bowser Kitten after he gingerly plucks another ornament down off the tree and runs off with it in his mouth to nap with, and the mounting stress that comes with dealing with everyone else who is doing much of the same thing. Add to this the constant barrage of sweets, invitations to dinner parties, yet another Secret Santa, Christmas Parties, dealing with relatives who insist there is a War On Christmas, knowing that you’re going to have to spend at least one Christmas dinner stuck between your very liberal uncle and your ‘”Make America Great Again” aunt, and it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. The thing is, we’re all going through this stuff right now.

I know that you’re stressed, and you’re tired of dealing with people. You just want to walk into a store, grab everything you need in one fell swoop, cash out, and never set foot in a mall again. You don’t want to deal with all the other shoppers who are ready to pull out the pepper spray and fight to the death over the very last whatever the hell the popular toy is this year. Walking through the mall, you keep replaying old video clips of the 1983 Cabbage Patch Kids riots that happened in stores, waiting for someone to run up behind you and wack you with a metal folding chair so they can take the last cheese log at the Hickory Farms kiosk. You’re on your toes, ready just in case some random dude tries to piledrive you into the shiny tiled mall floor over a novelty Santa apron. The last thing you want to deal with is an over-attentive store clerk asking you what you need.

The thing is, that clerk is dealing with this crap too. Go check out YouTube, look for Black Friday shopping videos. Watch the 1983 Cabbage Patch Kids clips. I saw clerks in those videos carrying baseball bats for their own safety. These employees get trampled, get grabbed at, get screamed at, get threatened, all over a few dollars worth of merchandise. And this is on top of the normal dumbassery they deal with! They still have the secret shoppers to worry about, the stacks of clothes that are laying in a heap on the floor minutes after being carefully folded. They have to deal with poop in the change rooms, and parents letting their kids run rampant in the stores while they shop. When you have some free time while in front of your computer and aren’t obsessively reading through my old posts (or listening to the I’m Sorry Dad podcast, which I highly recommend), go check out Not Always Right. People post stories all year about the crap they have to deal with working in retail. Now imagine dealing with the things you read on there, plus all the crap that comes with the holiday season.

And to deal with the increase in shoppers over the holidays, a whole lot of stores hire seasonal workers. We have a new batch being trained right now, and a few stores in my plaza started training their last week. I know a few places in the mall here were starting their workers next week. That means that these people will have maybe six whole weeks of experience by the time they’re done. They may be really slow on cash. They probably don’t know where things are in the store. They don’t know how to look things up, or where the next closest store is, or when the next sales start. They’re basically hired to run cash so the full-year employees can get everything else done.

I know at my store, there’s a 6am shift just for the holidays. The work BFF and I will get in at 6am to wash the floors, pull the warehouse, stock the front end, and start putting stock away. Then we’re unloading the delivery, scanning the warehouse, and doing more stock once the store is open. There is a tonne of freaking stock to put out, and we have everyone possible in to help out. We pull every available body to keep stock on the shelves and need those extra people on the cash registers. For the most part, they can handle themselves. But they’re temporary workers who have no clue what goes on the there the rest of the year. They can’t tell you where a specific wine is, or what pairs best with veal, or whether we’re getting any Beaujolais Nouveau in before the holidays. They are just there to run cash.

So while you’re out shopping this holiday season, have a little patience. Chances are, the person at the cash is new at this. Yes, you’re tired and sore and hungry and frustrated with having to deal with 3/4 of the city being crammed into the mall all at once. But they’ve had to deal with all of the same things, with the added stress of being yelled at and given attitude by shoppers who can’t believe they have to wait an extra 90 seconds to be rung through because their cashier is slow. These poor workers are getting the mental shit kicked out of them, and then having to go out into that same madness to do their own shopping.

So be kind this holiday season. Remember that the people serving you in the stores are just that: people. They deserve the same kindness and respect that you would expect from them.

Sir, Please Don’t Shove Bottles in your Pants

It’s been a long, strange few days. The Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend is worn out from his 10-hour days at work and just wants to curl up on the couch and eat pizza tonight. So instead of his usual experimentation in the kitchen, he’s making a frozen pizza and some garlic bread. Of course, he can’t just throw the pizza in the oven. He’s in there right now throwing on extra mushrooms and cheese, and grating cheese and garlic for the pre-made garlic bread. Even when he’s too tired to be creative in the kitchen, he is so damn creative in the kitchen!

