Friday, February 26, 2010

In Need of an Agony Aunt?

Well, the past few weeks have been a bit stressful.  I mentioned in my blog last week that I had the winter blues. I had been fighting melancholy for quite some time, probably since my brother's death 18 months ago. Couple that with a change of job, scaling down my business, etc, etc. (see my bio entries for more info).

The end of last week was bad, emotionally speaking. I have been mourning my brother more lately. Even more than in the first year (after the initial shock of his death).

Maybe this mourning is because my Mom seems to be getting a bit better. Her grief has been so deep, so perhaps I have tried to be strong for her.

Besides phone calls with my parents, I haven't had anyone really to share my grief with. I had the initial support of my friends, but after a month or two, I sounded like a broken record and they were changing the subject as quickly as possible.

This is all understandable. It is hard to hear and support people through the grieving process, especially if you don't know the deceased. And none of my friends knew my brother.

When I was in my early twenties, about a year after settling in the UK, I slipped into a depression and had to be medicated for about a year. I hated being medicated, but it was better than the alternative. Back then, I had trouble getting out of bed and had gained considerable weight.

Sixteen years later, I could see the signs of another oncoming depression. I fought it tooth and nail. I was taking 5-HTP for the past 6-8 months. It's a natural supplement that and it is supposed to be a precursor to serotonin.

I had an appointment with my doctor set for the 1st of March. I had decided that I could wait until then. I would discuss going back on anti-depressants with him then. I couldn't face getting to the point that I was at last time. It was like being in a deep deep dark hole with no way out.

On Monday, I got out of bed and almost got back in again. I was so down that I couldn't face going into work. My sighs were deep and full. I went in anyway, on autopilot. I decided an hour into work that I needed to go to the Walk-In Clinic and get some antidepressants. Stat.

I left work at noon and went to Walk-In. Thankfully, the doctor at the clinic was understanding. He gave me a prescription for Cipralex (generic name is Escitalopram). He said it was faster acting.

I'm not feeling better yet. Antidepressants usually take 2-3 weeks to normalise a person, and up to 8. Side effects have varied from insomnia to hot flashes to feeling like I've got an air balloon in my head. But I can get out of bed.

I'm hopeful. And still moving to Belize, dammit!

Frugalista Count Up 5!

Well, I have now hit over the thousand dollar mark. The grand total is $1,047.17. I wasn't as good with money in the past couple of weeks, as a few things have come up, but more about that later... Slowly but surely, it is building though!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


My apologies, today is a bit of a hodgepodge.

Winter Blues
It is mid-winter here. Thankfully today is a bit Chinook-ey and we're headed to +1 Celsius. So that sun is peeking out. But I'm in the middle of the winter doldrums.
Maybe everyone in the northern climes suffers from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in one way or another.
Working all the time has tired me out a bit. I think I should probably take a day off soon since I haven't had a day off in...hmm how long has it been. I'll be right back after I check the calendar. Okay, it's been 24 days. And I'm working this weekend. So if I get a weekend day off next weekend, it will be 32 or 33 days since I've had a day off. Gulp. I think I need a weekend day off next weekend!
It's down to me that I've worked that much. But if I don't take a bit of time off, I'll lose dedication to my objective. Note to self - call boss at bar and ask for next Sat or Sun off.
(Addendum, I called a co-worker and pleaded with her to take my Sunday shift. She kindly took it. So I have this Sunday off! Yay!)
Belize Living
Living Off-Grid
I have been looking into living off-grid. I'm hoping that I will be attached to local electricity, sewer and water. But I want them to be auxiliary services. A 'break glass in case of emergency' sort of thing.
The initial outlay seems pricey, but from what I have researched it looks like the prices of the photovoltic panels are coming down. I only then need a septic and cistern system on top of that.
So the amount I have to save will be more. But conversely, my monthly bills will be even lower. Just food, phone, health insurance, vehicle insurance, and upkeep of vehicle, including petrol.
Where to Move?
I can't guarantee that this decision is final, but from all my research sight-unseen, I think I would like to settle in Hopkins. It's not yet totally touristy and I don't think there are tons of expats there. The Garifuna culture sounds really interesting. There are a few different cultures in Belize, all intermingled.
I know that it is much easier to find real estate once there, but I can't find much online. So I will just have to be patient and not start panicking about running out of time. Which I do.
Researching Belize
I mentioned previously that I had bought and downloaded Lan Sluder's Ebook about living in Belize. It is a good start, but it has a lot of generalisations and out of date information. The last update was 2007. It eases you in and gives good information.
In my opinion, the greatest source of information is peoples individual experiences. Look for personal blogs and websites. Remember to take what is said with a grain of salt. As everyone has a different viewpoint. Read enough of them it will give you a more complete picture. It's a bit time consuming, but reading the blog from the beginning is the best way to go.
For anyone else researching Belize and has a question to ask, I would highly recommend Belize Forums. Also the Ambergis Caye forum is supposed to be good.
So, that's the mixed bag for today.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day - I Commit to My Goals

