The Cost of Moving

Plane tickets: $500
Cat’s plane ticket: $125
Shipping Container $1500
Moving supplies (boxes, tape, rope, etc): $60
Security Deposit on the apartment we cancelled: $1005
First month’s rent on the apartment we cancelled: $1005
Last month’s rent on the apartment we cancelled: $1005
In the words of Master Card, getting out of a shitty apartment that smelled like varnish and cigarettes: priceless

New apartment security deposit: $1025
New clothes for Monday’s job interview because we can’t get into the shipping container yet: $150
Plane ticket to interview because twelve hours on a bus roundtrip just seems like too much right now: $300
Coffee and restaurants while we live without dishes or pans: $200? The limit does not exist.giphy

My mother usually writes a Grateful Mondays post on her blog. This is my attempt at a Grateful Sunday. This week has been stressful, in a mundane, exhausting sort of way. The problems my Man and I have faced have been basic and boring, not anything that has required our immense brainpower to solve, just our patience, which is sometimes lacking. All of our problems have been problems that money can solve, and we have been lucky enough to have the money to solve them.

Post-Santa Fe, my Man went to our new place in Rochester, and found an apartment that smelled strongly of chemicals and a property company unable or unwilling to assist. When I arrived, I smelled cigarettes as well, which is a deal-breaker for me. Instead of unpacking and putting together our new life, we jumped into action and started calling apartments to find a new home, while the cat cowered in the bathroom (turns out she is more afraid of ceiling fans than airplanes).

cat on plane

My baby on our adventure. #Nothappy #Champ

We are lucky enough to be ideal tenants, so within twelve hours, we had a choice of two good apartments, and selected one. My Man will move in September 1, and I’ll drink to his good health in Spain. In the meantime, we’ll cope with the smelly apartment and the lack of possessions. It’s an adventure, I try to remember every time I think of something in the shipping container that I need (clothes, passport, etc).

It is hard when I am tired and hungry and uncaffeniated to remember how lucky I am, but after a good night’s sleep and all the vegan snacks, I can. Here are just a few of the ways:

  • Human beings have mastered flight! Instead of a journey of days or months, I went from San Diego to Rochester in a matter of hours, with my cat! And she wanted to cuddle on the flight!
  • We have a place to stay. It smells, but it is warm. It isn’t “home” but it isn’t a refugee camp either. We have a comfortable air mattress and a refrigerator. We have indoor plumbing.
  • We have money. Sure, some of it was money we had set aside for future expenses, but it was there and it made our lives easier to have it.
  • We have so much money, in fact, that I’m going to Barcelona in ten days! The attacks in the past few days sadden me, but I am still looking forward to being there and experiencing Barcelona’s culture, and celebrating my friend’s vowal renewal.
  • Speaking of friends, we have a great community. Our friends helped us get to Rochester, and new friends are already offering support now that we’re here. We have family to help us and encourage us. One of my friends helped me prep for my job interview tomorrow, and reminded me why I’m a great fit for the position, and helped me brainstorm questions to ask to help me understand the position better.
  • Speaking of jobs, the reason I get to spend money on clothes and a plane ticket is that I have an awesome job interview tomorrow, which could mean doing something I really care about in the comfort of my own home with my own beautiful cat as my only coworker (she does have a tendency to put her butt in front of my laptop though, which is not a problem I’ve ever had in a traditional office).
  • Rochester is beautiful. There is great public art, the grass is green, there are trees everywhere. There’s a great (though probably too expensive) grocery store a few blocks from our current and future apartments that carries the entire line of Miyoko’s vegan cheese. #Heaven.

In short, we’ve been challenged this week. We’ve had to spend money we didn’t want to spend. We have been, gasp!, occasionally uncomfortable. But overall, we’ve been fine. And we’ll keep being fine. It’s good to remember that.

1 Easy Way I Learned How to be 10% Happier

How do you like that title? I think I’ve written about this before, way back when this blog was new, so it might be more accurate to say 1 Easy Way I (Re)learned how to be 10% Happier. The method?