I think part of the reason we’re not cooking tonight is because of the damn fruit flies in this house right now. I tried for weeks to get rid of them. I’ve scrubbed the kitchen down, gotten rid of any food sitting out, I even set up little traps for them with wine and dish soap. But they just keep coming from somewhere. Well, AAB may have found where they’re coming from. It seems that the roommate in the basement is doing more than just stealing forks from us. Every two weeks or so, we run out of cutlery and plates, before suddenly everything is clean and put away while we’re both gone. We’ve known that it’s him hoarding it all in his room. Well, it turns out it’s worse than I thought.

AAB went downstairs to do his laundry. There, in the laundry tub in the laundry room, is a massive pile of plates, cutlery, pots, and pans. They’re not washed, and some of them are not even rinsed. If he’s letting this sit out in the open, what the hell kind of shape is his room in?

I’m thinking that our biggest goal for 2018 should be to figure out our housing situation. I’ve been putting off making any decisions because I’ve applied for jobs in other cities. I don’t want to buy a house or sign a lease, only to get a job four hours away. This is getting to be a little ridiculous, though. I think it’s time to either shit or get off the proverbial pot. I mean, living with people who have such an overarching sense of entitlement is really starting to get to me. I mean, can you imagine moving in with other people, taking all of their kitchenware, hoarding them in your room covered in filth, and not even thanking them for letting you use them? Or how about not even asking if you can use them in the first place!

Ironically, that sense of entitlement is something a few of us were talking about at the end of my shift tonight at work. We were sharing stories about truly honest people who forget to mention the case of water on the bottom of their cart, only to return later to pay for it. I know, I didn’t think such people existed, but I work with one of them! People like her seem to be very few and far between, especially where I work. Standing outside the store tonight, we were going over the shoplifters we’ve caught on camera so far this week, and how many we possibly missed.

You see, a lot of the shoplifters we catch seem to follow a few different scripts. There is the “run in, grab and conceal the bottle, run out” kind. They’re kind of like the Smash’N’Grabs I witnessed when I was with friends in a convenience store late one in Detroit. That night, after the store had stopped selling beer and had just turned the lights off in the beer cooler, a group of kids came running in. Two of them grabbed as much beer as they could carry and headed for the door, while the other two smashed pop bottles on the floor as a distraction. This isn’t a new schtick, and it’s something they actually train pretty much any and all retail workers to look out for. Sure, their exit methods vary at times. Some run out claiming they forgot their wallet in the car. Others pretend they didn’t find what they were looking for and just head for the door. Some are in and out so quickly, you don’t even notice them at first.

Another popular type is the “bring a big bag and hide stuff in it” people. I mean, how do they think they’re getting away with this? Sure, they may be able to walk out the door, but that’s only because we’re not allowed to tackle suspected shoplifters anymore. We still have them on camera, and we document the crap out of them. When we have security in the store and they catch these people, they’re going down for every single theft we have them on camera doing. Some of these people are amazing though. I’ve seen people load bags up with hundreds of dollars worth of bottles and just walk out the door with a big grin on their face like they just got away with murder.

My personal favourite is what I like to call “The Pants People”. These people walk into a store and just start shoving stuff down their pants. It’s amazing just how much one person can fit into a pair of pants, really. These are the worst people to catch because if we get the product back it all has to be sanitized if we can still sell it. I’ve actually seen people walk in with elastic bands around the bottoms of their sweatpants just so they can fit more stuff in there without it falling out the bottom. Of course, this makes them easy targets to follow, considering elastic bands around your ankles is not exactly a huge trend this season.

What gets me with each and every one of these people we catch is the sense of entitlement they have. Most of the ones that we do catch with either security or police present just seem to think that it’s their right to walk in and take whatever the hell they want, without paying for it. We’re not talking about people stealing a loaf of bread to feed their starving family here. I have seen people who have the money to pay, sometimes with them in their wallets, and just not want to. More than once, I’ve seen someone get caught somewhere and then pull out the money for the items. They seem to think that if they just pay for it then and there after being caught, they’ll just be let go. The thing is, it doesn’t work like that.

