Reconciliation

I like to think of myself as aware of what I spend, but I’ll be honest, I’ve been off the last couple of months and I haven’t dealt with it, so this month when my register and my bank account were off by $335, I was more chagrined and guilty than anything else. I’ve been scouring You Need a Budget (YNAB) for the last three hours trying to figure out where such an enormous discrepancy came from, but truthfully, I didn’t find it. So I reconciled.

First, I had to reconcile myself to the fact that I am not perfect, mistakes happen, it’s better to have an accurate balance even if it means having to admit you did a bad job, etc. Then, once the hard part was over I reconciled my accounts so that YNAB matched the bank balance with a click of a button. It was so easy that I wondered why I hadn’t ever reconciled officially before. Probably if I had, I wouldn’t have been in this mess today. #LessonLearned

I’m switching around my categories in YNAB as well. It’s fun to mix things up. I had been using the default categories: giving, monthly bills, everyday expenses, rainy day funds, savings goals, and debt. Inspired by a post on And Then We Saved, I simplified everything into two categories: Needs and Wants.

Needs are mostly things to stay alive (food, shelter, HK’s food, litter and medical bills), then also for things that are “necessary” for life for me right now, like fuel for my car, car insurance, car payments, medications, taxes, et cetera. They’re not essential for life and ideally, I’d love to be car free one day, but that day is not today. I’ve also thrown in “literary expenses” into the needs category, even though I know it is really a want. But, I justify, if I want to publish essays and poetry, I need money for submission fees, my workshop is very beneficial, and it is more helpful to buy gobs of literary journals to analyze what they accept. At least that’s what I tell myself.

The Wants category is much bigger, and I’ve ordered it in terms of my priorities. Travel is top of the list right now because the trip to Glasgow is coming up. Then a replacement laptop because even though this one isn’t dead, it is a pain to use. Car repairs, derby, and bicycle accessories (panniers! I dream of panniers!) are all around midlevel of the list. Alcohol and meals out are towards the bottom. I’ve had limited success at restaurants as a vegan (but delicious results cooking at home) and alcohol is wasted calories and wasted money (I’ve been hungover one too many times recently and usually after just one drink).

I’m hoping this breakdown will help me prioritize better in the moment. I set great priorities when the month starts, but I have a hard time saying no in the moment when a friend asks to go out to eat or the bookstore calls my name. Asking “is this a need or is this a want?” is a good question to ask. Maybe this way I can reconcile myself to choosing my needs before my wants, no matter how necessary Plumeria may feel at the time.

An Ode to Clean Spaces

I stayed in the office until a little after 6 tonight. I didn’t have any big deadlines, nothing really pressing, but I am going to be out tomorrow and a few days next week with the fam-bam, and I just wanted to sort my sent emails (nerd alert). Working in the law office with numerous cases and emails everyday made me appreciate the beauty of an empty inbox, and recognize the importance of filing your messages for later retrieval, even the sent ones. So now I do it and I was a little behind, so it took about an hour of listening to Aziz Ansari to finish.

Then I put away all my things, filed my papers, and dusted my desk. It’s a comfort to know that when I come back to the office on Tuesday, everything will be neat and ready to go. Just like it is a comfort to know that when I come home, the bed is made. Even if everything else goes wrong in my day, at least that’s done (real talk: I’ve broken the boy down and now he makes the bed because he’s the last one up usually even though he’s one of those people that says “it’s just going to get unmade again in a few hours.” Blasphemers). Credit to Hyperbole and a Half. She's amazing.

I’m the kind of person who cleans before a trip, even if I have to stay up all night to do it. Early morning flights, though convenient, bother me because then there isn’t time to wash the sheets.

It should be said that I recognize that I am particular, and that this behavior reflects my own personal preferences, not some universal code of conduct decreed from Mt. Sinai. Live and let live, I say, and then I think to myself “but maybe don’t live with me.” WWMDD?

Right now, I’m following the Unfuck Your Habitat guidelines for daily cleaning and bedtime rituals.

