A Performance Review for 2015

Hello, 2016. Please come in and take a seat. Here’s a cup of coffee; I’ll just be with you in a moment. I have something I need to wrap up before we can get started.

Twenty fifteen, we got off to a bit of a quiet start, and then things really went downhill. Let’s just work through your performance review together, and maybe we can both learn something from the experience, okay?

The thing is, 2015, you came highly recommended by so many people. I was told that you were going to be fantastic. I had officially beaten cancer in 2014 and was full of thoughts and ideas and plans for things I wanted to accomplish. I was playing my guitar and thinking about recording some songs, and was beginning to pull together a vague idea for a short story–nay, a novel! You were going to be so great, 2015.

But then, 2015, you decided to outdo yourself in the area of Velociraptor Incidents. Maybe you were trying to be an overachiever, like your friend 2013 and her cancer diagnosis, or maybe 2014 and her PTSD/anxiety assault on my husband while he tried to recover from 2013’s velociraptor incidents. I’m sorry to let you know this, but Velociraptor Incidents are to be avoided whenever possible–they are the opposite of what we want to see as progress on your Goals and Objectives.

Let’s just take a quick look at what we set out as Goals and Objectives for you, 2015, and review how well you did on them.

  1. Give me a place to do more music: Okay, we did that for the first few months of the year, and it was fantastic. But you really dropped the ball during your second half, 2015.
  2. Give me space to write more: Same as above.
  3. Help me get back into running: we’re both responsible for this one faltering, it’s true, but I can’t help but place a lot of the responsibility on your shoulders, 2015. You really made things extra challenging for me.
  4. Time management: You were particularly bad with this one, 2015.
  5. Taking initiative: Maybe we should have been more clear at the outset what kind of initiative is good to take, and what is not good. I’m not pleased with your performance there.

I’m sure you know what w’re going to chat about next, my dear 2015. That’s right: Your Velociraptor Incident. The Great Flood of 2015 started off as a frustrating but probably manageable velociraptor incident. We were old pros by then, of course, after 2013 and 2014’s performances. But you really tried extra hard to reduce our capacity to deal with things. Above and beyond, my friend — truly. We were battered and bruised, the kids were starting to have anxiety issues, my post-cancer positive outlook and unshakeable attitude was shaken. I got depressed, Adam was beyond unhappy, and Lyra suddenly couldn’t be alone in a room and was convinced we were going to end up living on the street, no matter how many assurances we gave her.

Just a quick reminder for you, 2015: Velociraptor Incident was NOT on your Goals and Objectives list. It was about as far from it as it could have been. I’m uncertain where you got confused, since I don’t think my communications on that front were unclear. If you thought that we needed some more problem solving skills and a more complete SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, in case you’ve forgotten), you are mistaken. We’ve really had enough of that around here to last us at least the next few years. We are strong, and we are weak. We see many opportunities, and threats will always be there. As an organization, we’re almost hyper-aware of these things now. We didn’t need more reminders this year.

Overall, you haven’t done a stellar job this year, 2015, though it seems like you made an effort to pull up your socks and put some extra work in come autumn, and I don’t begrudge your efforts to redeem yourself from October onwards. We’re happy to not be living in hotels, or friends’ basements, or temporary rentals. It’s even better to be living in our own home, with yard and space and everything. I think if you do a self-evaluation you might figure out where you went wrong. I really hope that you did better for others, though I’ve heard mixed results from many.

Hopefully you’ll take away that you should pay attention to your goals, and try not to take initiative in a way that is completely opposite the goals of the organization. As for me, I’ve discovered that I should improve my communication skills, so that mix-ups like this are less likely to happen. I’m glad we can both say we’ve learned something.

Still, what you’ve learned is no longer my concern; we’re done here, and it’s time for me to begin orientation with 2016. I thank you, 2015, for the good things that came of your work, but I won’t lie when I tell you that I’m glad our time is at an end. Thanks, and here’s a cup of coffee to enjoy on your way out.

Now, 2016, please come into my office. Let’s start with a nice, clear definition of your goals and objectives…

Lower mainland, we seem to be at a [housing] impasse

We remain without a home, three months after the flood. I would say it’s wearing thin, but at this point there’s nothing left to wear at all.

