Where We Are

I forgot to blog again last weekend. The weekend before that I was at a wedding. But here I am, back again. I did write an essay while I was gone for what it’s worth? Other writing distracted me, I guess.

Where else have I been? Spending money right and left it feels like. A little bit here, a little bit there. A few dinners out, picking up Starbucks for myself and a couple coworkers (I owed favors), a book, replacing my headphones. My laptop screen needs repairing and my domain name needs renewing, and here we are. Somewhere between where I am and where I want to be.

Where do I want to be? I want to be in that invigorated mindset, excited about eating rice and beans and staying in, committed to seeing the big win at the end of the month. But this time, I’d like it to be a win every month, not just a win every few months and then a back slide. That’s where the work is.

What is the work? The work is knowing that I have enough, right now, as it is. I have enough books to read. I have access to as much entertainment as I could possibly want. I have a good enough home, good enough cooking skills, to have people over instead of out. I have good enough friends that I can feed them rice and beans if that’s what I’m eating (or a salad which is probably more likely). The work is remembering that I like my life for what it is everyday, that I don’t have to do more or be more or spend more.

Consciously, I know this. And I still find myself spending more “to celebrate.” “To entertain.” But what could be more celebratory than a deep breath of gratitude for my life? What could be more entertaining than to watch my cat chase bugs on the patio beneath the setting sun?

That’s not always what I want, I think. Why do I want more? I wonder back. I don’t have to answer that, I think again. I’m not ready to answer that. I could spend my life answering that. Is it enough? What is enough?



On Birthdays

A week ago I turned 28. Completed my 28th year, my father would correct if he were here. I spent it on a boat sailing the Ohio River. It was a friend’s boat, or a friend’s father’s boat, and she was getting married in a few days, and that’s what you do when you are getting married and have access to a large boat and a group of good friends. I’d like to make some kind of metaphor right now about the river being an in-between place, the space between two states—Ohio and Kentucky, single and married—the unstable, contradictory nature of water, can’t walk but can float, but maybe that is more about me than about her.


Me, on my birthday

Twenty-eight feels like an in-between year. It lacks the gravitas of 25 and 30, both round,significant numbers, but falls directly between them, hangs in their balance. And this year, by virtue of my place in life, feels in-between. I am not settled, we are apart, I am in-between career decisions, I am floating here in the middle, not committed yet to either side. I am being purposefully vague and hoping it is artistic, but I have nothing steady to hold onto right now, no firm ground on which to plant my feet. Beneath me, the riverbed shifts, the currents flow around my calves.

All this, and a sense that I am still young, that I am old enough to know I am young, old enough (if only in this moment) to feel comfortable with the passing of time and what I have not yet accomplished. Old enough to be able to tell myself, stop rushing, Canter. Old enough to know it takes time, which is good, because time is really all we have. First too much, then not enough.

A friend just sent me two Buddhist prayers. 1. Everything is as it should be. 2. Protect me from the obstacles before me. We agreed that it is hard to believe everything is as it should be, particularly given the obstacles.

My prayer for my 29th year: let me be like the river. Let me flow around my obstacles. Let me not rush wildly over rapids and let me not saunter so slowly that my waters grow stagnant. Let me be something in-between. Let me move steadily, at my own river-pace, towards the sea.

The Final Rule

Last week at work, HR announced something we’d known was coming for quite some time: the new final rule from the Department of Labor. Questions had been simmering through the office–will they raise salaries? Will we go hourly? Who will this affect? How will we still do our job? Answers were limited, in part because they were still in process, but that didn’t stop some of us, myself included, from wondering, worrying, and eventually becoming frustrated.

After talking many times to my boss and finally to my boss’s boss, and eventually realizing that the changes to my exempt/non-exempt status weren’t a factor in my professional decision making at this point anyway for reasons I’ll get into later, I got over it, so the staff meeting with HR was a bit of a let down. Ho-hum, we knew this was happening anyway, but a lot of my friends and colleagues were still worried and upset.