My daily checklist: 
Make the bed
Wash the dishes
Put clothes and shoes away
Wipe down kitchen and bathroom counters
Deal with all incoming mail (aka put it in a box and forget it but get it off the table)
Clean the litter box

My bedtime routine:
Wash the dishes (if they didn’t get washed before, which usually they don’t)
Get outfit together for tomorrow
Set up coffee/plan & prep breakfast
Set out medications
Put keys somewhere obvious
Get work stuff and/or derby stuff together
Charge phone/set alarm
Clean the litter box again
Try to go to bed at a reasonable hour

It’s not a lot to remember once it becomes routine, and it really has made an enormous difference in how hectic my mornings are. It keeps the apartment reasonably tidy so that during Saturday’s massive cleans, I can get straight to the scrubbing and skip the sorting and putting away.

The only problem with this attention to tidiness is that you start to get a reputation. Then friends will ask you to help them move, and then to help them pack and sort “since you’re so good at it.” And you’ll say yes, because packing and sorting is fun to you because that’s the kind of person you are.

Procrastination Muffins

It’s almost July, almost a new start. I love new starts: new days, new weeks, new months, new years, new school years, birthdays. Each one seems like a precipice beyond which I cannot see, holding magical possibilities.

This afternoon I’d rather dream about that than get to the work at hand–working on a poem I started in my Not Dead Yet Poets Society class last Wednesday. I’m going again this week and I get more out of it when I have work prepared, but it’s always hard to start the work.

It’s been a good day–the ideal kind of Sunday. I got up in the morning, sore from last night’s derby bout, wrote a little, then went for a bike ride and donuts with one of my friends. Pedaling stretched out my sore leg, though squatting for anything is a bit Herculean right now. Then I swung by the grocery store, made a smoothie, took the cat outside to hang out while I read short stories. Now she’s playing in a box that used to hold a griddle and I just made some wonderful vegan banana nut muffins and listened to Marc Maron’s interview with President Barack Obama. Great interview, great muffins. So good I had to freeze them or I wouldn’t have any left for this week. They should make a perfect mid-morning snack. I’ve been insatiable lately.

I’m still asking why, so I’m not setting any new big goals for July. Instead, without getting to specific, I’m going to try to focus on the basics: getting enough sleep, eating right, creating order, exercising, and then maybe the intermediates: my three questions and writing.

For Family: My family (Mom, Dad, Grandma–hi guys!) come to visit on July 5th. It’s wonderful to be with my family, and it also pushes all my cranky-anal-retentive-judgmental-neatnik-my-way-or-the-highway buttons. The last time I was with some of them, I recalled a sentence from Pride and Prejudice that helped me to overcome this tendency.

Bingley was ready, Georgiana was eager, and Darcy determined, to be pleased.

Now when the urge to judge or criticize, even internally, arises, I ask myself, what would Mr. Darcy do? and I am determined to be pleased. Actually, more often than not, I give in to the urge to judge and criticize, but when it comes to my family, I’m trying to stop. So that is my resolution on family.

For work: I have that poem I mentioned before, and I’d like to see it more or less improved by month’s end, but I refuse to make any concrete promises to beat myself with later.

For fun: I also refuse to make any concrete plans here. My most successful happiness resolution to date was the resolution to have a daily present and that’s how I see this resolution this month. It might mean finally going to the bookstore that I never seem to get around to, or maybe a trip to the beach or a long bike ride to somewhere new or a trip to the art museum on it’s free day (still trying to be frugal after all, though it seldom looks like it anymore) or a long walk.

Currently reading: All of the Stories of Muriel Spark in preparation for Scotland, though it might be better in preparation for Africa given how many stories are set in the British colonies.

Ask Why

I was having a serious conversation with the Boy yesterday and he said something that I already knew about myself, but it resonated more meaningfully than it ever had before. He pointed out that I set a lot of difficult goals and resolutions for myself, usually with the desire to be happier or a better person, and ultimately those goals make me less happy and less pleasant to be around, and they don’t even matter in some cases. He was going to use my recent veganism as an example, but then he said, “actually that seems like it is going really well for you,” which it is.

