Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Quality of Life

I started this two weeks ago.  It's really long.  I should probably write more often so these aren't so long.  Oh well.

It's no surprise, if you've been reading a while, that I hate my current apartment.  It's unsafe inside and out.  I'm thankful we didn't blow up from the gas heater, or become a crime victim while outside.  It's also way too small for an almost 4 year old boy who has an abundance of energy.  Daily I have to tell my boy to slow down, stop jumping, or quiet down so that we don't disturb the neighbors.  When we moved in he wasn't quite as active, nor did he seem to take up as much space in the world as he does now.  I was also in a bind and this seemed like everything I was looking for, and this suburb was supposed to be really, really good.  Sadly, as time went on, being cramped up in this apartment on a third floor sucked more and more.  We couldn't even use the balcony (smoker below us).  But I was able to afford the rent even when my child support 'got lost' in the system.  Thankfully it started again just recently! 

I wanted to move last year but I was still in my lease until July.  By the time my lease came up, it seemed all the affordable apartments I liked were gone.  I was never sent a renewal lease to sign and have been on a month-to-month lease and I only need to give 30-day notice before I move.  I've been stalking craigslist, local papers, and various rental sites for the past year.  I just kept hoping the perfect place would pop up and I could just move.  Didn't happen.  I had my child support drama in the fall, and moving over the winter is a no.  I just wanted out.  My kid needs us to get out!  I finally saw that my previous apartment opened up and I called the management company, who also runs this apartment.  Financially it would've be an easy move.  I figured if it was easy, and we'd have two bedrooms, that for sure I would just move there.  But when I called, the manager tried to pull a fast one and tell me that I had signed a lease for another year until July, and they were shady about it!  That was the end of that idea.  Knowing how shady they were about repairing the heater, I shouldn't have even bothered but I really liked that suburb a lot and the school district was so good.  I chalked it up to something else being meant for us and kept looking and feeling discouraged.  Affordability and safety (and first floor) became the only things I kept on my wish list.

One of the main difficulties is that I really do not make much working from home as a transcriptionist, but as a single mom the benefits outweigh trying to find a job and commuting in this economy, especially since I'm a student right now.  With over 11% unemployment in IL right now, and having been out of an office for 6 years, I'm pretty sure the offers wouldn't be that great either.  Honestly, I would probably shrivel up and die in an office setting and I have a hard time with office politics.  What that means for moving is my rent limit isn't in any 'luxury' range, or even extra amenities range for that matter.  It makes the apartment search that much more difficult to not end up in a ratty area for what I can afford.  It's frustrating to say the least and I just kept praying really hard we'd find something, anything!   

Then my dad called with his "I had a feeling I needed to call" parental intuition.  For once I thought he was mistaken because we were fine for a change.  So I'm thinking no drama outside the norm that you've heard before child support, moving, school, etc.  Of course the conversation about moving turned to the cost of living near him in WI.  Now I lived up there, with him and my stepmom, right after I had Noah.  So I had looked at places to stay up there, but I didn't have a job back then and couldn't find one.  The timing just wasn't right so back to IL I came, and everything just went downhill from there.  Here I am today, stable (mostly) in my job and school so I felt like even considering a move to WI was CRAZY talk!  I hate cold and snow.  I have my college acceptance letter and financial aid package ready to go.  I have my ex's relationship with our son going so well.  I didn't want to upset the apple cart and moving out of IL was a huge upset.  Of course I pooh-pooh'ed his moving to WI talk out of habit.  But you know, somehow that man gets to say "I told you so" a lot.  Ha!

I had to look.  Just a peek.  I wasn't really going to seriously consider a smaller town in WI.  Nope.  Not me.  No way.

O M G!  The cost of living is ½ what it is in the Chicago area!  I mean, my dad told me that, and I knew it from looking at the ad papers in 2006, but I was actually absorbing the info this time.  Currently, I'm in a barely 675 sq. foot apartment with 4 rooms (total), 2 closets, and a balcony we can't use.  I pay $675 for this hell hole.  The listings in WI near my dad are $675 for a smaller 3-bedroom house w/washer and dryer and a yard!  A YARD!!!  Where my kid can play safely & I can work and watch him at the same time!  I can rent a very large 2-bedroom but basic apartment - laundry in building, a/c, etc for $500-$550.  I don't even have to consider a 1 bedroom at all, which is what it was looking like in IL after running the finances through my head again.  I mean, childcare/preschool expenses, commuting expenses, and losing hours at work all while I go to school.  It was going to be a stretch even for a nicer 1 bedroom after reconsidering all that.  I have a hard time wrapping my mind around having so much space for so little money.  I think once I see them for real and see they aren't in a bad area, like here, that I will feel much better.

I just cannot deny that my child's quality of life would improve in WI while I work from home, and if anything like the child support thing were to happen again it's not devastating like it was for me here.  He would go to pre-K, which is free, and the schools are not bad at all.  It's just small, and not culturally diverse which is a concern.  But we will be in IL a lot & he has his dad here to balance it out.  The major thing is that he will have his own room.  Thank God.  We still have family nearby to visit, and I bet I see my stepsiblings more often when they visit my dad and their mom.  I love this big park with awesome stuff for kids to do & has a petting zoo.  I don't love the spiders that fall from trees though.  The colleges have been applied to and I should hear back soon about those.  I really think WI be good for us for now.  Good to be less stressed out and not have to work 50+ hours just to scrape by.  I'd have a better life balance up there & time to play with my child.  Now, I don't expect it to be perfect and it's a small town.  I'd just rather have a more relaxed life than have to struggle or try to find a job I know I will hate just so we can get a bigger place we're never in. 

I had planned a visit in April to see my dad and now it's a recon mission to find an apartment/duplex/house!  I am freaked out a little lot about giving my notice to vacate here before I actually have a new address anywhere.  I don't want to be homeless ever again.  I worry about the credit process since mine isn't perfect but I have fixed a lot of it since my divorce.  Thank goodness my job is portable because I can just up and move out of IL, sort of.  I had to run it past the ex, who gave his enthusiastic okay, and it's not that far up that visitation will be difficult.  Plus, I found out today that Amtrak runs through the town on the way to Milwaukee and then Union Station, Chicago.  It's even cheaper than driving down!  So I just need to secure a new address, set up the moving truck or movers, and pack throughout the month of April and we'll be out of here by May 3!  I can't wait to see what this adventure brings.

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