Since deciding to move to Belize in 3-5 years I have had to sacrifice a few things. I don't really spend any money on entertainment, and I'm changing a few things personally. I have given myself a few guidelines for this year:
*I have to get some weight off. I have to get down 3 sizes this year.
*I have to get my first erotic novel done by the end of June this year.
*I have to save as much money as possible.
*I am putting an embargo on men for at least a year.

So this is my Valentine's Day present to myself. I don't want any relationships to get in the way of my goals. So no flirtations, relationships, or anything in-between for at least a year.
Realistically a relationship will way-lay me. So I don't think that I will get involved with anyone before Belize (so for 3-5 years). But for now I am committing to celibacy for a year. I have not had a serious relationship since moving back from the U.K.. So making this commitment do myself is just a way to uncomplicate my life. I feel a sense of freedom in doing this!
Happy Valentine's Day!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

It's a Secret....Shhhh!

I have told a select amount of friends about my plans to move to Belize. Most of them are outwardly supportive but inwardly sceptical. Now you may be thinking 'Barmy Belle, you are being paranoid'. This is not out of the realm of possibility, but I don't think so. And I can see why they are. The being self-sufficient and earning a living from my writing is the hardest part for people to swallow.
I will do it. The proof is in the pudding. And the pudding is going to take 3-5 years to make!
The thing I most trepidatious about is telling my parents. Thankfully they won't have to know for at least another year. I have great parents. But unfortunately, they are worriers. They have always been worriers. But since my brother passed away, the intensity of their worrying has increased. My brother passed away about 18 months ago. So I'm going to give them a bit more time to process.
It's not as if I'm not guilty about worrying about them. They're getting older. But they are thankfully healthy. And I hope that continues to be the case.
So, as  pre-emptive strike against some of their objections I have decided to do a little research. I know that they will be worried about the crime. I don't know if anything I found out will salve their stress, but it may.
Okay, the first thing I discovered about Belize is that it does have a high crime rate. And a high murder rate.  But according to the Crooks Report 'Annually between 45% to 50% of all murders are committed in Belize City.'  
According to a statistical presentation there were 97 murders in Belize last year. If 50% of all murders are in Belize City, then the rest of Belize has a murder rate of 20.23/100,000. This is based on the assumption that Belize City has a population of 70,800 and the population of Belize is 310,520.
This fact is supported, to an extent, by a statistical presentation on the Belizean government website. Below is a portion of the statistics reproduced from that presentation (click on image to view full size):

The population section was added by me from internet searches. If the information in inaccurate, my apologies.
There are many, many places with higher murder rates. The ten worst cities to live in Europe and the USA:



PER 100,000

(1) Washington, D.C., USA 69.3
(2) Philadelphia, USA 27.4
(3) Dallas, USA 24.8
(4) Los Angeles, USA 22.8
(5) Chicago, USA 20.5
(6) Phoenix, USA 19.1
(7) Moscow, Russia 18.1
(8) Houston, USA 18.0
(9) New York City, USA 16.8
(10) Helsinki, Finland 12.5
(11) Lisbon, Portugal   9.7
(12) San Diego, USA   8.0
(13) Amsterdam, Netherlands   7.7
(14) Belfast, N.Ireland, UK   4.4
(15) Geneva, Switzerland   4.2
(16) Copenhagen, Denmark   4.0
(17) Berlin, Germany   3.8
(18) Paris, France   3.3
(19) Stockholm, Sweden   3.0
(20) Prague, Czechoslovakia   2.9

