Meeting my Pen Pal IRL

I have had a pen pal for about a year and a half now. We met through a pen pal group on Facebook, and have been sending snail mail back and forth ever since. We also chat through Messenger online.

She’s cool. She’s my age, and sufficiently nerdy so we have lots to talk about.

A few months back, she started entertaining the idea of a Canadian vacation with a few days set aside to come visit me while she was in the country. I agreed that I thought it was a fun idea, and so planning began. Dates were confirmed, and I booked the last of my vacation time off from work. She arrived by train the evening of September 4 and departed late morning on September 6.

When she arrived, it was approximately 7:00pm, and we were hungry so we went to one of my favourite vegetarian restaurants here in town. Pen pal very much enjoyed it. After dinner, I took her on a driving tour of my city, even though it did become dark shortly after we started and rather difficult to sight see. We went back to my place once it got too dark, and she met the kitties and we wound down before bed.

On September 5, I showed her a bit more of London, and then we went to St. Thomas so I could show her a few things I remembered as a kid, including the Jumbo monument. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Jumbo was an elephant in P.T. Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth. He was struck and killed by a train on the tracks in St. Thomas near where the monument is in 1885. The monument was erected for the centennial. Following Jumbo, we visited the Old St. Thomas Church. We then spent a few hours at the Elgin County Railway Museum, which seemed fitting since St. Thomas is known as The Railway City. It may have been hot as death, but it was really cool and we stuck it out.

Old St. Thomas Church

After racing back to Jeff (my car) to cool off with the air conditioning, we went down to Port Stanley to see the lake and the beach and have some lunch. Unfortunately, the the place we were planning to go to for lunch was closed for the season aside from weekends, so we settled for seeing the beach and the lake, and headed back to London. I’m sure we would have stayed longer though if it wasn’t so hot! I personally found it way to hot to spend more than a few minutes outside in the sun and humidity. It felt like over 40°C the whole time my pen pal visited. We did the best we could. We arrived back in London and ate a very late lunch at the local vegan fast food place before picking up my sister to take her to Ingersoll for an appointment.

Jumbo

It was a very long day, and though we had fun, pen pal and I were content to grab some snacks and settle down for a quiet and early night watching cartoons. A quiet night before a day of traveling is always nice too.

After a late breakfast on Thursday morning, I took pen pal to the train station where we then parted ways. She was headed back to o Toronto. She flew out early Friday morning.

Meeting pen pal was awesome. I think there will soon be a trip in the works for me to go visit her. 🙂

The Elgin County Railway Museum
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Plans and Goals

In preparing for my mid-year review post, I made a list of plans and goals for the second half of this year. It’s long and it’s ambitious, but I feel mostly great about it. I may even have gotten a little overambitious with some of it, but I want to share it with you:

  • Get 2nd job – This is self explanatory. And I’ve done it! Woo! I started July 17th.
  • Pass all 3 exams this term – Passed one, failed the other two. Rewrites incoming.
  • Enroll in final CIP course – have to defer until next year
  • Pass final CIP exam – this exam won’t be until April 2019 now
  • Pay off OSAP (Final payment this month!)
  • Pay off laptop and Xbox by end of year – Well on track to meeting this goal.
  • Weekly meal prep for lunches and dinners; focus on eating healthier – This has been a lifesaver since I started working two jobs! I will definitely be continuing.
  • Continue to build side hustle – A little extra cash from doing something you enjoy never hurt anyone!
  • Publish minimum one blog post per month – this is just healthy for me. It helps me to keep the creative juices flowing and it keeps me in the practice of writing regularly.
  • Write more memoir – I am enjoying this. It’s cathartic.
  • Transition to a healthier (ultimately vegan) diet – A healthier diet is non-negotiable, and so far I have just about mastered eating vegan at home. Now to get it right out of the house too.

I feel like even though some of my goals were not accomplished, I am still doing well. School is hard to do while working full time, let alone while working both a full-time and a part-time job. I bit off a little more than I could chew, and the result was a reminder to be kinder to myself. To not beat myself up when I have set myself up to do something very few could manage. Something we could all stand to remember, I think.