But that got me thinking. I’ve tried veganism before (and veganism is just an example; sub in whatever you’d like: exercise, daily writing, tidiness) and haven’t been able to stick to it. I would miss cheese or dessert, so I’d make an exception just this once. That hasn’t been a problem this time around. This time it’s been so easy because I’m so clear on why I’m eating this way. I have purpose.

So I wondered, what’s the purpose behind my other current resolutions? Why did I say I want to draw my cat every day? Why can’t I go out to eat, again? Why am I so stringent on my bedtimes and risings?

And truthfully, I can’t come up with good reasons. I have only so much energy to spend on my goals, so they should really be meaningful. And drawing my cat every day, while delightful, is not actually a meaningful goal to me. So why set it?

It’s fun to set goals. I like it and it’s easy for me. It’s much harder to follow through (particularly when I set seven at a time) and it’s much, much harder to focus on only one or two things at a time. But usually the harder thing is sometimes more worthwhile. I need to figure out how to stay focused, prioritize, and clarify my purpose before I start setting goals willy-nilly.

I started this year with three topics I wanted to explore in more detail: family, fun, and work/purpose. I’ve let myself get distracted, so I’m resetting. I actually feel pretty good about the work I’ve done in understanding what family is and how it works/how I feel about it right now, and honestly, trying to have fun doesn’t sound like fun right now (weird, right?) so I want to focus on work and purpose. I guess you could also call that life-work.

Why?

That’s part of the serious conversation we had yesterday (vaguely). I’m happy with what I’m doing now, but I’m also (always) thinking about what’s next. Lately I’ve been thinking more about graduate school, teaching, where we’re headed next.

And because it matters. It’s the part of my life that still feels most incomplete, like I’m maybe not quite doing exactly what I’m “supposed” to be doing yet. That sounds like a very mid-twenties crisis thing to say, but there it is. So I’m going to push around on that feeling for awhile and see what happens.

One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Sauron

It is spring, and a young woman’s thoughts turn to philosophical inquiry. Of late, she’s turned her baleful eye (as her significant other has so lovingly phrased it) towards planet Earth.

My baleful eye

 
After The Secret History of Happiness which pushed me towards veganism (going swimmingly by the way), I started Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, another light read. It is a collection of essays by world thinkers from Barack Obama to the Pope to Desmond Tutu to Barbara Kingsolver to Wendell Berry with more scientists, philosophers, and writers mixed in. The book addresses the question “do we have a moral obligation to take action to protect the future of a planet in peril?” Spoiler alert: for a variety of reasons (the children/the future, the rest of life on Earth, the intrinsic value of the Earth itself, not to mention justice and compassion, as well as our own survival) the answer is a resounding yes.

To affect climate change requires political action. It requires that governments act, that corporations change, that we come together in a way human beings never have before. That’s huge. That’s overwhelming. And it also requires that I act, that I change, that I see interconnectedness more fully than I ever have before. And that feels equally huge, and also empowering. I’ve been thinking about big life choices: how I eat, where we live, how Scott and I raise a family (if we choose to raise a family), and I’ve been thinking about small choices, things I can do on a daily basis. I can ride my bike to work. I can skip plastic bags in the grocery store even for things like beans and flour. I can stop purchasing products that come individually wrapped. I can turn off the damn lights. I can vote. I can campaign.

On a global scale, I don’t know that those acts will matter. Riding my bike to work is not even a drop in the bucket against what’s happening. But, it is one step towards living my short life in accordance with my values. There are many more steps to come, and there have been and will be stumbles. If I can look back at the end of a long day, which is all we really have anyway, and say I did my best, then that will be good enough.

 
I'm a sucker for the starfish story

Know Where Your Next Meal is Coming From

I read this piece of advice in one of the frugal blogs that I read and it has stuck with me. Know where your next meal is coming from.

Now, that blogger was specifically talking about this as a strategy to avoid eating out. For example, bring a snack when you go to an airport or running errands so you’re not tempted to pick up something unhealthy and expensive. It’s helped me avoid picking up the $2 Luna or Cliff bar from the staff lounge because I’ve remembered to bring a couple of snacks of my own. It’s also been hugely helpful as a non-meat eater because it’s helped me to think about the foods I’m likely to encounter and whether I can or want to eat them.