In a nutshell, here’s what’s going down: with the exception of some staff who are considered “outside sales,” we’re going hourly, which means being limited to 40 hours of work per week and being entitled to overtime for above 40 hours per week. There are still ways that I am not clear on how this will actually work: what about when I go to camp for four days for a great program? Or when we work weekend programs? Or when I have an evening meeting, or I have an evening meeting and someone decides to keep me after for forty-five minutes to tell me about a problem they are having? I’m not sure that the organization has good answers for those questions, which are not what-ifs but what-whens. 

What I remembered and what kept me calm during and after the meeting is that I already know my professional direction, and the vague outline of my next steps on my journey were already fairly clear to me before the new rule, and its affect on our organization, were announced.

Sometime within the next year or so, I’ll pick up stakes. My man and I will settle on our new home, and I’ll begin pursuing an alternate teaching credential. What I’ve learned in this job, which has been reinforced by my volunteer work at the East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility, is that I thrive on direct contact with youth. That’s what I love, that’s where my heart is, and that’s not what my job is. It’s okay that it’s not; there is a lot of value in the work that I do now, but ultimately, it is too far away from what I really love: the kids for me to make my permanent home.

This is the first time I’m officially saying what I’ve thought hesitantly and with reservations for awhile. Teaching is the direction that I want to go in. It’s not a pay raise, and it’s not a reduction in stress, but I believe it is my heart-work and there’s only so long you can run from that.

More info on the final rule can be found in this video that the Department of Labor released.

September Spending and October Predictions

Welcome to my favorite month everybody!


September was a bit of a letdown as far as spending goes. I ended up spending more than I earned, which, as has often been pointed out to me, is not a problem per se because there are months (arguably even most months0 when I earn more than I spend so I have that savings built up for months such as these. And that’s true, but it also disappoints me when I see that my spending in certain categories (*ahem* meals out) went up dramatically compared to August. So it goes. We can’t always be perfect.

The numbers:
Income: $1969
Expenses: $2269
Overspent: $300

Where did the overspending come from?

I had a few unexpected replacements come up this month: my water bottle which I left outside of Starbucks when I was phone banking for Hillary (not the cat) and which I now hope is helping someone less lucky than I to keep hydrated.  I probably didn’t need to replace it with another fancy waterbottle of the same type, but these waterbottles last forever (when you don’t lose them) and they are high quality in  all the right ways–no leaks, no BPA, keeps drinks cold. Another expense I won’t go into much detail with, but suffice to say it saves me a lot of money in the long term when I don’t have to pay this particular woman tax.

Hillary Kitten also had a quick vet appointment this month which was pricey-ish, but on the other hand, I spent less on my own personal medication. I also had my regular car insurance payment of $111 which I didn’t have last month.

And of course, there are the usual suspects I’ve already mentioned a few times this month: eating out and gifts. It is what it is. This month I’ll be the one getting gifts! In fact, I’ve already gotten myself one (Big Magic) so I’m off to a greeaaat start.

So what do I have to look forward to in October?

Well, on Wednesday I head to Ohio for a friend’s wedding. I’m staying with a friend of a friend the first few days, then my Man is joining me and we’re moving to a hotel. The flights, hotels, and rental car are already booked, but I suspect there will be miscellaneous food and drink expenses throughout the five days.

My birthday–obviously. There will be brunch, so some higher than normal grocery expenses as a result.

The debates. I donated extra to Hillary after the first one, and depending on the level of dumpster fire of the VP and the next presidential debate, I may feel compelled to donate again. Speaking of which, I’m taking a little breather from phone banking until this wedding trip is over, but I expect I’ll get a few more in before the election.

I think that is all that is officially on the calendar, and I am still doing my advanced memoir class, which I should really work harder on, so it’s probably for the best that the month is relatively light. One thing that I really noticed in September was being overwhelmed by how much was going on–I’d like to keep that in mind as I move into October so that I can avoid overloading myself like that again.  And obviously to somehow spend less.


