A Day to Come Down and to Think

I wound up spending the night at my parents’ place last night, spur of the moment. The Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend caught a ride home with his mother so he could go to work this morning, so I haven’t seen him yet today. The wonderfully friendly Bowser Kitten has been a big ball of cuddles and claws all day, trying to get as much attention from me as possible. As I type this, he’s sitting on the back of my chair, randomly putting his paw on the back of my neck for a second at a time. If I turn to pet him, he runs off. But he’ll sit there for a good 20 minutes, randomly patting me.

As much as I love the fuzzy attention, it’s been really hard to get anything done around here today. When I got dropped off this morning, I put the bag of leftovers large enough to feed a small family into the fridge for AAB and me to pick at. I did some dishes, swept the kitchen, and took out all the stale bread and snack food for the birds and squirrels. I threw in my laundry earlier, did some donkey kicks while I watched a drag queen explain how to fix sparse eyebrows, and started my annual organization binge. But I barely got past the first step, somehow.

You see, the beginning of the year means one thing to me: a fresh new day planner to track things in. Every year I get my new Orange Circle Studio day planner and wait for the new year before I start filling it in with anything beyond doctors appointments I don’t want to forget for the new year. Today was the day I start filling in my day planner, checking out all the new features it has since last year’s model, come down from the holidays, and start to really contemplate life.

First off, a quick word about these planners. I may or may not be hugely in love with these day planners. If you’ve read some of my past posts, you know that I can get a little obsessive about my day planners. I tried to use a bullet journal and gave up after a month. It just wasn’t organized enough for me. I tried just grabbing a little day planner from the drug store, and couldn’t find one with the right amount of room to randomly track things like I tend to constantly do. And as much as I wish I could be one of those people with the tiny little day book in their clutch, I always have been and always will be more of a giant notebook in a messenger back type of gal. These planners are the perfect design, with the perfect amount of space for me. This year they even came with a section in the back of the planner to track what kind of day you’ve had, your goals for the year, and your finances, all on top of the room they give for shopping and to-do lists.

Anyway, back to my day. I started off my organizing for the year by trying to put all the important dates from my old calendar and planner into my new one. I’m not going to lie, I used Facebook to help me look up a bunch of birthdays too. After that, I usually switch out purses to get a new look for the season, clean my desk area, make a healthy snack, do some stretches, and then curl up with a good book. I never got past that day planner today, though.

This time of year is just full of so many plans, so many new beginnings, and so many opportunities to make new goals. It is also full of catching up with friends and relatives, seeing how much more successful everyone else is than you, endless being questioned by people you hardly ever see about what your next step is to “finally living like a damn grown-up”, and hearing that apologetic tone in people’s voices when they say “oh, so you’re still working in retail? Well good for you for sticking with it!”. Tempers flare this time of year. Patience wears thin much easier as the holidays come to an end. It’s like everyone has spent so much time and energy being holly and/or jolly, they just don’t have it in them to do it one more day. The pressure of bettering yourself and your life combined with the crushing realization that everyone else thinks you’re a failure (at least in your own mind), added on to the simmering anger and the waning patience seems to cause this giant bubble of blah to burst inside me.

This year, it feels like I have to accomplish everything all by myself. I’ve always had a very small support system to lean on. For the most part, my family has been supportive but up until recently didn’t seem to understand some of the obstacles I faced or the things I was struggling with. It wasn’t until my brother went through the same things that they seemed to understand. As amazingly awesome as AAB can be most of the time, we are not without our troubles. One of my biggest problems with our relationship, which he can never seem to understand, is that I feel totally alone when it comes to making plans for the future. He will say he wants something for us but doesn’t seem to do anything to work towards that goal. It all seems to come down to my work towards that goal, and it’s damn stressful.

All of this just seems to compound right about now, and it gets me so down. There’s so much I want to do, so much I want to get done, so much I need to consider for my future, but it seems like everything else is coming before all of that. I want to start looking for a new place to live, but I know that it is only me working on this search for us, and I am the one who has to manage the money and go about getting loans or mortgages or talking to financial people.

This post has gone nowhere fast, and I knew that would happen today. Every year I take January 2nd off so I can clear my head, do some thinking, and sink deeper into the existential void I had been trying to claw my way out of. My head is in a very bad place right now. I just want to crawl under a blanket and sleep for a week. I’m doing everything in my power not to just burst out in tears. So if you want to read more about my anxiety, my mental state, and my current mental downward spiral, stay tuned Sunshine! I can’t see this letting up very quickly.

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It’s Impossible to Schedule!!!!!

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things I absolutely love about my job. I have a bunch of regular customers who are awesome-sauce. My co-workers (for the most part) are like family now. It’s close enough that I can walk there.

I just wish I had a real schedule!

Does anyone else out there have this problem?