Tonight I’ll be wKnow where your next meal is coming from.orking an overnight with 130 Girl Scouts at the Natural History Museum. I’ll be running the karaoke station from 6 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. so I’m going to need some sustenance besides carrots, junk food and coffee for dinner, snacks and breakfast tomorrow morning. Plus, whatever will get me through practice and another G.S. event afterward on no sleep.

So I planned ahead.

To the left is all the food I’m packing for the overnight. Rather than relying on a bunch of snacks, I wanted some designated meals, so for dinner, I’ll be having spring rolls with soy sauce. I’m packing a banana, three larabars, and some chocolate and mixed nuts for snacks throughout the night, and some almond yogurt, granola, and a peach for breakfast tomorrow morning. Plus, whatever is there that is vegan (carrot sticks, I’m sure about, probably some additional fruit).

Realistically, this is more food than I need, but I’ve been sick lately and I don’t want to run the risk of not having enough or not having the right thing–that’s why there’s sweet and salty in there even though I’m not much of a salt snacker. It feels a little bit like packing for a backpacking trip, except more intimidating. Twelve hours of karaoke has to be against some article of the Geneva convention. At least I’ll have some good food as I slowly lose my mind.

Some thoughts on food and habits

This morning I skated for twenty minutes in the parking lot of the hospital by my apartment. As I was working out, people walked through on their way to work. It was glorious. I used to think that it was impossible for me to really skate in my neighborhood–too much traffic, uneven sidewalks, nowhere flat and smooth to go. I didn’t even consider the possibility of this parking lot until very recently, and at 6:30 in the morning, it is very empty, perfect for practicing my hockey stops against at the white lines of every parking space. I even felt brave enough to practice my backwards skating, which I am horrible at because I never practice it.

Getting up early and skating in a parking lot is not my ideal-ideal way to work out (frankly, I’d rather use that time to write) but I also think it is important to be realistic. I have evening meetings tonight and for the next two days, so there is no way I’m going to be able to work out after work. Before work? Yes. During work? Feasible. But after? Not really. So that means looking for some new fixes and some new adventures. And I can say that with a positive attitude right now because I worked out this morning so I’m not grouchy. And I’m getting my writing in. It isn’t a poem but this will do.

I also had a realization today that helped me sympathize a little bit more with all the people I’ve met in my life who have said to me, “you’re vegetarian? What do you eat?” Since cutting out eggs and dairy, I’ve been asking myself that question a lot too. What do I eat? What can I eat? The answer has been a lot of tofu. Also burritos. And carrots with cashew “cheese” sauce. And a lot of fruit. And Larabars. I’ve been destroying Larabars. But it hit me today (because I forgot to buy more ingredients for my tofu scramble, so I was scrambling to come up with something else–hence breakfast burritos) that in a few months, this will feel as normal to me as vegetarianism has felt for the past thirteen years. I didn’t even realize until now that it has been that long. And it will be nice to have that habit, to not have to think about it, to know that the answer when I’m asked “what do you eat?” will still be the same. The answer is “food.”

May Review/June Goals

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, but let’s do the numbers!

Total Income: $1,236.47
Total Spending: $1,580.82

Broken down by my favorite categories:
Groceries: $248.43
Fuel: $155.52
Eating out: $132.53
HK Expenses: $359.16

May did not have a full income since my first paycheck from Girl Scouts was only one day’s worth. All in all, I didn’t go too far above on my expenditures, so I’m not too disturbed, though I am looking for ways to cut back over the next few months to recover and save for Glasgow.

Hillary had some serious vet issues this month (feet bleeding, explosive diarrhea, many vet trips)but fortunately, it has not quelled her adventuresome spirit (and the Boy seems to have mostly recovered from it as well). My father always joked that cats are cheap, but Hillary seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Oh well.