What’s Normal? Finding A New One

I’ve lost all sense of what normal is. It’s official. Now I am trying to find a new one. Normal is relative, right?

I had started a post with the intention of publishing about three weeks ago, but time has gotten away from me. I just don’t have enough of it right now!

Through most of June and all of July, I was sick with a cold turned bronchitis turned chest infection turned lingering nasty cough. That alone has been hard to deal with. I hate being sick, and this year alone I have been sick worse and more often than the past several years combined. I’m finally on the tail end of it, carrying around a slightly less nasty still-lingering cough. While I was sick, I also had to continue on with daily life. I continued looking for a second job, ultimately interviewing for one finally around the end of June. Following that, I wrote three exams over the course of the first two weeks of July, when my illness was really at its worst. This resulted in my failing two of them, but it is what it is, and it will be dealt with in due course. Finally, I started a second job! I aced the interview and July 17th was my officially start date.

Since then I have been working evenings and weekends at the second job in addition to my current full-time job. It keeps things busy! I’m rolling into week three and am starting to get into a semi-regular work routine for myself with the two jobs.

The second job however, has come with a few problems. As I believe I have shared before Huxley suffers pretty severely from separation anxiety.

He has barbered himself almost bald again, and he has become very vocal, much moreso than usual. I have gone into damage control mode with him and have done a number of things to try to help him including putting his Thundershirt back on and investing in a Feliway diffuser. I am hopeful things will get better again.

My life seems a whirlwind right now. I am looking forward to my vacation time this fall! Hopefully I will adjust to this new normal and find my balance soon.

A Mid-Year Review of Sorts

I planned to publish this post before June ended, but things have been rather crazy lately. I have two weeks of exams coming up, in which I write 3. I had interviews for a second job, which I’ve been looking for this past month and a bit. I have a possible new job orientation coming up. I’ve been studying for said exams. I’ve been ill with a nasty cold, and now possibly bronchitis. I am writing currently from our city’s urgent care facility, waiting for a chest x-ray.

I wanted to do a bit of a review of the year so far, and I even made notes about the things I wanted to talk about. Those notes are not currently handy, so I guess I will wing it a bit.

I chose 3 words to focus my year around: self-love, self-care, and creativity. All-in-all, I don’t think I’ve done a bad job of keeping them in-focus. Sure, self-care tends to fall to the wayside when I’m stressed, sick, anxious, in a depressive episode, but I think overall I have done well. I have been recognizing when I am in the midst of one of those situations and actively attempt to be kinder to myself and take better care as well. The self-love is getting easier as the year goes, and I think it is in-turn making kindness toward myself easier. This is definitely a positive as I have had a tendency in the past to beat myself up continuously over relatively minor problems or issues that pop up. Creativity has been flowing more easily this year too. A lot less feeling “stuck” and a lot more putting words on a page. I have had some excellent and supportive friends who have helped me a lot with this, and I am very appreciative. Thousands of words of my book draft have been written. THOUSANDS! “Only” a few thousand, but it’s still in the multiple thousands and I feel like that is amazing progress. I may not reach the ambitious goal of a completed draft by the end of the year, but it’s massive progress regardless because I’m ready to write it, and I am. I have no fear holding me back anymore.

As I mentioned earlier, exams are coming up starting tomorrow. I write one this week and two more next, for a total of three. I understand how ambitious this seems, but I’m actually pretty confident. I am going to pass all three of these exams, which will mean I only have ONE MORE COURSE remaining to completely my CIP designation. I have been working toward this since February 2016 and am very much looking forward to completion and no more part-time schooling! I feel like I deserve the break. I have a number of other things I would like to focus my “free” time on, including a second job, and more creative endeavours.

I have had my car for almost five months now, and I am so happy I decided to invest in a vehicle. Being mobile has simplified so many aspects of my life and I am so thankful for that. It has allowed me to be more social and feel less stuck in terms of socializing, and it has made things like grocery shopping and running errands in general much easier. I don’t know how I managed without a car for so long now.

