So this is life after NaNoWriMo, eh?
I was going to take today off from writing, just gather up ideas and such. Started making a nice spreadsheet last night to track my word count each month, and I thought I could pretty that up a bit. Planned to go through the little pile of notes and scraps of paper on the desk under my computer monitor, and try to organize some sort of topic list for days when my brain just cannot brain.
Instead, I slept in.
It’s the start of December, which means my holiday and financial stress is about to go through the roof. I have a few gifts bought for the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and have priced out some things for the ever-festive Bowser Kitten. My mother is expecting those damn letter I write her every year, and I haven’t even started them yet. My dad wanted something that I can’t get in stores around here, and that Amazon will not ship to my in Canada unless I pay an extra $47 in shipping….. for a $23 item. So now I have to find something completely different to get him, but still something that he wants and needs for the kitchen, but not something he can use to make a huge mess in the kitchen and piss off my mother. My sister and my brother-in-law have given me absolutely zero indication of what they want, so I’ll probably wind up making them gift baskets again this year. And all my brother has told anyone is that he wants a nice glass food storage container to bring to work with him.
The only gifts I was totally sure on this year were for my Secret Santa at work (I had to trade someone to get her), and for all the cats in the family. The always giving Bowser Kitten always gets a little bag of treats or a dollar store stocking of toys for the other three cats in my family, and we write their little names on them “from Bowser”. Yes I know, my family is strange.
On top of the whole “buying gifts for everyone that they’ll actually like” thing, I have to come up with some sort of budget for all of this that won’t screw me over in the new year. I’ve been saving up some money to use on Christmas shopping, and have a big pile of rolled coin I have to take to the bank this week to trade for cash to use for that. I can’t really dip into my regular paychecks or put much on the credit cards, though, because once January 1st comes I am once again officially screwed at work. My hours get cut in half as soon as the holiday season is over, meaning I have a few days off sometimes and have to start picking up every single available shift I can once again. Since the schedule changes so often, this is usually how I wind up working 30-day stretches. Some of the weeks in that stretch, I might not even get 30 hours even though I’m working 7 days a week. So while I’m spending money this holiday season, I have to keep in mind that I’m going to be beyond broke in 6 weeks.
Of course, the lovely people who control the student loans in Ontario don’t seem to think that I’m broke. Because I’m so broke while I try to climb the pay scale at work, I can’t pay my full student loan bill every month. So every six months, I have to fill out paperwork telling them how much money I make, and they determine how much to charge me. My current repayment assistance is good until the end of December, which means I get to spend the next 6 weeks convincing these people that I am not, in fact, a millionaire.
Now, I have no problem paying back what I can on my student loans. They’re money that was loaned to me, and I know I have to pay it back. But they have this program because a lot of people can’t pay the full amount of their bill each month, and it’s supposed to help them still pay things down until they can find higher-paying jobs. For some reason, even though I haven’t changed jobs in years, every December these loan people seem to think that I must have somehow made an extra $50,000 this year and therefore should be paying something like $800 a month to them. After paying my bills for November, scrimping and saving from my paychecks, and buying groceries, I don’t even have $800 left in my account, and this is one of my better months as far as hours go! If I can’t manage that in November when I’m getting around 40 hours a week, how the hell could I manage that in January when I’m down to 20 hours a week? I have to start scanning and copying pay stubs, writing letters indicating my monthly hours each year, send copies of the schedules up for the new year, and spend hours on the phone while seven different people give me seven different fax numbers to send all of this to, all the while getting mad at me for using a fax number other than the one they gave me even though that’s the fax number their website says to use. Usually I wind up reduced to tears at least twice just from the stress of it all, have at least one tantrum while sitting alone in my bedroom, rant to somewhat listening Bowser Kitten for at least 5 hours throughout the month, and have 3 separate meltdowns with at least one of them being at work while I fax documents over for the 4th time.
Did I mention I have to bake? We have company potluck, and dessert trays to make at mum and dad’s, and tins to fill for AAB to bring to work, and a tin to make for a really sweet Scotch rep who teaches me all about scotch, and cookies to make for the neighbour who edges our lawn with his weed wacker since ours broke. I have special requests from co-workers, and completely different requests from family, and more requests from friends. I am going to be up to my elbows in molasses and pumpkin spice for at least a week, every day after work, trying to bake a little each day while trying to get everything else done.
Of course, this is on top of all the other stresses going on right now. We have one empty bedroom downstairs we need to rent out, and the other room will be free as of January 1st. So it’s back to showing rooms, waiting on people who either don’t show up or show up three hours early and dealing with the helicopter parents who want to know why we don’t have maid service here. Everything in this house seems to need to be scrubbed, mopped, vacuumed and sanitized right now, and no one else seems to notice. I got rid of the mildew in the bathroom ceiling, and am now working on the mildew growing in the tub lining and caulking. I haven’t even looked at the downstairs bathroom, and I’m afraid to. Somehow no matter who we rent those basement rooms out to, that bathroom winds up a filthy, grimy, mold-filled mess that hasn’t been cleaned in months. If I don’t want to go insane from being surrounded constantly by filth, then I have to keep up with ALL the cleaning around here by myself, yet again.
Add in to this work stress, family drama, getting ready for get-togethers, AAB’s family drama, sobriety issues, cold and flu season, and our upcoming fundraiser at work for Sick Kids Hospital (the angry responses we get from some customers should be a post in itself!), and this is probably the most stressful time of year. I haven’t started working on mum’s letters at all yet. I was also thinking of making the types of cards they make you make in kindergarten for her since somehow every card like that I made her got lost when their basement flooded (but the cards I made for dad all survived).
But for today, I want to do nothing. I don’t work until 4:15 tonight, and I get to work with all the new seasonal workers for the holiday season. This is my first time meeting most of them. It should be a pretty chill shift since we look like we’ll be overstaffed for the night and have four seasonals there as dedicated cashiers (until I need the tallest one to help me face-up the top shelves). Sunday I won’t get a chance to write at all since I work the 9-hour shift all day, and then leave right from work to head to the union Christmas Party. I still have no idea what I’m going to wear since the outfit I ordered on Black Friday didn’t even ship yet. Oh well, just one more thing to stress out about.