Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Relationship with Reading

I used to be a voracious reader.  It was not unusual for me to finish a good page-turner in a 24-hour period. But over the years, a combination of stress, clinical depression (and all of its "joys" including struggling with concentration), multiple moves, the rise of the internet and all of its enticing activities, and other things, has caused me to feel constantly behind on life in general.  And in this whole struggle I have let reading mostly fall off my daily activities.  In fact, I have to acknowledge that in the past year I have only finished 2 books and started a third!  This saddens me, but I have just let it go.

Well, this week I took a couple of vacation days, which gave me 4 days off in a row!  Something I have not experienced in quite some time, and something I hadn't realized I desperately needed.  And, despite the 8 months of unemployment, and then the weeks where I only worked a day or two when I first started my current job, this is the first time I have spent 4 days straight alone, and without the weight of the world on my shoulders.  Yes, I still have stresses and things to handle, but a stable housing situation and job, among other things, allowed me to truly relax.  And while relaxing I discovered that not relaxing was what ate my drive to read!  Well, that, and I think that re-reading books I have already read made things less exciting.  The re-reading can't be helped, because the next book in the Outlander series comes out this year and I read the lost one in a bit of a fog and need to just start over.  One book almost down in that endeavor though!

Anyway...the point of this long story, that I seem to have been unable to make short, is that I have set myself a goal to read 50 books this year.  20 years ago that would have been nothing, but after a year of finishing only 2 I think it is a pretty good challenge!  I am going to start a list here with my intended reads, and cross them off as they are completed.  As of now, they are, in no particular order:
  1. Outlander - Diana Gabaldon -- FINISHED!!  1 down, 49 to go!
  2. The Wilder Life - Wendy McClure -- FINISHED!!  2 down, 48 to go!  Working on a blog post about this one, LOVED it!
  3. The Girl in the Leaves - Robert Scotticon -- We will just have to call this one done at about 2/3 of the way through.  Interesting subject matter, but stretched out way longer than it needed to be, and stretched out with drivel!!
  4. Delirium - Lauren Oliver - Finished, yay!  I talk about it here: Delirium
  5. Pandemonium - Lauren Oliver -- started 8/25/13, finished 8/31. Read about it here: Pandemonium
  6. Inferno - Dan Brown -- started 5/14/13, finished 9/26/13. Read about it here: Inferno
  7. Dragonfly in Amber - Diana Gabaldon
  8. Requiem - Lauren Oliver
  9. Delirium Stories - Lauren Oliver
  10. Voyager - Diana Gabaldon
  11. Drums of Autumn - Diana Gabaldon
  12. The Fiery Cross icon- Diana Gabaldon
  13. A Breath of Snow and Ashes - Diana Gabaldon
  14. An Echo in the Bone - Diana Gabaldon
  15. Written in My Own Heart's Blood - Diana Gabaldon (due out some time this Fall, EDIT: Release date has been pushed back to March 25, 2014, BOO!)
  16. Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
  17. If I Stay - Gayle Forman
  18. Come Back - Claire & Mia Fontaine (I like some non-fiction mixed in)
  19. Incarnate - Jodi Meadows
  20. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest - Charles De Lint
  21. Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones
  22. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making - Catherynne Valente
  23. Cinder - Marissa Meyer
  24. Across the Universe - Beth Revis
  25. Fortunately, the Milk - Neil Gaiman

Wish me luck!  The challenge is on!

UPDATE: 6 down as of 9/26/13!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Yes, I Live in a Hotel!

Kind of a strange post to start with, but this is something I have been wanting to write about for a while...

Some back story to begin with: After 8 months of unemployment, and the slow financial recovery once I had a job again, I moved out of an apartment I really loved in June of 2012.  I hadn't been able to afford it for quite some time, and the lease was finally up.  I had spent the months prior to moving out attempting to find a new rental, to no avail.  So, as d-day approached, I had to shift focus a bit and begin to prepare for an alternate solution.  I began by seriously going through all of my things and purging.  I sold quite a few things, gave away things I couldn't sell, etc.  And, on June 8, 2012 I moved the bulk of what remained in to a 5x10" storage unit and myself, my cat, and a car full of stuff in to a room at the local Motel 6.  Now, you may look at the blog title and think this is the hotel of which I speak--it is not.  In fact, it was the first of 5 hotel rooms at 3 different hotels, interspersed with 2 week-long house-sitting gigs, and 5 months renting a basement room from someone who turned out to be less than sane.  Approximately 10 months, and much learning, later I find myself in a great situation.  I just wish I had ended up here to begin with.

These are the lessons I've learned, and the solutions they led to...