I HAVE been struggling with my depression a lot since about March or so. I know I have mentioned it a time or two in previous posts. The cycles are deeper, though with faster recovery time. The heat takes a toll on me in a lot of unexpected ways. My tolerance for heat is low, and the sun disagrees with me in a number of ways. This has had a negative effect on me this summer and the one past especially. I’ve been trying to work through, but it doesn’t always work out. At least this year I managed to get into a pool for the first time in a large number of years.

This was a massive accomplishment for me, and one I am thankful to a friend for documenting!

Overall, 2018 has improved a great deal over 2017. Changing my focus has made a huge difference. I look forward to seeing where the rest of this year takes me.

 

Current Thoughts on my Current State

I have been feeling the urge to really make a dent in my memoir lately. However, that has been difficult as my day-to-day life is pretty intense these days. That is not to say that I have some sort of wild social life and am traipsing all over the city having fun all the time. It’s intense in the sense that I have a lot of stressful things coming up. Again. No surprise there, I guess.

Not the least of which is my July CIP exam week. It now includes writing three exams, as I have to rewrite one of my exams from last semester. I failed one of them by a narrow margin in April, and wanted to get the rewrite out of the way as soon as possible. I signed up to rewrite in July…after I already enrolled myself in two new courses. Smart, right? I thought so initially, but now I’m not so sure. It’s the middle of May and I am already studying. I do not want to make the same mistake I did last time. I am determined to pass all three. The good news is, that after passing these three exams, I will only have one course left to complete before I earn my CIP designation. It is very exciting, as it will have been almost three years in the making. Needless to say, I will be taking a break from schooling again for awhile… I feel like I deserve it at this point!

Okay, now that’s out of the way, back to the writing thing. I have a prologue for my memoir! It felt like a huge accomplishment to get the words down. It goes along with the introduction I worked on over the winter. The first 1500 words of my book are out there. Out there being, of course, in a word document saved on my laptop. It’s not out there publicly, and it will likely be quite awhile before it is. It has been shared with a few trustworthy friends at this point, and I am keeping it that way for now. I met with a friend to get feedback on it tonight even. It was a nice confidence boost. I feel ready to write more, but I also am drawing a blank on material. This is the reason I spent so long preparing for this process, but it’s no less frustrating. I will continue with the writing again. Of that, I am sure.

The good news through all of this is that I am in a great mood. I mean, sure I am tired a lot still, but in the grand scheme of things I am in good place overall mentally. It has been a pretty nice change from what felt like the norm. So, crazy busy, but mentally doing better than I have in awhile. Bring on the writing! …Soon…

My “creative director”

 

One of those Days

Do you ever have those days where you just want to crawl back into bed and hide? Or maybe try for a do-over? Today is one of those days for me. I am feeling disgruntled and miserable and frustrated overall, with no overarching reason for it.

Sure, a few small things have not gone…ideally, but other than that things are fine. I mean, poor Hux had an accident this morning and cried about it, and then I forgot my lunch, and then I had to wait on hold for a password reset at work… But since then, things have been going relatively smoothly. Still though, I want to go home and go to bed. Sadly, that’s another thing I cannot do.

After work today I have a semi-long to do list to complete of things around home that are annoying me. My frustrated anxious mind has decided that today is the day to fix all of those things. I guess we will have to wait and see how that goes…

Anyway, I’m going to try and do what I can with the rest of this day. In the meantime, I leave you with some cute art made with a photo of Huxley.

Sunshine! – Some Spring Updates

It appears that Spring has finally arrived here in Southwestern Ontario. After more than another month post-Vernal Equinox of cold weather, snow, freezing rain, wind and gloom, it is nice to finally see the sun and a bit of warmth. Things are starting to turn green and bud again. It has done wonders for my mood, and I’ve been trying to take some extra time to soak up that Vitamin D.