It was over two years ago, before I was diagnosed with cancer, that we first considered buying a place of our own. We found a place, we made a bid, our offer was accepted, and we realized that the cost of daycare was about to become so crippling that there was no way we could afford both a home of our own and childcare in Port Moody, so we couldn’t remove our subjects. That was the first place we failed to buy.

Next came the cancer, and the chemotherapy, and all the stress that accompanied it. Once that stabilized and I went into remission, we started casually looking for a place to buy in Port Moody once more, as we were feeling squeezed in our apartment.

The first place we liked, back in February, we saw only on a whim. It was a nice three bedroom townhouse in the complex where Lyra’s best friend lives, listed at $333,000 and it was basically perfect for us. We dropped in to the open house on a Saturday and were unexpectedly making an offer by Sunday morning.

But so were a whole lot of other people.

We offered the maximum we could pull together for a 5% down payment on short notice, put in our offer, and hoped for the best. We were outbid by a mere three thousand dollars; but it was three thousand dollars we didn’t have. The experience renewed our excitement and hope that we actually could, in fact, buy a place that would fit our family’s needs – room for the people, room for our bikes, room for an office where Adam could work from home, and close to the daycare and school. So, while we were a bit sad that we lost the place, we decided to start looking in earnest again.

It was a month before another seemingly likely candidate surfaced. It was in the same complex. And it was listed at $90,000 more than the place we had bid on. It was more than we could reasonably afford, and we thought, “it can’t possibly go for that much; look at what the last place sold for, and this one isn’t updated as much as that one was!”

We were wrong. It sold for just under asking price.

A new market

Slightly horrified, but still hopeful, we kept looking. Vancity started offering a first-time homebuyer’s promotional loan that allowed us to increase our down payment, which opened our options up a bit more, but that last place selling for nearly 100k over what the market suggested turned out to be a sign of the future, and not some sort of anomaly.

It was a few more months before we found another townhouse to bid on. It had some compromises; 40 years old (again), asking $388,000, in a not-as-ideal-but-still workable location, with the original furnace and mostly older appliances. We did everything right with our bid – we removed all the subjects before making an offer, including paying for a home inspection beforehand, and we came in above asking at our absolute maximum of $395,000, knowing that with strata fees on top of mortgage payments, loan payments, and the CMHC payment, we were going to have slightly less room in our monthly budget than we wanted. But it was still manageable, so we took that leap.

Once more, we were outbid — this time by around $15,000. We were a little more heartbroken than the last time, because we had tried so hard to do everything right. But we regrouped and kept looking.

Velociraptors strike!

It was only a few weeks later in May that we encountered our next Velociraptor Incident: the great flood of 2015. Suddenly, we were rendered homeless; our things put into storage, struggling to find a place to live while they assessed the damage and started on repairs of our rental apartment.

Our family of four (+dog) couchsurfed, we stayed in hotels, and finally we found a furnished place to rent for the summer, in the hopes that we would be able to move back in after repairs were done. We couldn’t help thinking that maybe this meant the right place to buy would show up, finally, but the more we looked, the more the prices went up around our home community. With child daycare spaces being so hard to get, and not wanting to change Lyra’s elementary school unless absolutely necessary, we were still hoping to find a place… but the reality of our situation was getting demoralizing. Not only were fewer and fewer places available in the Lower Mainland real estate market, but we were also facing the fact that the places that were coming up were listing above our (already increased with help from the Credit Union) price range.

The forty year old Port Moody townhomes we had previously seen listed in the 350-400k range were listing at 400-450. We were getting priced out of our home area, where we had built our support and social networks, where our kids had found friends and security in their own lives, where we had easy access to our downtown jobs. People started telling us to move further east to Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Mission even, and we seriously considered it and looked around, weighing the benefits vs. the costs. Turns out we don’t like Pitt Meadows, or Maple Ridge, and especially not Mission, and moving further out without any benefit other than home ownership was a depressing thought.

Enforced vacation living is not as fun as it sounds

Our furnished summer rental gave us stability and a base close to our old place, which made it easy to keep the girls in their already arranged summer daycares for the summer. All of our belongings stayed in storage except for the bare minimum. Knowing we were going to move again at the end of the summer, we didn’t want to have to unpack and repack too much. It was like staying in a vacation suite, but still having to go to work and have normal non-vacation lives.

We kept our plans to take a road trip to Oregon in early August, where we had a lovely time. And we kept trying to figure out how to resolve our personal housing crisis.