Believe me when I say that I understand how expensive life can be. I have had to do without many times before. I’ve had to survive off of what I could get at food banks. I don’t have cable, or a car, or pricey electronics (aside from the computer I saved up for). I’m not out taking trips, or going on shopping sprees like some of my friends can do. I have to budget, and grocery shop at the dollar store at times. I haven’t eaten name brand macaroni and cheese in years because that’s a splurge for me. I know what it’s like to live paycheck to 4-days-before-the-next-paycheck. It sucks. But I keep doing what I’m doing, trying to get ahead even just a little bit. I know I’m not entitled to anything, the world doesn’t owe me a damn thing, and it’s no one’s job but my own to pay for my life choices.

Then I see these little Draco Malfoy brats coming into the store, shoving a bottle or two in their coat pockets, and pulling the “don’t you know who my father is” crap when they get caught. They seem to think that because their daddy is someone important, they can get away with anything.

Or we get the “well I’ve had a hard life, this is life’s way of giving back to me” shit-nobs who seem to think that because life didn’t go the way they planned, life somehow owes them. I have actually heard someone (not at my store, at a nearby drugstore while I was cashing out and security grabbed them) say that because they went to school for a certain career, and then couldn’t find work in that career six months later, the universe owed them for letting them waste all that time in school. Hell, if that were a good enough reason to steal, I’d be knocking over banks left, right, and centre!

It really just boggles my mind how people can rationalize something like stealing, making it seem like they have a right to do it. I get it, some people are in a place in life where stealing really does seem like the best option. Maybe they’re starving and are stealing food or something to sell for food. They could be in the throes of addiction, and can’t find any other way to pay for their habit. For them, stealing seems like the only option. These are the people society failed, the ones who need more social programs, the ones who need help. Still, that doesn’t give them the right to walk into my store and just load up their bag with whatever they damn well please. We need to fight for better social programs to help people like this, in order to stop people like this from resorting to theft.

The ones that bother me the most are the ones who have options. The ones who have the money to pay, but don’t think they should have to. The ones who do it for a thrill, or for a cheap night out. They’re the ones who pull the “don’t you know who my [relative] is” crap or pull out their wallet after they’re caught. These seem to be the majority of the ones I’m able to catch on camera, or in the act while on the floor at work. And these are the ones that piss me off the most.

I don’t know about you Sunshine, but I was raised not to take what isn’t mine. It doesn’t matter if it’s another kid’s toy, a product in a store, or credit for another person’s work. All of that is stealing, and it’s wrong. Why do these people seem to think it’s alright for them to do it?

An Ode to Dollar Stores

Well, today is looking to be a strange day already. The Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend make a great dinner last night, with enough leftovers for lunch….. for him. Not realizing this, I let myself sleep in a bit, figuring I could use what would be my meal prep time for a nap and some writing. Instead, I had to make a mad dash around the house, attempting to draw on my eyebrows and cook up some sesame garlic tofurkey for two days worth of lunches. As it stands, I’m still running behind today and will have absolutely no time tonight to write or relax. Letting myself sleep in took away the time I needed to get pretty much everything done today. No time to stretch, or write much, or chit-chat with mum while she’s at work. I had to clean the kitchen, but could only do a half-assed job because there’s just no time for a full scrub-sweep-mop-scrub like I want to do. It was either fully clean the kitchen, or have to shell out of lunches for the next two days because I’m working weird shifts that don’t give me much prep time at night.

Usually, I don’t mind shelling out for lunches from time to time. The little plaza I work in has a lot of variety now for take-out options. In addition to the Tim Horton’s and Wendy’s we’ve had there for ages, we have a great little Vietnamese-Japanese-Chinese fusion restaurant, a tabbouleh place, and a brand new burrito joint. The only problem is, to get to any of these places I have to walk past either the Bulk Barn or a dollar store. Having a Bulk Barn around is bad enough on my wallet. You can’t run in there for just a little snack. You get the craving for a chocolate bar, the next thing you know you have a bag of broken nut rolls and need some bigger pants. Running in for a snack for me means coming out with some stevia sodas, dehydrated snap peas, some quinoa crisps, and a little bag of gummy candies to split with the work fam. And that’s if I don’t stop to get stuff for soup! I could drop a small fortune in there making gift bags for my coworkers for every holiday, getting a variety of kinds of rice, soup bases, noodles, and vegan substitutes like nutritional yeast, which I buy even though I’m not vegan and I love cheese.