Take today, for instance. Last week, I was scheduled for the 4:15-9:15 closing shift for tonight. Over the weekend, that shift was changed to 12-5. Last night, our assistant manager noticed that we only have two people working in the morning for an almost one dozen skid delivery, and my shift was changed to 9-2. Mind you, this change happened around 8:45 (when we close at 9pm). Then, while I was making my dinner after work last night around 9:45, the assistant manager texts me and changes my shift AGAIN to 9-5:30pm.

Even when I get my schedule, I can’t make any real plans. I had to remind my boss a dozen times that I couldn’t work last Wednesday morning (got a closing shift instead) because I finally got a doctor’s appointment and couldn’t cancel again. I’ve had to cancel plans so many times the last few months, because the schedule changes so often and I have no real control over it.

And this is the time of year when I pick up most of my hours. In the winter, it’s so dead that I’m lucky to get 4 hours a week sometimes. Right now, I’m doing 25-30 hours a week (which still isn’t ideal, but it’s something while I look for a permanent job). So if the schedule changes and I already have plans, I can’t just give up a shift to keep my plans. I can’t afford that at all right now.

And I’m on closing shifts almost exclusively. Today, I picked up a morning shift (which I love!!!!). Next week is all closings. The following week I get one 3-8 and the rest are closings: same with the week after that. I wouldn’t really care, except I’m up around 5am every day when the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend has to get up for work. There are days when I’ve already put in a 12 hour day of writing, cleaning, running errands, moving furniture, job hunting, and then more cleaning before I even leave for work. And then, by the time I get home, I have maybe 45 minutes (if I can bum a ride home from a co-worker; otherwise, it’s more like 15 minutes) to make and eat dinner, have a glass of wine to relax, wash my face, brush my teeth, feed and pet the cat, clean up the kitchen at the end of the day, check my emails, make lunches for the next day, and get to bed so I can be up again bright and early the next morning. Weeks that I work just closing shifts, I’m lucky to get 4-5 hours sleep some nights, and then can’t fall back asleep in the morning to save my life.

So Sunshine, is your work schedule driving you crazy? Crazy enough that you can’t even blog properly because you never know when you’ll be home, so you wind up with a notebook full of ideas but no time to type them (I hear that’s common).

Drop me a line, leave a comment, tell me your scheduling nightmares. Let’s all share the miserym so it’s a little easier to get through!

Things to Look For/Do When Looking to Rent; Pt. 1

Not that I have actually done most of these things. No woman in my family had ever moved out of the house until they were married, so no one was really forthcoming with advice for me when I announced I was going to move out. So, I basically thought it was going to be easy. I looked at a few places with different friends, and then decided to move into a place with my best friend (and her fiancée, and her mother, and their 6 cats, and their ferret). I moved a few more times in the years after that while in school, and am currently starting the long journey to FINALLY moving into a place that is just mine (no roommates other than my cat). With each new place, I learned from my mistakes. And damn, were there ever a tonne of mistakes.

So, before you actually start physically looking at places, or touring places, here’s a few things you should be considering (which I probably did not):

1 ) What is your budget?

Now, this will be different to figure out, depending on your income. For people who work a set amount of hours every day/week/month, this is simply figuring out how much money you make, and how much you can spend on rent. Many experts recommend looking at your budget as a whole, and working from there. Gal Vaz Oxlade (from tv show Till Debt Do Us Part, and the infuriating to watch yet amazing to gather tips from tv show Princess), has some great worksheets in her Resources section of her website ( http://www.gailvazoxlade.com/resources.html ) to help you do different types of budget and budget analysis.

One of the sheets in this resource section deals specifically with students (the Student Lump Sum Money Worksheet). For many students, the majority of your money for each semester is given to you in one lump sum through your student loans, bursaries, scholarships, and grants. This worksheet can help you work out your total budget for the semester, and break it down into a monthly budget.

Basically, you need to look at your money situation to make sure you can afford the place you want to live in. What would happen if you rented an apartment for $600 a month, but only had enough in your budget to afford $380? That’s $220 each and every month that you would have to make up for in some way, or risk being evicted.

2 ) Pick you basic location

This doesn’t mean “find an apartment building”. This means “look at the area you want to move into, that is most convenient for you”. For students, this is most likely in the immediate area of their school. Take a look through this area and take a good look at the housing situation. Are there more apartments, or private homes being rented? Are things run mostly by rental agencies? Is the area safe? What is around this area?

I know some of this sounds stupid, but hear me out. In apartment buildings, you’re more likely to be able to find a one bedroom or bachelor place, where you can live totally by yourself without any roommates. There’s also the option of a two bedroom place, that you can share with a close friend. House rental could mean renting an entire house with a group of people, or renting a room in a random house that has other random people living there. Also, there are more likely to be things like house parties at houses (obviously) than apartments, meaning there are more likely to be loud nights at your neighbour’s place.