Who do we choose to be?

There is a part of me, a strong part, that wants to turn inward: to focus on myself, my life, my family, my bank account. The question of my own happiness, how to be truly happy and self-actualized, seems like a large enough question to last me a lifetime.

There are times when I look at my life, my job, the future, and I think that I should just seek the highest income for the least amount of stress that I can manage, work towards buying a house, putting aside money for a child, for vacations, early retirement.

I think of the books I haven’t read, the nights of wine and walking with friends, the long runs around the bay, and I think those are activities enough to fill my days. It seems like enough to be happy. And it seems much easier to get to where I want to go–the house, the child, retirement, by following this path.

And then another part of me speaks up (not the only one–somewhere in the din is a voice of reason as well). It reminds me of my passion for helping people, for challenging them, particularly young women, to challenge themselves, to push the boundaries of what they think is possible. I remember back to my internship with The White House Project, how powerful it was to see women realize that they could run for office, that they could lead. It was life-changing. It brought me here.

I think of the girls I’ve helped grow. I think of the faces of the boys I know when they tell me, ever so little, about their lives and dreams. I think of a girl I met this past weekend, a girl I don’t know how to help, that my organization is not designed to help, that no organization I know of can help completely, and I want to cry. She reminds me that people commit terrible acts of cruelty, evil, and injustice in the world, and I have the choice to help, at least to see, or turn away. I want to turn away. So badly, I want to turn away, but I saw her. And now I can’t unsee.

I see the world around me–how my country balances between two versions of itself, both true: the version of “me,” the version of “get what’s mine,” “take care of my own,” “let others deal with themselves;” and the version I see as “growth.” The “from me to we” version, the version that asks us to see the hard problems and to act. Neither side would say that’s a fair representation of their position. The “me” side cares about others who fall into the category of “our own,” the “we” side would say that by acting we make lives better for everyone, including me. But what I see is a choice between going inward and expanding outward.

And as we face this terrible decision about who we want to be, as so much hangs in the balance, the “we” side of me wonders how I could ever have doubted, how I could ever work on anything else. This moment in history is so important, this moment in that girl’s life is so important, how can I work on anything else? How can anything else matter?

And a third voice inside me, the voice of reason (it’s getting crowded with voices in this essay!) says “of course it matters.” Helping that girl matters, saving our country matters, but so does having groceries in the fridge and a clean apartment and a good night’s sleep, and god forbid, some time for self-actualization. They all matter, but I have a hard time keeping all the things that matter in my head and heart at the same time, so I swing like a a ball on a string between me and we and her and us.

And the pendulum swings

I am back and recovered from Camp Exec. This past weekend (Thursday-Sunday) forty girls and executive women catgathered in the woods to learn from and help each other. It was hugely inspirational, and also hugely exhausting. By Saturday night, I was quite sick and needed some serious sleep to recover. I took today and yesterday off, mostly to make it up to the one who thinks my world revolves around her (—>) (hint: it totally does). Now, on Tuesday night, I’m starting to feel like I’m coming back to life.

I had these grand ideas last week before heading to camp that I would prewrite my Friday and Sunday blog posts, and set them to automatically release while I was gone, but as you can plainly see, that didn’t happen. And I didn’t do any writing while I was at camp either (why did I think that was even a possibility?). I was feeling pretty bad about that yesterday and Sunday because I’d deviated from the plan–the plan that I made up! But ugh, how am I ever supposed to be successful if I can’t stick to my plan, man? (this is how I talk to myself in my head).

And that of course led to me thinking about my spending in September, which let’s just say is not as pretty as it was in August when I enthusiastically began this challenge. Yep, there were definitely a few meals out, and a few unnecessary “gifts” meant for others, but which also mostly were meant to cheer me up. There was more than one, or two, or even three trips to Starbucks this month when I had vowed to only brew my own coffee at home. And of course there was a donation to my favorite political candidate even after I said that giving my time would be enough (but after last night can you really blame me?).