Exams ended on Thursday, and unfortunately, what I thought was a minor cold starting on Saturday has turned into a full-blown painful headcold, complete with a ton of sinus pressure and a sore throat resulting in no voice today. I can only hope that thanks to taking a day to rest today, it will pass more quickly. The good news is I have nothing excessively stressful going on until I have to start studying for my next exams. I can safely say I have a month or so off to enjoy myself and the beautiful weather that will likely accompany the month of May.

On Sunday morning, I took my car to have my winter tires removed. I got to see my car with hub caps for the first time! It’s a small thing, but a very cool thing. Service at the dealership I bought Jeff (my car) at was top-notch just as it has been from the first day I set foot in there. In a few more months, he will be going back for his first oil change. Hopefully I will be able to make a weekend of it and visit some friends in the area as well. I am loving having a car again. As much as driving isn’t my favourite thing, the convenience and ease it has created in my life has been well worth the extra expense.

I have been making so progress with my writing too. I have made some decent headway with an introduction, which felt great. I have sent it off to a friend to read, and am looking forward to some constructive feedback.

I have a busy but positive week ahead of me. Helping out a friend tomorrow with some stuff after work, a continuing TV marathon with a close friend out west, a movie night with another dear friend, yoga class and a book club meeting, and a day with my mom on the weekend. I’m looking forward to it, and I am sure it will give me plenty to write about next time I publish.

Stress & Things

March was a heck of a month in terms of happenings, moods, and health. April got off to a great start too… I am actually just getting back into a regular work routine after three short weeks in a row due to varying reasons, including being sick and writing exams. I still cannot place whatever illness I had, but I am thankful it is over. I am thankful the first of two final exams is over as well.

It was a wild month overall. I wrote a midterm at the beginning of March, and delivered a presentation at work as a part of a major project within the branch.  That week was a hectic week: studying (poorly, I might add), presentation preparation and then both the presentation and the exam rounding out the week on the Friday. Did I mention my birthday fell in there somewhere as well? It was a less-than-ideal week for my birthday to fall in. I failed the midterm, but I rather expected it. Something had to give that week, and studying definitely fell to the wayside. My instructor for the course was terrible to begin with so the motivation to do well just was not there. The good news is I had the opportunity to make it up on April 3, when I wrote the final exam.

Outside of work and school stress, I have been working to maximize the use of space in my apartment, which is never a bad idea, since it is so small. I used my St. Patrick’s Day this year to trek to IKEA and buy myself a larger desk, a file cabinet, a boot cabinet, and a wall-mounted coat rack. I used my desk far too often and for too many things to keep such a small desk. The new one is almost double the size, and I now have enough space to do everything I want to at my desk. The things being studying, writing, working, and gaming.

Shortly after, I replaced my desk; I discovered that my wireless keyboard stopped working. I had not used it for about a week, while I was building my new furniture. I discovered it on the Thursday while I was trying to get set up for my online class. No matter what I did, it would not work, and I ended up having to replace it. I bought the keyboard I have wanted for ages, and am very happy with my decision. It sounds cool, and looks pretty too. It was money I did not plan to spend, but it is what it is. The result should be a keyboard that lasts me for many years to come.

While all this was happening, my car was mysteriously being covered with a weird sticky clear substance I could only assume was tree sap. It made opening doors and windows quite annoying for just about two weeks or so. The first proper spring rain-washed it all away, thankfully.

The end of the March brings us to Easter Weekend. There were no big family dinner plans this year, because everyone just seemed to be busy. It happens with most of us being on our own and doing our own things. I agreed to help my mom tile the tub surround in her bathroom. Tiling is something I have never done before, but I am game to try anything once so long as it does not involve extreme heights. We started on Saturday morning and worked through the day, and finished off with grouting on Sunday morning. The result looks great, and we are super proud of our amateur tiling job.

I headed home from my mom’s around lunchtime on the Sunday and made the decision to do a quick run through the McDonald’s drive thru to grab some lunch so I could focus on studying for the afternoon. As it turned out, that was not going to be what happened at all. While I was in the drive thru, the person in front of me backed into me. Me, in my brand new car with less than 1,500 kilometers on it. I was so frustrated and upset. Thankfully, the person who hit me was cooperative and he is paying for the repair. The car goes in tomorrow to repair the cracked bumper. I will be happy when the whole process is over.