I haven’t been tracking my reading (or anything else) as consistently as I like, but in May I read a really good book called The Secret History of Kindness: Learning from How Dogs Learn, about animal intelligence. It was what I would call a scientific memoir–lots of research and references to Karen Pryor and B.F. Skinner, but also told the story of the author, her dogs, and what she learned from them. It was lovely, and moving, and changed me. For the time being (as a direct result of reading this book) I’m eating a vegan diet. I’ve gone vegan several times before, with limited success each time, and the urge has come around again. It just feels like a better way to live my values right now. I’m not sure how long it will last or how successful I’ll be so far, but it feels right for now.

June is a new month, and new months always mean a chance for new goals. June also starts on a Monday, which doubles the clean slate opportunities. My goal-making brain is on high alert, and I’ve come up with about six million goals for June. Despite my constant insistence to the contrary, I’ve never been particularly successful at multiple goals, but fortunately, it has never been my goal to change that habit.

1. (the same as always): Write everyday. I’m back in my poetry routine, which feels wonderful, and I have an essay that seems worth pursuing (but a little scary) and hey! this blog, so as long as I can make a routine work, this should be a fruitful month.
2. No restaurant meals (unless it is on a date with the Boy). Scott and I usually eat out together about once a week and he has mentioned how much he enjoys going out to eat, so I’m not going to cut back there (plus, we’ve already budgeted it into our shared rent). But, I am going to do my damndest to avoid eating out in restaurants with friends (sorry friends, I still love you). It’s become the default, when socializing at home or with exercise are still great options. And I really want to refocus my budget on non-restaurant things. Now, if in pursuit of Goal #1, I go to a coffee shop, that is allowed.
3. We play in the home team championships in derby on June 27th, and I really want to beat the Ninjas. Really. It may be a lost cause, but #skatingeveryday is on my June to-do list. There is a really great parking lot near my apartment that is usually pretty empty, and I’m excited to try skating to work (if I can bike it, I can skate it).
4. Draw a picture of HK everyday. I miss art in my life. I want to be more creative. Ten minutes to sketch my cat (badly) seems like a fun way to bring it back into my life.
5. Tuesday afternoon artist dates with myself. The museums in Balboa park are free on Tuesdays. Most of the ones I like are free on the third Tuesday of the month, but it can’t hurt to try out a new museum. Girl Scouts is pretty good about flex time, so I’m not worried about making this work.
6. Go to bed on time. On time for me is 9:30. I’ve set an alarm on my phone at 8:45 to remind me to get ready for bed.
7. Get up on time. On time for me is 5:25. The trick is not going back to bed after I’ve woken up and done my morning pages, but a lot of my fun activities this month (skating, drawing, poetry) hinge on having morning time to myself to get them done, especially since I’ll be in evening meetings frequently over the next few weeks.

I could keep going (Spanish is always on my to-do list), but seven goals is probably six too many, especially considering that six of them are daily goals, plus a new diet. But, one of the things I know about myself is that making goals is fun for me. I like the anticipation of beginning them. I’m really looking forward rising early tomorrow morning, making myself a hearty pot of coffee and settling in to write and draw with my cat (there’s practice tomorrow evening, so I don’t have to worry about getting to the parking lot before it fills up with hospital patients). It is something about the satisfaction of a life lived right (I realize that my inflexible side is showing), according to my desires, values, and penchants that motivates me. Creating goals (even excessive ones) is a way for me to formulate those desires, values and penchants and then to figure out how to take them from abstract ideas to concrete experiences that enrich my life.

That’s what I tell myself anyway. Easier said at the beginning than in the middle or at the end.

Needs vs. Wants

May has been an interesting month. It was harder than I anticipated to adjust to a biweekly paycheck from a weekly one (I started working on the last day of the last pay period, so Wednesday will be my first full paycheck) and as a result, I’ve returned to a few of the older money-blogs I used to read like “And then we saved.” I stopped reading it because I don’t actually find the new stuff that useful (not compared to YNAB at least) but one of her older posts got me thinking. In it, Anna made a list of her wants versus her needs in preparation for a year-long spending fast. I’m not planning anything so grandiose, but with the trip to Glasgow on the horizon and my travel funds somewhat depleted, it would be nice to cut some of my expenses to put more money toward travel (to say nothing of my still outstanding car loan).