Repairs on our rental place had not yet begun by early July, and we were given no real timeline as to when they might be done. Maybe in November, if we get lucky. And even if we do move back into the old apartment eventually, it was already getting too small for us. The girls share a small bedroom; the third bedroom is Adam’s office. What little storage space we have there is taken up by bikes, which spill over into the dining area. It’s mostly underground, and damp, and while they’re supposed to be fixing the mould issue, we’re still not totally comfortable with the idea of moving back in there with that factor. We spent so much time last winter sick; it might be a coincidence, but it might not.

We have to move on August 31. September will be a combination of staying with friends and house-sitting. October and beyond is a mystery. Moving every two weeks or so is exhausting, but it’s what we have to do. The kids are showing signs of the stress and lack of stability — Lyra worries that we’re going to end up on the street, and tells us so. Adam and I aren’t doing much better.

So we’ve started to think a little more creatively. We’ve started to look at the Sunshine Coast.

It’s a tricky concept, but we’re trying to figure out how we can make it work. We haven’t found the right solution yet. We’re more hopeful about this idea, however, than we are of finding a place that works for us that we can afford in our neighbourhood.

I’ll let you all know how things progress.

Wherein I complain about bronchitis and cashflow

My bout of coughing fits wassn’t letting go of me, and Lyra has been having some trouble sleeping due to her cough for the past week, so I took the two of us in to see our doctor this morning instead of going to daycare/work. As it turns out, I have bronchitis and Lyra is mostly okay but has a bit of croupiness to her cough, which may or may not need treatment. I, however, get to take antibiotics for the next X number of days. Yay. Speaking of which, I’m due for the next pill right now.

I kept Lyra home for the rest of the day and took the day off myself to try and rest. This was a foolish plan on my part, since taking care of Lyra during the day is in no way a means to resting. The girl would not nap at all – I got ten minutes of nap out of her on my lap in the early afternoon, which ended abruptly with a phone call and a requirement to get my laundry off the balcony so they could paint. When I tried to settle her back down for the next two hours, she babbled incessantly at me, crawled around the bed, played with her Ugly doll, and generally just refused outright to sleep. I was beyond frustrated and exhausted. I finally just gave up trying to put her to sleep, and let her run around like a maniac for the rest of the day. In retrospect, I should have taken the time to drop her at Daycare after the doctor’s appointment. I’ve learned my lesson – tomorrow, the girl is going in to daycare and I am staying at home and not really working.

Well, not entirely working, anyhow. There are some things that I need to get done in the morning for work, but they’re easily done remotely and I’ll sort them out pretty easily I think. After that I’m just going to try and relax and let the antibiotics do their thing. Yesterday I managed to pull a muscle in my back from coughing. Today I had no energy at all. Last week is kind of a haze of randomness in my head – I don’t really remember what I did at all.

It’s bad timing for me to be missing work – there’s a lot going on (isn’t there always?) and we’re closing for the winter holiday in two weeks, so there isn’t a lot of time left for me to get it all done. The doctor, however, told me outright to stay home and recover (she offered a note in case the office requires it) so I’m going to listen to her, since I’m damn tired of all this coughing and soreness and general malaise. It’s never a good time to be sick.

That’s really all that’s going on for me right now. Adam’s unused URL automatically renewed this week – maybe this year we’ll do something with it. Who knows. I somehow doubt it. Guess I should buy hosting for it or something. I also hope to do some redesigning of my own website soon, but haven’t had the energy to really think about it lately. I want to work on it during the office closure, when I’ll have some time during the day to myself while Lyra’s at daycare. Plus I have another web project that I have utterly ignored – I would really like to revisit that and figure out what to do with it. Probably should buy hosting for that, too. Except I can’t afford any of these extra expenses right now.

I took a good long look at our monthly expenses vs. income this week, and reached a conclusion that I’m not particularly fond of. I was hoping in the next year we would be able to move out of our current apartment (which we love, but is getting too small) into a bigger place, preferably some sort of townhome with a small yard where Lyra can play outside. I’ve even been looking around at various options to see what’s available and in what price ranges, and it seemed like it could be something we could manage… but to be honest, we just can’t.