I wrote the first of two final exams for this term on Tuesday April 3. I am happy it is over, even though I do not think I did particularly well. I am hoping I passed the exam. As long as I pass the exam, I pass the course. I should find out my grade in the next couple of weeks.

Huxley’s anxiety also has not let up in any way at all. I took his shirt off early this week because it needed washing, and by the next morning, he had barbered himself a brand new bald spot complete with raw skin! I feel so bad for him, but I am also at my wits’ end in terms of ideas to help him. I bought him a Thundershirt, and I am hopeful it will do the trick. Keep your fingers crossed, mine are!

In other news, I spent this past weekend at home focusing on self-care and studying for my next exam. As a result, my house no longer feels like a complete disaster to me, and I have managed to stick to the study schedule I have created. I am super proud of myself for both of these accomplishments, however small they are. I feel like I am in a better mental space. All of the stress of the past month took its toll on me. In an effort to help myself feel better physically and mentally, I have joined a book club that meets once a month at the Starbucks about three blocks away from me. I am excited. This month the book is Animal Farm by George Orwell, my favourite type of fiction! I am looking forward to some stimulating discussion around the themes of the book. Finally, I have signed up for a 9-week beginner yoga session starting next week. I found it for a VERY reasonable price through the city parks and recreation department SPECTRUM program. It was very affordable, which excited me, as it is hard to find affordable yoga classes around the city without being aware of the existence of this program. I love yoga, but have trouble sticking with it without the benefit of attending class. The SPECTRUM program seems to give the perfect solution!

So, here’s to a slightly less stressful April. I hope that it doesn’t take the same turn March and the early part of this month did!

 

Big News

You may recall a few weeks ago that I mentioned something big was coming in the near future.

On Valentine’s Day last week, it finally happened. I took delivery of my new car!

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I bought myself a 2018 Hyundai Elantra.

I have gone eight years without owning a car; basically as long as I have lived here in London. I decided that it was high time I did something for myself to make my life easier. I originally had plans to buy a house in the next year or two, but after weighing the pros and cons, I decided that I would benefit far more from owning a car again. I have had it for less than a week and it has already made my life infinitely easier. It was an excellent decision!

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Betwixt and Between

February 6, 2017 was the opening of the latest art show by the Shadowood Collective at The ARTS Project. The Shadowood Collective hosts a show at this location in the “dead of winter.” The theme this year was Betwixt and Between the Monsters We Dream and the artists who participate in this show are artists who specialize in dark art: monsters, and whatnot. Two of my favourite artists, both of whom are relatively local, were a part of the show (Vincent Marcone a.k.a. My Pet Skeleton, and Sarah Legault). I attended my first Shadowood Collective show last year with my stepsister, and attended again this year on my own.

There were some perks to arriving at the show early (and purchasing a VIP ticket). As I walked in the door, I received a pin and a poster. The pin is huge, and gorgeous.

img_5802The poster was for the event itself and showcased the art of some of the artists participating in the show. The art is really beautiful, and I cant wait to have it framed along with the poster I received from attending the show last year.

The art on display was amazing. If I had the money to purchase every single piece for sale I would have. I got there early and was able to make a full round of the gallery before it started to get busy.  I am glad I went early, as once the gallery started filling up, my anxiety started getting the better of me. I had to leave sooner than I wanted, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the show. It was great to get out of the house and do something that interests me. It was a nice change of pace from just going back and forth between home and work with maybe a few errands in between. I felt enriched by the experience, however short it was.

I always love the art I discover at these shows. I even discovered a new favourite art piece by my favourite artist. It is in the larger photo above, and it is called “The Children.” I wish I’d had the $390 to throw at it and take it home! But alas, it is not in the cards. Maybe I will be able to buy a print of it in the future.

The show runs Tuesday to Saturday 9am to 5pm until February 17th at The ARTS Project and admission is free. If you have the opportunity to attend, I highly recommend dropping in!