And then I thought, no.

No, you know what? No. This is a journey. This is an experience (this is how I talk back when I’m talking to myself). The pendulum swings strongly one way one month, and the next month it swings in the other direction, and I self-correct, and I get back on track. Sometimes that might mean that I need to loosen the reigns a little bit, not be so rigid. Other times, it means I need to pull up and think about what I really want in the long run, and whether spending this much on restaurants and coffee will get me there (it won’t).

So I didn’t write. So I spent more than I wanted to. I learn. I reset. I get better, which is a really valuable lesson, because almost inevitably, I’ll probably need another reset by November.

Off the Rails

It started last Friday with a couple of margaritas. Then a quick trip to the yarn store, which turned into a trip to the bookstore next door for some gifts (gifts are good right?): a book I will read before giving away and some cards for friends far away. Then a trip to the studio up the street–another present, local art is the best art, right? And I was going to buy something eventually anyway right?

Then a weekend of being sick and watching movies and not buying groceries or preparing food for the week led to dinner with friends on Sunday night and lunch at work yesterday, both delicious meals at places I’ve been craving since this whole “spending fast” thing began in August, a whole month ago.

Then there was an evening soy chai latte while volunteering (it’s rude not to buy something right?) and a quick and dirty trip to Trader Joes–hello corn nuts, fig newtons, chocolate covered almonds, falafel wrap, tofu spring roll and grapes (grapes are healthy).

Add to that the normal, but thus far theoretical, utility bills and increased rent, plus a quick trip to the vet for our favorite presidential kitten, and you have quite a pricey past five days. Thank Maude tomorrow is payday.

I’m trying to remember that this is not my most of the time, that this spending–at least the food and the Starbucks–is a stress response. And the presents? Well that’s a margarita response. And if it seems like I’m being extra hard on myself, it’s because I’m trying to remember that I don’t want this to be my most of the time.

Last night, after a long day at work and a few hours volunteering for the presidential who is not a cat or a demigorgon, I came home tired. I ate my falafel and my spring rolls. I listened to a podcast, and I started some soup, for which I had defrosted the stock two days ago, so hopeful was I that it would be made. I roasted some butternut squash, and put my trusty blender to work. In thanks, I have four servings of butternut squash soup, enough to take me solidly into this four-day work weekend at camp, where I will spend exactly nothing.

It’s good to have soup. It’s good to reset.


No use crying over broken glass

This morning, I took a Mason jar of vegetable stock out of the freezer to thaw for soup this evening. There was a little water left in the pot after I made my coffee, and I thought I remembered having read something on the internet about heating a jar in warm water on the stove to help speed the defrosting process. I didn’t remember exactly, but I had the water left, and I was in a rush, so I plopped the jar in about an inch of hot water, and immediately hard the crackling sound of breaking glass. I looked and sure enough, the glass around the frozen stock had cracked in several places, like a plate of ice being stepped on. I removed the jar from the water, and after a moment’s mourning, threw the whole thing away. No one wants glass soup.

A few minutes later, washing yesterday’s dishes, I remembered another kitchen and more broken glass. I was six or seven, standing in my best friend Vanessa’s kitchen, making jello with her for the first time. I’d made it before, I said, and I probably had. Vanessa heated the measuring cup of hot water directly on the electric stove, careful not to touch the red circle when she finished. We mixed in the jello powder, and went to the sink to add cold water. As soon as the water touched the hot glass, it cracked, and all our jello ran down the drain, leaving only shards of sticky glass behind. We had to get Vanessa’s mom who was mad we’d used the stove without asking, but I think she might have helped us make more jello. At least, that’s how I want this story to end.

So I should have known, I suppose, the consequences of heat and cold and glass. But some lessons learned get forgotten, and some glasses just break.


More jars defrosting after the first failure.