Which gives Belize about the same murder rate as number 5 on the list; Chicago, Illinois.
But I live in Alberta, Canada. And the murder rate in Canada is pretty low:



PER 100,000

(1) Regina 4.72
(2) Saskatoon 4.39
(3) Sudbury 4.00
(4) Edmonton 3.50
(5) Vancouver 3.45
(6) Montreal 3.40
(7) Winnipeg 3.05
(8) Calgary 2.60
(9) Toronto 1.80
(10) Hamilton 1.70
(11) Halifax 1.25
(12) St. John's 0.00

But then again, stats are easily skewed. I grew up in a small town, population 1200. When I was growing up, one of my school friends’ Dad went berserk and killed his family and killed a local preacher and his wife. Then he killed himself. A total of 6 people killed.
So the stat for my small town for that year would be a murder rate of 500 per 100,000 people. Is that a way to manipulate numbers? Well, yes, it is a very extreme example, but it just illustrates how stats are not always the true picture.
Also another point on crime statistics. Statistics are only as great as the people who report them. I mentioned before that I lived in Salford, Greater Manchester, England. And that I also lived in Kingston, Jamaica. I lived in the U.K. for 10 years and had my house broken into twice. My car was broken into several times. I never reported any of them to the police because we didn't have insurance (that covered theft) and there wasn't any hope of anything but a report being filled. The police had more important things to do. They didn't have the resources to investigate petty crime. They were overworked and under funded.
I don't know if Belizeans report crime every time, or not....
I don't know if this will help my parents, but it has clarified a lot of things for me. I wasn't too concerned about the crime rate before, but after doing an in depth study, it has opened my eyes. Not deterred, just a little more informed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Where the Heck are my Manners?

Just under 10 days ago, I was reading Dave and Dianna Rider's Blog, Belize - Adventures in Paradise. I sent them a message asking how much it all cost. They built a wonderful house in Corozal, and had a few challenges along the way.
Dave replied within two days. He also posted it on his blog 'So What's It All Cost?'. I would really like to thank him.
I promised Dave a t-shirt. In an earlier blog he was in the hunt for a t-shirt from BATSUB (British Armed Forces Support Unit Belize). He never mentioned getting one. Since I work for BATUS (British Armed Training Unit Suffield), I thought I would offer him a t-shirt that I have from work.
With all my jobs and general slothy-ness when I have a moment to myself, I have been a bit remiss. I had to find the t-shirt, firstly. I have now tracked that down and will send it in the next couple of days. So sorry Dave and Dianna!!
I would highly recommend their blog. I like reading blogs that interest me from the beginning. I just wish there was a way to read it chronologically without scrolling up :)

Research into EroRom....

As a writer looking into a genre that I haven't written before, I looked online and found two books that I am using for research. The first book I found and downloaded was 'The Cheater's Guide to Writing Erotic Romance For Publication and Profit' by Morgan Hawke. The second book that I downloaded onto my handy Blackberry (with Mobipocket Reader) was 'Passionate Ink: A Guide to Writing Erotic Romance' by Angela Knight.

By the way, the total cost of the two books was approximately $15 CND. Not much, but enough to hurt on my limited budget. Ah well, you have to spend money to make money...

I have not yet fully read both. But I so far find Ms. Knight's book more my style. Ms. Hawke's is more in your face. I will give a more detailed critique of the books later.

Both started as ebook authors. I know for a fact that Angela Knight has some hardbacks out.

I found out a few things. Erotica and erotic romance (aka EroRom) are not the same thing. EroRom has a happy ending (well, they both have many, but I'm talking about a happily ever after) in which the protagonists end up together or at least romantically connected in a relationship. Erotica is wham, bam, thank you Sam.

I chose erotic romance because I think it's a good fit. I am very open about sex and have no difficulty talking about it. Nowadays I talk about it and don't do it. So that's my entertainment; talking instead of doing!

So after I finish the books I have to get writing. Not that any of you know me well enough to worry about me, but I know it's not as easy as all that.

But we'll see how long it will take.........

Frugalista Count Up 4!