Safety should be a huge concern for you when looking for a place. I don’t care if you’re not even 90lbs soaking wet, or the 350lbs linebacker for the school’s football team: you need to worry about your safety. Many local police websites have a section where you can look at crimes and crime rates throughout the city. Now, no area will ever bee 100% free of crime. It is always a good idea, though, to look at what you may be getting yourself into. Is that nice apartment building you saw surrounded by drug busts in the recent past? 27 murders in the building last year? Or is the worse you would likely see around there probably a loud party, or bike thief? It’s always better to know these things ahead of time, than to just take a place and find out the hard way.

And what is around this area is a HUGE thing you should be looking at. Obviously, if you’re trying to stay close to school or work, they will be near your chosen area. But what else is there? Things you should look for are grocery stores, laundromats, bus stops, restaurants, shopping centres, hair salons, banks, and any other type of business you would need in your life.

3 ) Know what you want.

Now that you know what’s in the area, and the types of places around, and the amount of money you can spend each month on rent, you can start looking at what you want in the area. I suggest looking at ads for a variety of types of places first (rooms for rent, bachelor, one bedroom, two bedroom), just to see what the prices are like. Sites like Kijiji often times have pictures of the properties, so you can see the size and condition of the places you are looking at. Also, they tell you if things like utilities (water, electricity, gas) are included in the rent, or if they are extra. This is SUPER important to know before renting a place, because it impacts your budget hugely.

Now, you can decide what it is you want. What do you want more: privacy, or a cheap place to live. I always went the cheaper route, and didn’t look into things that I now know are essential to me. I would rather give up a little bit of my privacy, for example, and have a roommate if that means I can have A/C in my place. I live in one of the most humid cities in all of Canada, and suffer from eczema that is made worse by sweating in the humidity. I spent one horrible summer in a dingy little apartment with no A/C, because it was an apartment and I only had to have one roommate while I was living there. After that, I moved into a house with 6 other random people just to escape the heat and to live in a basement room with no A/C controls (meaning it was absolutely freezing all year). Right now, I have my A/C and I’m down to 3 roommates (all males) in my current house, plus my cat. While this is not ideal for me right now (I miss being able to watch TV in my underpants and sing in the shower), there are certain benefits to it (A/C, utilities included, everyone loves that cat, house is in good condition, no infestations of any sort, no mould, and I get my own private bar fridge in my room for my wine, cheese strings, and candy bars). I know that I cannot afford all of these things if I were to move into an apartment right now. You need to know your necessities, and where you are willing to compromise. Some people don’t need A/C, or are so frugal with their utilities that they don’t mind paying them separately (many places offer cheaper rent if you will pay your own utilities).

And remember, if you decide you don’t need something, make sure you are really ok without it. If you opt for a place that does not have on-site laundry facilities, for example, you damn well better make sure you have a laundromat nearby that you can easily get to. There is nothing fun about carrying a month’s worth of laundry and sheets on the bus to get to the laundromat that’s too far to walk to.

4 ) Start looking

Now that you know more about the area, what you can afford, and what you are willing to compromise on, you can start seriously looking at places. I’ll have a whole other post on what to do when you’re inside the place, checking it out. Right now, you’re just looking at a bunch of possible places.

You’ll want to look at places that fit your budget (obviously), meet your standards of privacy, are clean and infestation-free, and are in the general area you’re looking in. Don’t get too narrow of a focus (can only look at one-bedroom apartments on the 5th floor or above with a balcony, A/C, and in-suite laundry, for example), but don’t make it too broad either (somewhere, anywhere, where there isn’t a tonne of mould and the neighbours aren’t running a house of ill repute, for example).

Also, you’ll want to look at some rather specific things. If you have a pet, make sure the place is pet-friendly before you decide to go see it. If you have issues with mobility, you would want to make sure the building and apartment/room are accessible to you. Basically, you need to make sure you can actually live in a place before you try to live in a place.

So that’s the basics for part one of Things to Look For/Do When Looking to Rent.  In my next post, I will be going into what you should be doing once you actually pick a few places to look at (yes, you should look at more than one, just in case the one you have your heart set on turns out to be a bust).

NaNoWriMo

So I’ve been neglecting my writing for quite some time now. There just always seems like I have enough time to do 10 things in a day, but I have 12 in my list.  But, November is National Novel Writing Month. I, having blown off my writing and prep for months now, do not have anything novel-ready to begin writing. I know that my New Years Resolution was to FINALLY get started on that, but life happened.

So, instead, I’m doing my own spin on the month. Instead if writing every day on the NaNoWriMo site and trying to reach 50,000 words in a novel that I know will turn out all wrong (because that’s how my writing turns out when there’s no planning behind it), I’ll be using my blog to reach that goal instead. This month, I am aiming to reach 50,000 words in my blog posts, and attempt to write every single day. This will be with a combination of pre-planned posts (I’m working on outlines and topics as we speak), research queued up to post sporadically throughout the month, and some more personal posts (mainly along the lines of my Roommates From Hell posts).

So, hopefully, you readers will enjoy this. And, hopefully, I will enjoy it too.