So I made my lists.

Needs:
Rent (including utilities) $550/month
Cell phone $28/month
Health insurance $175/month (this may drop in June on my work plan. I forget the exact calculations because I did it at work).
Car insurance $106/month
Other health (co-pays, prescriptions) $20/month
Car Payments $500/month
Some gas $110 month
Food $190/month
HK food & litter $40/month
Vet trips $60/month
Household goods (TP, shampoo, non food groceries) $45/month
Derby $60/month
Wants:
To give good gifts
New workout clothes
Eating out
Movies
Travel
Coffee shops
New laptop
To give to charity
Nice pens/office supplies
Writing subscriptions
Poetry workshops

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Goals:
Retirement $500/month
Saving whatever is left

The amounts in my “needs” column are averages of what I’ve spent in each category so far this year. The wants are listed in the order in which they came to me, not the order in which I consciously value them (though unconsciously perhaps).

If I could stick to just my needs, there would be plenty of money for most of my wants. So I’m thinking of instituting another “summer sequester” like I did a few years ago. Just spending money on my needs, cutting costs whenever possible–particularly aiming at the food and fuel costs. I’ve been biking to work whenever possible, which is glorious, but I have evening meetings offsite, so I usually end up driving in a few days a week. Still, I think it makes a difference.

I’m starting this week with a “spending freeze” until pay day on Wednesday. We’ll see if it actually works out, but I skipped today’s shopping trip in favor of eating what I already have in the house. One of my friends gave me a large purple cabbage on Friday from her CSA, so I cooked it up this afternoon and will be enjoying a lot of free cabbage over the next few days as a result. Then it will be black beans, now and forever. I’m exaggerating a little, I actually forget how many half eaten bags of frozen vegetables are in the freezer, but black beans are my go-to.

The hardest thing to give up, not for three days, but if I really do a summer sequester again will be eating out. Plumeria has become a convenient treat, especially with one of my friends, and it will be unpleasant to break that tradition, even temporarily (but probably good practice). They boyfriend and I budget a little “fun money” into our rent, so that we don’t have to keep track of who paid last time when we go out to eat, so we’ll still do that about once every week or so. I don’t feel like I eat out much otherwise, but the numbers tell a different story.

It’s nice to have a goal to aim for–Glasgow in August, but I really just want to get back into a frugal frame of mind for its own sake. I feel like I could be saving so much more, without great cost to my quality of life, if I only applied myself a little more closely.

Hey, long time no see!

Confession: I may have forgotten the password to this site. And it may be that I originally registered with wordpress when I was in college and using an email to which I also don’t remember the password. I’d like that to explain my long absence, but the truth is, I have no real excuse. Offline life happened.

So, some big updates! This is a long one since it’s been almost two months since I’ve written anything.

Starting on Wednesday, I go back to work for Girl Scouts! I’m very, very excited about it, not least because they offered me full benefits which is the first time that I’ve ever had such things!!!!*

I went to D.C. with my grandmother and my incomparable sister (whose blog, by the way is katercanter.wordpress.com and she’s currently in 2nd place for  fiction contest that, if she won, would allow her to pay of her student loans, so you should totally download her great story here. Go ahead. I’ll wait.) It was the trip of a lifetime and I’m so glad that we did it. I’m also so glad that I budgeted for it because I was able to spend whatever I wished to make sure we were comfortable and enjoying ourselves. It was already in the budget! I personally bought three books (plus the one I brought) and my mother gave me a fourth. All nonfiction and so far, all great. My total cost for the trip, including airfare and hotels, was $3,214.63 out of the $5,000 I had set aside for travel (as it turns out, I’ll be needing the rest sooner rather than later since the Boy will be giving a talk at a big fancy conference in Glasgow in August, and I will be tagging along!).

As a result of the trip and taxes, my April spending was fairly astronomical, but it was in the budget and fully planned for. Taxes took a big chunk of change, $4,714.00 to be exact, but I had a little bit more set aside, so I was able to pay it without flinching.