Slow and steady wins the race. I added 288.00 to my savings today. The grand total now is 638.06! Considering that I have been saving for just under four weeks, I don't think that is such a bad total.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Tiny Whinge-fest about the Wii

Okay, I love the Wii. I have a couple of games that provide sufficient torture.
But the voice in the Wii Fit Plaza is starting to drive me crazy! It is like a voice from a Japanese Anime Cartoon. It is sweet, child-like and INCREDIBLY ANNOYING!!!
Every other day it goes 'Oh!'in a suprised voice when I step on the Wii.
I think I mentioned it before, I'm a larger person and trying to get some of it off. I don't have any interest in being svelte, just a lot less curvy. So when I get on and weigh every day, and it tells me 'That's Obese! Dum dum dum!' It gets tiring. D'uh! I was obese yesterday; unless a fat-wasting disease hits me overnight, I'll be obese the next day!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Frugalista Count-up 3!

I had two massage clients tonight. One changed their hour massage to a 90 minute massage. So instead of $110, I made $135.
So the Frugalista count up is now $350.05!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Frugalista Count-up 2!

No tithe, but I managed to add $50 of my main wages this week. Total= $215.05 Up, up we go :)

Non-settler going to Settle in Belize...Part III

Post England
Well, here I was, thyroid still slightly wonky and living at my parents house. On top of that, I was seeing a really great guy, we’ll call him SmartBoy, in the months after I decided to leave. We clicked, but the timing was wrong. We had planned to meet in Toronto in a few months. Unfortunately, he decided to date someone else a couple of weeks after I left.

SmartBoy managed to send me a romantic message on Valentines Day. Then the next day emailed me saying that he shouldn’t have sent me that message since he was involved.

Moving back to Canada was weird. I had lived in Manchester for 10 years. It took me about 2 years to get used to living there. I had culture shock again, plus I was living in a small town, living at my parents house, a wee bit heartbroken, plus all the friends I had made as a young adult were over there.

It took me awhile to get used to life here again. I worked at the 7-11 on night shifts, and worked part-time at a Curves to start with. Then I got a job as a coordinator for the Southern Alberta Summer Games.

After the Summer Games, I worked in Calgary (about an 1.5 hour drive from MediumSizedTown). The commute was brutal. I wanted to move to Medicine Hat. There’s a high British population, as there is a military base that trains British Soldiers. It’s called BATUS (British Army Training Unit Suffield). It’s at, surprise, surprise, CFB Suffield.

Medicine Hat was where I was living when I met my ex-husband, aka LBS.

I got a job at a computer firm. I didn’t like the job much, but my social life made up for it. I still had people I knew here, and the night-life was great.

I am not a slag, but I am not a prude. I met men that I had flings with. Besides getting over SmartBoy and a 10 year marriage, I was enjoying my freedom.  I was out every weekend and broke every payday. But I was having a blast.

I was flinging with a soldier from Liverpool, when one night right before he left he decided to be an arsehole.  I’ll not go into to details, but I was assaulted and my whole world changed in that time.

I had a hard time coping with work after that. I went on EI medical leave, and on EI and my RRSP’s, I went back to school for 2 years to become a Massage Therapist. After the EI ran out, I worked a bar job out at the base. Good wage, crap tips. The hours were great though. 6 p.m.-midnight.

Also, during this time I went to counselling to recover from the assault and other baggage.

I love being a Massage Therapist, and set up my own business after I completed college. I made the mistake of staying in Medicine Hat. It’s a saturated market. Plus, unfortunately, even though I am a great Massage Therapist, people do not always think big girls are great RMT’s. I am strong like a woman named Olga, and can do all types of massage.

That is another reason to get the fat off.

In November of 2007, my brother had a heart attack. It happened to be my birthday.  He was without oxygen for a considerable amount of time. We were scared that he would be brain damaged permanently. So I got in the car and drove to Winnipeg to be with him. My parents flew up from their winter home in Palm Springs.

When I arrived, we were told not to expect much. They expected him to be brain damaged for life. But he recovered and was almost 100% within 4 months of the heart attack.

Now, obesity is my problem. Not my brother’s. He had an arrhythmia, and was on some medication he wasn’t supposed to be on and his heart stopped. He had a defibrillator put in and everything seemed fine.