With the new car payments & insurance & the other usual expenses, as well as paying 900$/month on daycare, we’re just not able to take on any more expenses. The rental cost increase for us to move up to a townhome is (minimum) an extra 300$ a month. This is assuming we move further away from my work, which also means my transit costs would go up by either 50 or over 100$ (depending on if I was taking regular transit or West Coast Express). There is no real possibility at this point in time for either of us to bring in an extra 400$ a month. Adam’s work has has a salary freeze since a few days after he was hired – he’s never seen any kind of raise. My office has a freeze as well, due to the economic downturn and all that. And 400$ a month is nearly 5000$ a year – that’s no cost of living increase.

So it’s just not possible for us to move. If we weren’t paying for daycare, then we’d be set, but we can’t exactly drop that. It’s just frustrating… our place is too small these days for all of us, now that Lyra’s running around everywhere. We haven’t had a dining room table since she was born – we eat on the couch at the coffee table every night. We can’t really use the laundry machines in our building’s basement because the dryers take three runs to dry things – which means a single load of laundry ends up costing 5$.

Meh. I’m just complaining now. I’m disappointed. There’s nothing to be done about it at this point. It’s all little details that add up to being frustrating for me. It’s not the end of the world. To distract me from my irritation, here is a photo of Lyra in Tofino wearing a fairy costume.

Fairy Lyra in the wind

It’s just one of those days

I am frustrated, exhausted, and have a headache. Also I have too much to get done right now and not enough free hands. Lyra’s currently on the floor on her play mat, but she’s been there for about ten minutes while I put away laundry, and is likely to get cranky and loud at any moment. She’s already complaining.

Yesterday was the first day I had to recover and relax from visiting family. I rather wanted to just sleep in (hah!) and maybe just relax and play games all day, but there was other stuff I had to get done around the apartment instead. I managed to get some of it done, anyhow – some laundry and the kitchen (although then I went and messed it up by having lunch. Stupid lunch) and a little bit of tidying up, but not nearly what I wanted to get done. I was just too exhausted to finish everything, and I knew I’d be home today to work on some more. Which I am. So now I’m putting laundry away and starting at least one more load, and doing the kitchen again from dinner last night, and just generally tidying up the living room. Plus I’m trying to clean up the bedroom too, which looks like a tornado hit it.

To be honest, I’m just feeling frustrated and flustered and I keep getting annoyed that I have to stop in the middle of everything I’m trying to do because Lyra needs changing, feeding, playing with, naps (which this week have only worked when she sleeps on me, which is the most frustrating part of all.) So I’m kind of irritated and headachey and while stuff’s getting done, it’s a very slow process and I can’t see my way to the end of it yet.

On top of that it’s lunchtime and I need to figure out what to eat, and make it. Might as well leave the kitchen clean-up till after lunch, I guess – that way it’ll all get done at once. Oh yeah, and I need to do some pumping of milk so I can go for a bike ride tomorrow.

On the upside, there is a single deciduous half-way up Grouse Mountain in amongst the pine trees. It’s turned bright orange – a weird orange spot against the deep green. I had to pull out binoculars yesterday to identify what it was… it’s pretty. I do love fall. I should be outside enjoying this nice day, it’s going to be miserable tomorrow I think. Maybe later, if I get stuff done and it’s not dark yet.

Making room

I’m trying to clear things we don’t need out of the apartment. We don’t really have a lot of stuff, but with new stuff coming in for the baby, space is going to be at a premium I think. Today I posted the nearly new litterbox that the cats hated up on craigslist, and someone contacted me for it within twenty minutes. This is good. Next I should probably take care of the single Futon Frame sitting in the hallway. No mattress for it (the mattress was a wreck) but the frame’s in good shape. Maybe someone will want it. Who knows with Craigslist.

Now that I have a glider/rocking chair, there’s no room anymore for the papasan chair in the living room. This makes me a bit sad – I would rather not let it go, but we don’t really have enough storage here for something that big, and there really isn’t anywhere else to put it. It’s sitting in the hall outside the bedroom right now – I trip over it on my nightly forays to the bathroom. (On a side now, holy toledo do I ever pee often these days!)

I’ve also tossed a whole bunch of old socks, and stored all my ‘can’t wear while pregnant’ clothing. It’ll be like Christmas going back into that pile of clothes and rediscovering a wardrobe.