Two of my good friends (who are remarkably frugal and healthy and cool but that’s a whole ‘nother post) bike or take public transit to work regularly. And they work much farther away than I do! We were having dinner one night when the subject came up, and I said something along the lines of, “oh yeah, I used to bike to work, but I haven’t lately. It’s too bad because I only live two miles away.”

Their shocked expressions and exclamations of “really?” shamed me back into riding, but the shame was quickly replaced with joy. When I ride my bike to work, I start my day with a cool voyage across (mostly) quiet streets. I get to feel the air on my face, and breathe it in. I have to think (just a little) about what I’m doing so I don’t start worrying about the day’s tasks until I’m actually at the office. A similar process happens when I bike home. I leave the day’s work and any annoyances behind me as I roll out of the parking lot. While the ride back is usually busier, I admit I get a little extra pleasure seeing so many people in their cars while I am cruising past on my bike. I’m having fun! I’m enjoying myself! Look at all these people who aren’t! It’s terrible. And great.

my trusty steed

My trusty steed

Now, biking is no cure-all. People can still be jerks. I can still be tired or grouchy or anxious. But biking consistently makes it better. And the fact that I need to buy gas less often? Just another bonus.

I had similar experiences biking to work when I worked much farther away. At my last job, I would sometimes take the shuttle to the university and then bike the rest of the way to my boss’s house and bike all the way home afterwards. It took about an hour each way, and the way home was sometimes fraught, but it helped me release my frustrations about work and come home happy.

It’s not that I think commuting via car is the worst thing in the world. I wasn’t miserable when I was driving to work; in fact, I barely noticed it. But I think that’s the point. When I ride my bike, I notice that I am riding my bike. I am present for the experience. When I drive my car, I’m somewhere else: either already at my desk thinking about problems or wishing that I was home in bed.

enjoying a ride

This could be you!

It is too rare that we are really present in the current moment of our lives. Biking places me firmly in the current moment. And I think that’s what makes me happier.

Before you say, “that’s great” (it is) “but I could never do that,” (maybe true, maybe not) I encourage you to try it! If not, what things make you 10% happier in your daily life?


Mid-January Check In

Hello lovelies! It feels good to be back and writing, especially since I’ve basically given up on all forms of it for the past week, being sick and excruciatingly stressed about work (the latter may have caused the former actually) so actually having time to write a blog post on this Monday morning is just glorious.

Speaking of work stress, it was extremely wise of past-me to decide that I would set no new resolutions in January as I would have inevitably failed at them by this point. Starting a new position at work right in the department’s busiest season has been insane, and naturally I have certain standards (ie perfection) that I like to live up to… standards that led to me crying in my boss’s office for almost an hour on Thursday through no one’s fault but my own. Literally no one expects perfection of me except me! Fortunately all that crying made me sick and then I basically gave up on life. Also known as: I reset my standards and now feel a lot happier and less stressed.

But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy to avoid resolutions. It’s been really hard and painful (see perfection again. I like starting new things so that I can be really, really good at them). I’ve thought of a number of resolutions I’d like to start or experiments I’d like to try, but I’ve managed to hold strong and start nothing new. I tried for awhile to keep up the things I started in December: daily Duolingo, a pushup every morning, and daily writing, but even those things have fallen off in the last week between work and illness. Fortunately before they stopped, a friend of mine warned me that work might get the better of me this month and that I should just accept it and set a restart date for those habits. I scoffed at the time, but then it happened just like she said, so I’ll try to pick them up again starting next Monday after my major work event is over.

(Buy Girl Scout cookies everyone).

Despite being sick and feeling like all of my internal organs are made up of snot right now, I managed to run  my first half marathon yesterday, which felt pretty great. Running is one area where I have no ego and therefore no perfectionism or expectations, which is a huge relief. I ran very slowly because I didn’t want to make myself sicker and I could feel my cold moving into my chestanne-running as I ran (which is so weird), but I ran the whole time except through a few aid stations where I walked while I drank water and sports drink.  So I was happy with that. Happy enough that I’m thinking about doing another half marathon soon… I started looking at race options after waking up from my post-half-marathon nap.