In the late spring of 2008, he had a mini-stroke. He was recovering well when on Aug 24 of 2008 he died (we hope) in his sleep. He was living on his own at this time and did not have the kids with him at the time; we are thankful that the kids didn’t have to see him like that. He was 43. His defibrillator didn’t go off and didn’t save his life.

So, our family has been coming to terms with his death since then. He was a community activist, well loved by everyone, a great dad, and he was a mover and shaker in the provincial government. He had just been made an Assistant Deputy Minister of community initiatives in the department of science, technology, energy and mines in the Manitoba government.

Before my brother had passed, I had saved up for a trip back to the U.K. to visit my friends. Their lives had moved on. It was great seeing them, but it wasn’t home any longer.

Last year, I closed down my Massage Clinic and moved into a two bedroom house (I had a 1 bed flat before that). This way I could treat clients out of my house. I still had the bar job, too. I looked for another job and in April of 2009 I got a clerical job out at the base covering someone’s maternity leave.

I really do sometimes wish that I hadn’t left the U.K., but you can’t go back. You can only go forward. And I am very grateful to have been in Canada. I got to be with him before he passed away. That is worth more than any other regrets.

So now we’re up to speed!! Am I ready to live life to the fullest soon? You bet. Am I ready for a good change in my life? Oooh baby, yes!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fudge, Says Frugalista

Well, getting derailed off the Frugalista express wasn't in my plans. A few things happened in the past few days:
  1. My microwave went 'BOOM'!
  2. I got an inner ear infection
  3. My main job may be ending...aaarg!
When the microwave blew up (well it actually just went kaput, it didn't catch on fire like its predecessor), I thought 'Hmm, should I try to live without a microwave? Will I have one in Belize?' Since my decision, I'm trying to ask myself, WWBBBD (What Would Belizean Barmy Belle Do?). I am planning to live a simpler life down there. But living without a microwave when you have three jobs is just not a viable option. So I went to WalMart (I hate going to WalMart, I feel like such a traitor to local business when I do) and bought a new one for $58.00+GST. Ah well, C'est la vie.
Then I got an inner ear infection. Thanks to universal health care, I only had to pay $40 for the prescription. Which I will get 80% back minus an initial $25 dollar deductible (excess to all you peeps in the UK). So I will get a whopping $7 back :).
So, I won't be tithing my wages when I get them tomorrow, as they will be paying back my credit card for the extra expenses. I will not touch my $165.05 saved so far. Plus I should make $110 this week as I have four massages this week. Unfortunately two are trades. One is a trade with another massage therapist (Yay! I get a massage back next week). The other is my friend and hairdresser. But the other two are paid :)
The third point I have known about since I got the job. I am covering
someones maternity leave. But I had assumed that I would have secured another job by now and that hasn't happened. I am peaceful now though. There are now rumours that the woman I replaced is not coming back, but I'm not sure that I want the job now that I've come up with an alternative solution.
I was starting to panic. Not only will my 'Belize or Bust' plan get waylaid, but I will end up, once again spending all my savings.
But I had a serious think and I came to some conclusions. I don't like working almost all the time. I am tired of scrabbling for money all the time. At the moment, I can barely make ends meet on my first wage (the main job). And I'm only doing that job for the money, like so many of us do.
Up until a year ago, I had a massage clinic. But I saw the writing on
the wall when the recession was about to hit. This city's massage market is over saturated. I hadn't yet built up enough clientele to make a living off of it before; so I was TOTALLY screwed once the recession hit. At that time I had the massage clinic and my bar job at the military base.
Now, I have a civil servant position at the military base, a bar job at the base, and I do massages out of my house.
So, I talked to my parents. One of the advantages of being this old and single is I don't have any major responsibilities. I asked them if I got laid off, would it be okay to move in with them for a bit and open a massage clinic in
MediumSizedTown, Alberta. I would be on unemployment, and could claim whatever wages I made until I more money than Pogey allows.
So I now hope I do get laid off, as that is the only way that I can move. And my expenses at my parents will be much more reasonable then renting a 2 bed house in the city with no insulation, and $200+ per month utilities in the winter (rent + utilities in the winter= $1000. My main job earns me about $1000 every two weeks so that's 50% of my wage).
So here's hoping I get my arse laid off in April :)