Don't be embarrassed!  During my hotel stays I have seen, and met, many people who have been living in hotels for YEARS.  This is a far more common choice than you'd think, especially in recent years with the change in economic climate.  Due to my initial embarrassment I stopped having friends over, something I really love to do, and this led to me isolating myself.  Now, I regularly have friends over, and am actually a bit proud of how I have set myself up here.

Never underestimate the importance of certain things.  These things will be different for each of us.  I chose my first hotel based primarily on their weekly rate, and also their pet policy that allowed me to have my cat with me but pay no fee.  This made it cheaper than a hotel that had the same weekly rate, but charged a $25/night (but not more than $150 over the stay) pet fee. The second hotel had free wifi and a small kitchenette, but I thought I'd be fine.  I was wrong.  Fast food quickly became expensive and sitting to use the free wifi such places provide made me feel like a loser.  I also felt even more isolated because many of my friends, and all of my family, aren't local and I communicate with them quite a bit online, and I lost that ability once I went "home."

Don't pick your hotel based on advertised prices, even those on discount sites.  The first 2 hotels had weekly rates that they advertised and that were much better than their nightly rates.  I also researched monthly rates, but found they were the same in both cases.  What I didn't realize, because it didn't occur to me--though if it had, I might not have asked anyway because I didn't want to admit this might be a long-term choice--was that some hotels offer even better rates if you commit to an even longer stay.  For the hotel I am at, that meant committing to a stay of 60 days or longer.  For making that commitment I am paying less a night than I was at hotel 2!  I really wish I had known that then...oh well.  My current situation eliminates the need to have a great credit score to avoid an additional deposit, AND make 2.5 times the monthly rent, like a typical apartment rental.  It also ends up costing me about the same amount as, or maybe less than, living in a 1 bedroom apartment by myself once utilities are taken in to consideration.  AND here they have a grab-and-go breakfast every morning and someone cleans my room once a week!  An added bonus is that after 30-days I am considered a resident, and don't have to pay tax on my room, they even refunded the tax paid for the first month.

Be honest with yourself about the length of your stay, and act accordingly.  As mentioned above the first benefit here is access to better rates.  Another huge benefit is taking the time to make yourself feel at home.  In my first 2 hotels I never really settled in.  I unpacked my suitcase and bags, but not much more.  That was a mistake because I never felt settled and that was awful.  

Here, at an Extended Stay ($200 off 30+ nights), I have settled in:

I have unpacked everything, and stowed all of my bags.  I wish the closet had doors, but outside of that it suits my needs.  A plastic drawer unit fits perfectly and gives me extra storage options.  Hanging shoe storage is great, though I had to shorten these (using binder clips) to leave space below for my hamper.  And my hamper is on wheels to make it easy to make the trek to do my laundry.  I also brought all of my own hangers, allowing me to hang more things and hang them well.  Oh, and there's the stepladder stowed on the side to make using every last bit of the top shelf possible.
My room has a comfy recliner.  I don't use it often, but when I do I love that I have some of my cozy throws with me.  I even brought my Slanket (so much better than a Snuggie!) with me.  The empty space behind the chair was a perfect place to stow my suitcase and a bunch of other stuff.

The bed is actually quite comfy, and there are plenty of goo pillows.  However, I made sure to bring my body pillow (the cat's favorite) and also have a comfy pillow for sitting up in bed!  Next to my bed is where I have set up my computer (I like to watch TV while online).  The table is actually the one meant for the dining area, I traded it out for the long desk-like table that was next to the bed to make it easier to get past and behind.  I am using a TV tray as a bedside table, and love that it is easily stowed.

The kitchens here are great!  I don't have a dishwasher, and that is an adjustment.  I also don't have an oven, and I hate that.  But otherwise, it rocks!  Having a full-size fridge makes it easy to eat as I would at an apartment.  I have a toaster oven, but have yet to try it as I am worried about using it on the counter-top.  MY crock-pot is a great addition, and I plan to try using it to cook Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls tomorrow!  I got some cheap wire storage racks to expand my space and used the hanging ones outside of the cabinet instead of inside to make even more space for dishes.

Great TVs here!  And they have easy to use plug-ins on the side so using the PS2 I kept with me to watch DVDs is quite easy.  I don't get a ton of channels, but do get Showtime, use the free wifi to watch a lot on the computer.
The bathroom is pretty spacious, and I was able to use a tall narrow wire shelving unit I have with some bins to organize most of my bathroom needs.  I also have some drawers on the counter, and my own purple bathmat on the floor!

I plan to stay where I'm at indefinitely.  I'm only leaving for the perfect situation.  I would love to hear from people in similar situations with lessons learned and/or tips!

EDIT: I highly recommend Extended Stay.  They really do everything they can to both fill my needs AND make me feel like this is really my home and not a hotel.

Extended Stay Hotels