So what effect has no-resolutions had on my budget?

Not much to be honest. I’ve spent more than I’ve earned so far this month, but I paid rent yesterday and I’m still due for another paycheck so I should come out ahead for the month if I don’t go crazy and nothing bad happens. It won’t be a wildly impressive month either though. I won’t have saved anything for travel, and I’ll only barely save my monthly allotment towards retirement and a house. But it could be worse. I was expecting a bit of a bender. I’ve allowed myself to go out to eat with friends when I’ve felt like it, and even went out to eat with my cat last weekend after she decided to eat something bad and then needed a trip to the emergency vet. It was stressful and we weren’t finished until after 3 p.m. so I was hangry and since she was already in the car, we just went to the vegan drive through, because I’m lucky enough to live in a town with a vegan drive through.

And what do I hope for the rest of January? To survive it, to be honest. To avoid another crying jag in my boss’s office (at least I have a boss who can handle that kind of thing). To do some yoga today and get back out and run more this week even though it’s going to be hell at work. To enjoy the last few days of my man’s company and make plans to see him again. To take it easier on myself in the second half of the month than I did in the first half.

Days 19 & 20

$109.68: Groceries. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

What this will become: sweet potato and pecan tamales (done and delicious), more tamales (flavor tbd), pumpkin pie, root vegetable salad, banana smoothies, beans for days, and to be honest, that’s about as much as I have planned. I picked up a few things that I was running low on (baking soda, baking powder, corn starch), a few things I’d never used before (tapioca flour…actually I think that’s it).

I’ve been really excited about Thanksgiving all week. Visions of pumpkin pie and stuffing have danced in my head. But that’s not really what I’m thinking about now.

Today after work, a friend brought me coffee. It’s been rainy all day and the treat–the expression of their affection–meant a lot to me. It reminded me that there is sweetness in people, that our humanity and our kindness is not lost. That’s a lot to get from a Starbucks cup.

But I also know that this person’s family struggles financially. And that makes me wonder, is spending the $5 to tell me I matter to them the right call? Their words tell me I matter. Their smiles tell me I am important. Why can’t that be enough?

Of course afterwards, I went to hang out with a friend who is going through a rough time. I brought her a card already purchased) and thought about stopping by the grocery store for some nice, ethically sourced dark chocolate. Something that would comfort her. Something that would show her I care.

These events–the gift I was given and the gift I wanted to give–occurred probably within twenty minutes of each other, and it was enough to remind me that my presence, my kindness is enough. What I carry in my heart is what matters, not what I carry in my hands. So I brought the card and not the chocolate, and we ate leftovers and played games.

And yet there is a part of me, even now, that says “you could have brought the chocolate. You could have done all that–the card, the leftovers, the games–and brought the chocolate too and it would have been better.” And I wonder if that’s true. I wonder if what I did was enough to show my friend I cared.

I have to believe it is, but that doubt, that fear that it is not, makes me wonder. It makes me want to buy the chocolate just to be sure.

How much of what we buy is meant to be an expression of love? Love for others? Love for ourselves?  And this week in particular, of high gratitude and higher spending, I think these are good questions to ask.

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.

When it’s hard

Yesterday I worked twelve hours. Got up at 5, picked up a coworker at quarter of 6, work at 6:30 a.m., dropped my coworker back at her apartment at 6:30 p.m. By 1:30, I was crabby and brain-dead, and by 6:30, all I wanted was to drive to the Thai place I love, order some pad se ewe and a cocktail and call it a night.

Instead, I drove home. Ate some toast and soup and went to bed before 8. #Success.

There is a part of me that is learning that even when things are hard, I have to just keep doing what I know is good for me, even when it doesn’t feel like what I want at the time. Eat, exercise, sleep. Read if I can. Write if I can. Get angry that it isn’t easier, and then keep going anyway.

I will work everyday this week (probably, still trying to figure out a day off). I’m trying to remember to be kind to myself, even though I’m tired, and trying to remember that being kind to myself doesn’t look like indulging in a meal out or a beer.