At least with the Bulk Barn, I know there’s only so much stuff I can use. I know that there’s no use in me buying another $7 worth of chocolate when I’m trying to eat healthy this week and already have three chocolate bars in my fridge. And I know that my cupboard can only hold so much pasta, so there’s no use on stocking up on bulk fusilli when the cupboard is packed with rigatoni already. I have limits when I go in there (to a point). Yes, I will usually pick up yet another can or two of stevia soda, or grab a Pez dispenser for a co-worker. But I won’t drop the big bucks there very often unless I’m grabbing something I really need.

At the dollar store, I don’t have that sense of control. I can walk right past the Bulk Barn with no problem, even when I have time to shop. It’s almost like I’m physically unable to do that with a dollar store. Usually during my shift, I’ll run to the dollar store with the sole intent to buy a bottle of pop. That’s it, one bottle of pop. In the 45 seconds it takes me to walk to the store from my store, I’ll have somehow convinced myself that I need a small snack too. Maybe a small bag of cheap chips, or a Kinder Egg (for my American readers, Kinder Eggs are hollow chocolate eggs with a little toy inside that are illegal to bring into America for some reason). Walking into the store, the first thing in my sight is the seasonal things. That’s where I start to go wrong.

I know that I don’t need any more Christmas decorations. I have a bag full of tiny (and not so tiny) hats for work. We have two decorated trees. I even have a bag of candy to make into treat bags for my co-workers. Still, I take a quick walk through the seasonal aisle just to see if there are any new treats there. Somehow, I find two or three things I convince myself I really really need.

To get to the food section, I need to walk through health and beauty. It seems like there’s always something new there to try, and I usually end up loving what I get there. I started getting makeup remover wipes there for $1.25, instead of the $9 face wash or the $11 wipes at the drug store. Their bath sponges are amazing and cheap enough to replace as often as I need to. Hell, I even started buying makeup there on a whim. For Halloween, I needed blue and green eyeshadow and found an eyeshadow pallet for $1.25. This is quite possibly the greatest eyeshadow pallet I’ve ever tried. It’s a little harder to blend than the pricey ones I saw at Sephora, but they freaking stay on all day! I just got back from a hellacious 8 1/2 hour shift and my eyeshadow hadn’t budged or creased at all! So I have to check there to see if they have any new eyeshadows….. or lip glosses……. or makeup sponges….. or dry shampoo…….. or anything else they can possibly come out with that catches my eye.

By this point, I either have my hands full or have half a basket full of things. This is before I even hit the food section! I’ll try to grab just a bag of chips or some crackers to munch on. Then I’ll find half a dozen things we probably need at home: Rice-A-Roni, Cup-A-Soup, mini pizza crusts, discount Triscuits, Pop Shoppe soda in the glass bottles. It’s almost like they’re reading my mind, trying to figure out the best impulse buys for me. Then it’s through the candy section to get to the soda pop I came in there for in the first place. On a rough or really busy day at work, I can usually grab two or three things here just to give to co-workers. It’s amazing what leaving a KitKat in a person’s locker can do for their moral.

By the time I finally grab my soda, I’m up at the cash right next to the real impulse buys. I don’t know why I feel like I need peanut butter date energy bars, or a back scratcher, or foam nunchucks for AAB, but they wind up on the belt at the cash.

There have been times I’ve gone in there for soda and a snack and left with three freaking bags of things. A big part of me loves it, finding such a great deal on things. Another part of me, the financially responsible part, hates it. Yes, it’s always good to stock up on essentials like face cleansing wipes and bubble gum. But do I really need yet another piece of Tupperware with little sections in it? Or more pens with fuzzy balls on the end that the ever playful Bowser Kitten will attack any time I try to write with them?