Sickness and Spending

For the past week, I’ve been walking the line of sickness–sometimes leaning over onto the headachey, sore-throaty, warm-facey side and sometimes pulling myself back to the energetic, enthusiastic, a-little-too-proud-of-myself-for-not-being-sick side. This morning feels like I am balanced right in the middle. I am a little headachey, but not warm, and I have my cup of ginger tea to promote my well-being. I’m tempted to go running this afternoon (it’s in the plan!) but also afraid of pushing myself and feeling miserable all next week.

Yesterday, I felt solidly well. I biked to work, I got a lot done, I learned some things. I felt so good that I had two margaritas at a post-work happy hour. I’m currently blaming those margaritas for my less than perfect health today, but I was feeling really good at the time. I was feeling so good, in fact, that after happy hour I bought presents. Not for me, but for some friends and family, and not for no-reason, but to be saved for the upcoming birthdays and Christmases. It wasn’t much, but it didn’t have to be done yesterday, but it did have to be done eventually so I’m not feeling too bad. Later in the evening, the hot-faced, headachey feeling came back, and well, here we are. You may also notice that this blog is a day later than intended. That’s what happens when you feel both really good and really bad in one day. You get forgetful.

All week, it’s been tempting to say, “I’m not as sick as her, so I shouldn’t be staying home,” or “I’m not feeling that bad, I should definitely be running.” And while I don’t think we should all push our limits, I also know that’s not a problem for me. If I’m feeling sick, I should believe me even if I don’t think I’m “sick enough.”

So with all that said, I’m going to end this blog quickly and get back to resting and knitting. May your weekend be filled with rest and recovery, even if you don’t feel the tiniest bit sick!

What We Really Need

Last week I learned about a contemplative studies conference happening in San Diego, one that seems certain to open my consciousness, make me more aware of my spirituality as well as become better versed in various world religions, and really just unlock my inner self on a whole new level. Plus yoga, obviously. $575 is a small amount to pay for what I am sure would be a life changing four days.

Then this weekend I heard about another conference through a writers collective where I’ve taken classes before. Two days of workshops would surely jump start my creative juices and give me the energy for a big writing kick. And at only $145, it’s a steal compared to the contemplative conference. But no yoga.

Then, just yesterday, a friend came over in a new pair of workout shoes that I’ve had my eye on for close to six months. They’re a little intense, but she said she never wants to buy another kind of shoe again in her life and had just ordered a second pair of the same kind. They are everything I’ve been wanting in a shoe but haven’t been able to admit, and with them, I’d be more in touch with nature and by default, obviously myself. Plus they are on sale and are cheaper than both workshops and will last longer than a weekend.

And then today came. And I went for a run in my regular shoes and now I’m writing a regular blog post without the benefit of two straight days of expert wisdom, and yet, even with my as-of-yet-unenlightened mind, I’ve come up with a rather obvious insight, but one I needed to remember.

What is it that I want? I want to be happy. I think it’s fair to say we all do, hence the title of this post.

I don’t need more things or more commitments to be happy. In fact, as I’ve recently griped about, I need fewer commitments and things are just another form of commitment. A commitment to a job. A commitment to a place.

What I need, now especially, is more time and fewer commitments. Not a four day conference to contemplate the brain-spirit-consciousness connection, though I’m sure it would be meaningful, but time to remember to take a deep breath a few times throughout my day. Not a two day writing intensive, but ten minutes to write a sentence, just one, to keep the habit going. Two days is too much. Two days is intense. And I don’t need intense right now. I need gentle consistency. What I need is not a new pair of shoes to connect me to the earth, but a barefoot Saturday morning on the patio with my cat, feeling the warm concrete on my soles, and maybe stepping into the soft dirt of my landlord’s garden for a few moments.

There is nothing wrong with these things, and nothing wrong with anyone who wants them or has them. They’re just not for me right now.

I don’t need more busy weekends. I don’t need another swipe of the debit card. I need moments to be here. Where I am. With what I already have.