This is one of the things I love about having switched to YNAB from my own excel spreadsheet. Even though I spent more than I earned this month, I had budgeted for it in previous months, so it was no big deal. In the past, spending more than I earned in a month would always stress me out, but some months are just bigger than others. The best thing you can do is plan for it in advance and build up that pot of money over time for when expenses like taxes or once-in-a-lifetime trips come along.

One area I did not plan to spend money but did was clothes. I’ve been musing recently about wanting to look more like an adult. I don’t wear makeup often these days, and I don’t want to start, but I felt like my clothes didn’t fit how I wanted to present myself. (Funny side note: I’ve always wanted to dress for business and have never really had a reason to. In seventh grade, I bought all my new school clothes from the thrift store, mostly dress slacks, button downs and some sweaters. I was mistaken for a teacher at least once). So with my new job coming up, I decided I’d go look for some new work pants.

I started by going to the thrift stores on 5th Ave, but didn’t really find what I was looking for. I have a hard time shopping for pants, and the problem with thrift stores is they don’t always have exactly what you want. If I want some wild party gear or some lovely sundresses, I know where to go, but nothing had that extra veneer of “well-dressed professional” that I desired.

So I hit the mall. Specifically, Ann Taylor, which since we share a name (I don’t hold it against her that she spells it wrong, I pity her) and since in an alternate universe, I’d like to be an Ann Taylor mannequin in the store windows–that’s how much the clothes appeal to me. Of course, I found a good (and expensive) pair of pants. And then I went to Banana Republic and found two more. Realistically, this is the most I’ve spent on pants ever, possibly the most I’ve spent on clothes since the great sundress hunt my senior year of college. But, they are really nice pants.

And, as it happened, I needed some work appropriate flats, so I could stop wearing out the soles of the one pair of work shoes I wear. So I hit up Target, where I got two great pairs of shoes and three work appropriate blouses to go with my pants, and two belts to hold up said pants since someone doesn’t appreciate when I borrow his. More money gone! More clothes obtained!

The grand total was approximately $400, which is a lot of money for clothes especially given that I hadn’t really decided yesterday would be the day when I solved all my wardrobe problems. But then I went home, pulled everything out of my closet and tried each new piece on with each old piece in every conceivable combination with every conceivable shoe option from the very practical flats to the red stilettos that my mother calls “killer shoes.” Every. Single. Thing. Worked. Every new piece worked together with everything I already owned. Pieces I didn’t like much before looked smarter when paired with a new pair of pants or any of the new tops. Things I thought I’d want to send to Goodwill looked again! And most importantly for me, everything I put on made me feel like an adult. Which of course I am, even though I’m seeking validation through clothes. Girl Scouts better be ready because in the immortal words of Mark Ronson, “when we show up, we gon’ show out.”

In other news, my March goal was apparently writing related (not checking my own blog means I sometimes forget). I took a class on narrative nonfiction in March and April, which was enjoyable, but I’m not sure if I’ll continue to work on the piece I developed now that the class is over.  In April, one of my poems was published in A Year In Ink: Vol 8 published by San Diego Writer’s Ink. It’s thrilling to see my name on the page, but it was a little scary to read it aloud at the release party. And now, I’m vaguely working on some fiction, which about is funny (to me) since I’m ready so much creative nonfiction right now.

One of the books I’ve been pouring through is Gretchen Rubin’s newest title, Better than Before on habits. I love it, of course, since I love to make resolutions and habits and all that good stuff. Right now, I’m working on sleep: going to bed by 9:30 p.m. every night if I’m at home and working toward waking up consistently at 5:30 every morning so I have some time to write. Fortunately, Hillary Kitten is very supportive of this habit.

Other habits I’m developing (because I can’t read a whole book on habits and stop at just one!) are daily exercise and daily writing. You know, the usual suspects.

I have the next couple of days off before I start work, so hopefully I won’t forget my password and maybe you’ll hear from me sometime sooner than two months from now. We’ll see!

*Clarification: I had health insurance at the law office where I worked but no retirement, and I had retirement when I worked for G.S. previously, but no health insurance. Now I’ll have both! If there are other work related benefits, my generation knows nothing of them.