This is why I pack a lunch for work. Today, I didn’t leave the store once in that 8 1/2 hours I was there. I brought food, and a book, and my soda pop from yesterday that I barely touched, and hunkered down in the break room for my dinner and my breaks. I didn’t spend a dime all day once I got to work.

Still, I wonder if they got any new eyeshadows in that I could use…..

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.

Christmas Tree Day….. was yesterday

Well, it happened. I completely missed a day of writing yesterday. The Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and I decided to actually sleep in since we both never get to do that at the same time anymore. We slept and lounged until almost 10am. I messaged my mother to see how her birthday weekend was going, and she tells me she just got back from the hospital.

My dad has issues with AFIB, a heartbeat irregularity that sends his heart racing to ridiculous rates. Before his heart surgery, my parents were on a first name basis with most of the EMTs in their area. Dad’s heart starts racing, won’t stop, and they have to call an ambulance. While he’s at the hospital, they fill him full of meds that are supposed to help bring his heart rate back down to a normal level. A lot of times, that just isn’t enough though. In those cases, they have to get the paddles and shock his heart back to a normal rhythm.  This is super dangerous though, and he’s actually died on the table while being shocked before.

So after spending a nice relaxing day with us girls doing her Christmas thing, mum goes to be at 10:30pm. By 1am, she’s wide awake and dad’s in an ambulance on his way to the hospital. When I talked to her just before 11am on Sunday, she hadn’t slept yet and hadn’t eaten since the day before. She was vacuuming and fixing her makeup though because my aunt and uncle were stopping by so they could all go see the musical my brother is in. Dad stayed home. When they all came back from the show, dad was in a bad way and they had to call an ambulance again. When I talked to her at 8:30 last night they were just getting ready to discharge him. She still hadn’t eaten or slept.

Well, I guess in the middle of the night, his heart started acting up again. They called his heart specialist first thing this morning and ended up heading back to the hospital a few hours ago. I’m waiting for updates as to what the hell is going on. The last I heard, they were getting ready to shock him.

While all of this was happening yesterday, AAB and I were setting up our Christmas decorations. A former roommate left behind a Christmas tree and some decorations, so we decided at the last possible minute that we’re going to have TWO trees this year. This meant a quick trip out to buy more lights, a stop at the dollar store to pick up decorations, and a quick run into work to pass out store-bought Christmas cookies. The always festive Bowser Kitten was a huge help, yelling at the trees so we knew they were there. We were afraid he might try to climb the bigger tree, but he hasn’t yet. I think he sometimes forgets he’s a cat and seems to think he’s a fuzzy little God and we put these things up for his tribute.

Yesterday, despite all of the health problems, is officially the start of the holiday season in my family. Some members started decorating soon, of course. My cousin has had her tree up for a week, at least. And my sister has to do her tree in stages, to let her cat get used to it so he doesn’t destroy things. She winds up having to start putting her tree up right after Halloween, to make sure her giant fluffball McLovin has ample time to accept it as part of his surroundings.

For the most part, the beginning of the holiday season is supposed to bring about joy and peace and happiness. We pull out decorations, throw on a Christmas movie or TV special, and listen to Christmas music all day. I put out some Christmas cookies in a tin on the table to munch on, order a whole bunch of Chinese food, and we watched old Home IMprovement Christmas episodes. Nothing screams Yuletide like Tim Taylor putting too many lights on his house to try and outdo a retired proctologist. This is supposed to be the beginning of cozy nights in with hot cocoa, watching Bing Crosby tapdance with Danny f’n Kaye, and writing letters to Santa.

But oh no, it’s the start of so much more than that for me.

You see, a few years ago I took an idea from Pinterest and tweaked it a bit. The pin said to write love letters to someone, but give them all of them at once in envelopes marked with when to open them. So you could write one for your anniversary, one for their birthday, and so on. I took that and wrote letters to my mother. We’ve always written notes back and forth since I was a little kid. So this seemed like the perfect gift for her. I wrote one for everyone’s birthdays; one for the anniversary of my grandpa’s death; one for her and dad’s anniversary; one for the anniversary of the day we moved into their house; and so on. When mum opened that gift, she cried so hard! She kept saying it was the best gift I have ever given her. She told everyone about this gift. It was the gift to end all gifts.

Except it wasn’t.