Adam and I also hope to re-arrange the bedroom sometime this week. He gets worried every time we bring something else home for the baby. We’re keeping accessories to a minimum, but it’s inevitable that we’re going to need some things. Every large piece is going to take some consideration first, though – deciding if it’s something we actually need or if we’ll be fine without it. I’m pretty sure that an apartment sized washer (the kind that hooks up to your sink) is on the need list. Also, probably some sort of dresser/change table for the baby. Otherwise it’ll be on a ‘figure it out as we go’ basis. Iif something comes up, we’ll have to decide then.

It seems like standard house cleaning and spring sorting and the like, but this is actually pretty exciting for me.

In other exciting news, I’m sure I felt Ultra Magnus two nights ago rolling around in my belly. Up until now I’ve only had butterflies – things that could be gas, or might be a baby. This time I think it was definitely baby. So exciting!

I’ve missed these Fridays at home…

Today I’ve done laundry, cleaned the kitchen, logged in to work and send an email to get something there fixed, swept the floors, mopped the floors, and I think that’s about it. The apartment is tidier now. I still need to take a shower and go get the laundry out of the dryer downstairs.

The cats, on the other hand, have been lying on the couch all day watching me while intermittently sleeping. I feel somewhat envious of this, although I know that sleeping would probably just give me a headache.

I claim some boredom, but really I’m happy to not be at work today, and I’m happy to be able to mop the floors (they needed it!) and get some laundry done and lounge around with the kitties.

This week on the way home one evening I started to feel really pregnant. Not just the knowledge that I’m pregnant, and not a some of the discomfort of side effects and the like, but just sitting there on the bus incredibly aware of the belly. It’s definitely showing, and I’ve started feeling it in a different way. I don’t know if I can adequately explain it, to be honest. It just feels different than usual.

I think I may pull out the guitar and play for a little while.

Bedroom reclamation has begun!

Tonight we installed a new phone jack in the busted one in the living room. This enabled us to move the phone, wireless router, and DSL modem out of the bedroom where they were lying in a mess of cables next to the bed for the past year. Slowly I will turn our bedroom into a bedroom.

Right now the bedroom has literally one piece of furniture: our bed. There is a close with clothing hanging in it and more clothing stacked on the shelf above, but there is more clothing than shelf and hanging space. Most of the clothes are in baskets around the room. I hate it. I want desperately a classic style wooden bedroom set, preferably in a red or dark wood (not light coloured.) I want two night tables, a short and long dresser, and maybe a taller narrower dresser as well. I also want a headboard.

Moving the phone stuff out of the bedroom was the first step. The rest shall follow. I will be watching Craigslist closely…

Home is thataway!

I always try to know which way home is… it’s not even usually a matter of trying… I only notice it when I don’t feel it. It’s like a pull in my mind, letting me know that there is a safe place to go if I need to run away, and knowing what way it is. I don’t run away anymore, but knowing which way home is really makes me feel more comfortable. When I get turned around in an unfamiliar city, when I can’t tell north from east or left from up, I feel wrong somehow. I get very disoriented and uncomfortable. I don’t mind being lost if I can still feel which way north/south/east/west are… I like being lost. I just don’t like being turned around and confused.

Right now, my desk faces towards my home. It was set up that way when I got here. I’m inside a building and I can’t see out the windows, but I know that home is that way.

Loving living in the Beaches

Well, I’ve had a day of doing nothing. It’s not so bad, I guess. Jay & I went to brunch with R & C over at the fish & chips place. There’s something so comforting about walking into a restaurant and having the people who run the place automatically bring you a cup of tea and a cup of coffee as soon as you sit down, and already know what you’re going to order. I love this neighbourhood, it’s like having all the nice aspects of a small town, without the evil ones, and it’s still in the big city. I love it here. It’s so nice. 😉

Either my neighbours or Canada post suck

Just found something out that adds to my frustration. There’s a possibility that someone in my building steals the mail. It’s either that, or the Canadian Postal service is sucky (which it is… but hey) WomenGamers sent me some stuff a few weeks ago, but I never got it. I emailed them today to ask if they had actually sent it, and they said that they had. So, either canada post (or the US postal service, of which I know nothing), has lost the mail, or someone in my building saw what looked like a neat package in the front entryway and decided to take it.

Either way, it bothers me. The idea that someone might be stealing mail really makes me uncomfortable, even if most of my mail is bills. The idea that the postal service can’t get a package from the states to a Major street in Toronto also really bothers me – they shouldn’t be that incompetent. I’m not pleased. I’m sure the people at Womengamers aren’t pleased either. fneu.