Being kind to myself means going back to basics. What will make me feel good over the long term, not just for the moment? What will make me stronger and what will make this easier over time? I’m looking for real solutions, not bandaids to feel better. It means going in and talking to my boss about what’s tenable and what would really help.

I sound like a broken record, but it means getting enough sleep, eating well, being in the sunshine, letting myself be slow and quiet with myself. Why is it that these are the first things to fall by the wayside when work and life piles up?

What I’m Grateful For

In high school and college, I struggled with depression and anxiety. While the depression has mostly resolved itself, the anxiety is still something I’m working on. One of my friends once described anxiety as a little monster always following her, and that’s how I picture my anxiety now: like a cross between a dog and a sea anemone tethered to me. And most days, it seems like I’m holding the leash, and some days it seems like my anxiety monster-puppy is holding it.

I look back on how I felt sometimes in high school and I am so grateful that I have a different perspective now. I remember walking around the lake by my childhood home one day between junior and senior year, and realizing very suddenly that I was happy. It was a revelation, just to be able to enjoy the walk, the lake; to need nothing special to feel at peace. It was such a relief to leave the monster-puppy at home.

I have a lot in my life for which to be grateful: the amazing musical Hamilton, great friends and family, a good job, the privilege to travel, but above all else, I am grateful to be happy. With that, everything else becomes easier, richer and better.

Another wise woman once told me to choose happiness. When she first told me that, I didn’t get it. I didn’t know how I could possibly choose happiness. Happiness was something that happened. It took a few years of working on it to figure out that sometimes choosing happiness means working to be happy.

Happy Thanksgiving.


The Boy and I returned last night from a trip to Scotland, which I would like to use as my excuse for not blogging, but it was only a week and really I’m just out of habit. But the trip was perfect in every way: full of castles and beautiful scenery, delicious food, fun people and new places; and now I’m back in boiling San Diego, dreaming of Glasgow’s cooler temperatures.

My goals for the trip were fairly simple: eat good food (Glasgow is the vegan capital of the U.K.), get some exercise and that’s it. The food was stupendous the entire time (minus one disappointing meal in Edinburgh), though I did not remain strictly vegan. We went to  a History of Porridge breakfast lecture, and the porridge they served was made with heavy cream and was completely divine. I also ate some canapes at the conference party that were probably made with butter, but other than that, it was easy and satisfying to follow my regular eating habits.  We stayed in an Air Bnb the whole time so except for the porridge lecture, we ate breakfast at home. I took a couple of tours and packed sandwiches on those days since I wasn’t sure what my options would be when we stopped for lunch. Otherwise, I indulged in great Glasgow restaurants: the 78 and Saramago were probably my favorites.

We walked everywhere in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I had thought to go running while the Boy and our other companions were at their conference, but I never did. When I felt like I needed some extra exercise, I used the Nike training app to supplement my walking. I also biked along the river Clyde in Glasgow on our last day in the city, which was lovely. I think I could have biked all the way to Loch Lomond, but I stopped seeing signs for it so I turned around and got lunch instead.

I didn’t have high expectations for myself on this trip–no big plans to get up early and write or work out, no crazy schedule to try to see everything in Scotland in eight days. It was peaceful and easy. I had time to read (Outlander mostly, which is a very silly series. I also read Born to Run on the plane ride home). I got lots of sleep. I fell in love with Glasgow and Scotland. It was wonderful.

And it got me thinking about how I could live more like I’m on vacation all the time. Eat well, get some exercise, don’t do too much. It’s the last one that is trickiest. So without committing to any course of action, I’m thinking about what I do that takes up my time, and asking is it making me happier? Is there a way I can get that happiness through less structure, more free time? Work is what it is, but the rest of my life is up to me (and honestly, work kind of is too, thanks GS). I think it was the peace of vacation, more than the glorious weather, beautiful scenery and spectacular town that I want to keep. Though I’d keep a little of Glasgow’s rain too.

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.