You see, it lasts for a year. Then, you’re out of letters to open. The following year, Christmas just seemed a little empty. She didn’t rant and rave about anything. It was like those letters made every other gift a huge let-down. So now, I have to have a new batch of letters every year.

I know what you’re thinking: it’s just a little stack of letters. How hard could it be to write them?

Well, one year I decided to loom-knit scarves for everyone. It was my first year of university and I was short on money, so I went the handmade route. I made loom-knitted scarves, and hand-beaded necklaces, and bought a few Fair Trade pieces for everyone. I had to research where to get things without spending too much, reteach myself to bead and loom-knit, and then manage to get all this crafting done during exams while surrounded by my roommates’ six cats and a ferret who all seemed to think my crafts were new toys for them. I stayed awake for a little over 50 hours before passing out on the living room futon, where I rolled over my crafting supplies in my sleep and sliced my arm open on the scissors I had left out. Between the studying and the crafting, I didn’t leave the house for 11 days unless it was to go write an exam or go to 7-11 for coffee and hotdogs.

That was easier than writing new letters every year.

I mean, I can’t use the same old stuff over and over again. I’m expected to come up with something new and fresh, something that will make mum laugh and cry all at the same time. I have to find that perfect combination of nostalgia and brand-new to make this gift as good as the original one I gave her years ago.  And this year, it’s going to drive me up the wall.

Not only do I have these letters to write, I also have gifts to get for everyone else. Thankfully AAB and I are awesome at getting gifts for each other. We consistently find the perfect combination of sweet, practical, thoughtful, and mushy by just buying a bunch of little things instead of one big thing for each other. The painfully scratchy Bowser Kitten just needs a new scratching post, since AAB is not a very good substitute. My Secret Santa at work was the easiest one of all. I was hoping for the work BFF, but instead got someone who no one else really knows well enough to buy for. But we’ve had some good talks about interests and Vines and the comedic geniuses of the VlogSquad and RyDoon. I ordered her present about 15 seconds after I drew her name.

Everyone else? I have no clue! No one is giving me any ideas, or suggestions, or feedback. Does my sister have festive pillows for her couch? Does my brother need new good Tupperware yet? Who knows! I never get any suggestions for my brother-in-law, whom I barely ever get to see, so he just gets a big basket of teas, chocolates, and nuts. I try to get my sister things she can use to relax, even though I have no clue what she already has. Still, without feedback or ideas, I’m expected to come up with creative and original gifts for people. I make gift baskets and am somehow expected to come up with the perfect combination of things that someone will want to use right this very second.

Work gets a lot busier at the holidays too. In a few weeks, I’ll be back on my beloved 6am shift with the work BFF. We haul carts and do stock and unload trucks and scrub floors with the radio cranked and the giggles on full. Then we caffeinate, eat the equivalent of a small veggie platter, and head back out to do customer service while I wear tiny festive hats. It’s hard work, trying to get everything done in the store in just 4 hours, and then helping customers and doing more stock for another 4 hours. And the mornings are ridiculous, having to get up around 4am to shower and make the coffee. Then after work, it’s back to crafting and writing those letters and loom-knitting and beading and cooking and baking and cleaning and cleaning and cleaning…………

Every year I think, “This is it. This is the year I finally snap”. I’ve come close a few times. My anxiety was so bad my final year of university, I couldn’t keep food in me. I had to spend two weeks at my parents’ place (this was in my pre-Bowser days), and the thought of rushing all of this gift-making and wrapping and shopping, while writing papers and exams, just to spend two weeks hearing “are you sure you want to eat that?”, it was almost too much for me. I existed on pudding cups for a while, while a family member constantly told me I should switch to sugar-free jello because it has fewer calories. I couldn’t keep food in me, and she’s worried I’m getting too many calories! This year, I can already feel, is starting to feel like that year.

I know that I need to cut back on the drinking for the holidays. I usually have a glass or two of wine at night before bed. Well, that needs to stop for these 6am shifts! I’ll also have two whole days off a week to get things done, after working a 21-day stretch to get to them. I have to start with some very careful planning, and lists, and maybe some new coloured pens and a fresh notebook!

Or, I could just go reheat some leftover beef egg foo young and start listing out dates and occasions for those damn letters for mum.