The Feels

The Last Days 28-30

Nov. 28 & 29 – zilch
Nov. 30

  • $108.90 – Car insurance
  • $5.70 – Brick literary journal + absurd shipping
  • $3.99 – River Teeth lit journal kindle edition
  • $39.67 – Beers and pizza with a coworker to pump her for work information (no joke) (kind of a joke).

I’m somewhat worried about December. My rent goes up, but that’s not really the reason. It’s not really the holidays either; I’ve bought enough “gifts” for other people to cheer myself up over the last few months that I have a pretty good stockpile.

I suppose it is that reporting my spending “every day” didn’t really seem to do much to reduce my spending in November (okay, it’s down by $363 compared to October). And I suppose it’s that the numbers I really look at–food and drinks out–are basically unchanged. Gifts spending was down significantly in October. Travel spending was up. I am certain that all of these will increase over the holidays (except maybe travel) and that stresses me out because I’ve got an essay that’s ready for submission so I’m spending more on submission fees and also back issues of literary journals to see if it is appropriate. And I’m just sure that all these things will put me into negative territory (which doesn’t mean debt for me, just that my monthly spending outweighs my monthly income). Plus I am due for an oil change soon and the 90,000 mile check up for my car.

So I’m feeling the pressure and I’m looking for ways to decrease my spending an increase my income. My ideas so far:

  • Sell my plasma again. Not ideal. It takes a long time and lowers my iron count over time, which then means I can’t donate until it’s back up to a certain level. Plus it’s a pain to go to. But it can be up to another $200 per month.
  • Eating lots of chili. My groceries normally aren’t very expensive, and now that it’s colder I can basically just eat chili every day all day.
  • Bike to work. It’s not much because work is less than 2 miles away, but it keeps me from going anywhere else during or after work.

I probably won’t sell my plasma. I might think about some other things that I can do to earn a little more, but I also might just try to keep my costs down and see if I can make it work. Because that has gone soo well in the past.

 

 

Days 10 & 11

Day 10

  • $17.80 – Taxi
  • $17 – Airport Express Shuttle
  • $10 – Transit pass
  • $2.14 – bananas

Day 11

  • $7 – two cups of coffee this morning and an hour of writing in a sunny cafe
  • $21.25 – fries and beer
  • $5.44 – snacks

It is difficult to avoid the election news, which I am trying to do right now. I’m not ready to face it yet, but a woman on the shuttle yesterday was talking about it, and my friend sent me a link, and another friend invited us to a protest. I am not ready to protest. I know that I should be, I know I will be soon, but I’m still in the denial period.

This morning I began thinking of all the causes that would need help, though they needed help before too. Planned Parenthood, obviously, because of Mike Pence. The Brady Campaign, to combat the NRA. I met someone through Hillary’s campaign, so that would be an easy one to get involved in, I thought. Then I remembered the environment, the whole planet, and I started to feel overwhelmed. I think many of us are. I think that’s how we got here in the first place.

After I’d finished my morning pages, we went to the American Museum of Natural History. I sat in their planetarium and listened to Neil DeGrasse Tyson tell me about the universe, its billions of years of history, the stars and galaxies that are exploding and collapsing and stretching across the sky. It was comforting to know that we are just one small planet in the cosmos, like a grain of sand on the beach. What we do here matters very little on the cosmic scale, which gives me peace for a split second. Then of course I remember that I and everyone I love lives on the human scale, and that we must work to make our lives livable while we have them. Just because our lives are brief and astronomically small does not make them unimportant. But still, it is comforting to remember that there are billions and billions of stars, maybe many other forms of life out there even, that have no idea what’s just happened on our planet, and who will never be influenced by it at all.

I find that very comforting indeed. That powerful as one man might be, he’s grip does not stretch beyond this planet. It is just a blink of time.

Day 6: Spending time

I spent nothing today, nothing, except my time that is. My time with girls–ten wonderful young women from around the county, women I would put up against any other delegation of girls (boys don’t stand a chance) in the country. Not that it’s a competition.

In return, I got a lighter heart and a heavier mind. I got a brighter vision for our world, and a heavier responsibility to make the world good for them. I got the challenge of challenging them, broadening their minds, for the low-low payment plan of one afternoon a month. I look forward to it. There is no time better spent than time with these girls.

I got thank yous from parents as they picked up and dropped off, instead of the complaining phone calls that are my usual interactions with girls’ parents (not these girls). I got three trays of salad fixings, which now means instead of being under-prepared for food this week, I have an issue of overabundance. I will be eating very healthily in advance of my New York weekend. That, in and of itself, feels like a blessing from this weekend. These girls feed me (or their mothers do) and not just my soul.

I used to call this blog “misspending my youth.” I started it, oh god, almost four years ago now, back when I still thought of myself as a youth (cue eye roll from my mother and aunts). I worked for a law office, I had student loans. It certainly felt like I was misspending my youth.

These days, I don’t wonder about misspending my youth. These girls are my youth. And there’s no way that time, money and effort spent on them is misspent. The question that comes to mind now is not, “am I misspending my youth?” but “how could I spend my time differently so that I could spend more of it on them?”

They say the best things in life are free. I say, yes, but more specifically, the best things in life are extraordinary young women. I guess I also mean me.

TGIF

When my sister and I were growing up, we looked forward to ABC’s TGIF lineup of shows every Friday night. Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Boy Meets World, even Teen Angel, a show with a terrible premise about an obnoxious high school kid eating a contaminated burger, dying, and coming back as an angel; all of them made us laugh. Even my dad watched with us, and he usually left the room when the television came on.

We could use a little TGIF tonight. My sister is in LA, my parents are in CO, and I’m down here in SD (not South Dakota for all you other SD-ers). When we were in elementary school watching Corey and Topanga, all of my grandparents were still with us. We’d see my Grandma and Papa Canter almost every weekend, and visit the Hebbert Grandparents on the farm (in the original SD) every summer, plus usually once in the fall or winter. sort-183

The back driveway of the farm, recently mowed.

Now, three of the four have passed, and my parents are dealing with the fallout of my remaining grandmother’s aging. My sister and I, out here, are figuring out how to help them, sometimes feeling more helpless than helpful. Back in fifth grade, the biggest drama in my life was that the neighbor girl thought Sabrina the Teenage Witch was sinful because it promoted witchcraft. My biggest expense was a mini jukebox cd player from Sam’s Club. 5d87a9284167b6882620cc54e8b9a271

This one, in fact.

It’d be easy to write a paragraph now about how those were the good old days, and isn’t life harder now, with my rent checks and my job where adults act like 5th graders? And after the day, the week, I’ve had, it’s tempting to want to go back, to be that young kid, cuddled up on the couch next to Mom, watching older kids on t.v. and hoping to one day be like them. I’m not like them. I didn’t grow up to be a witch or an angel or a Topanga. And while life seems more complicated now than it was then, I wouldn’t go back for all the money in the world. In spite of where we are–as a family, as a couple, as a country–I believe that we move towards good. We get better, stronger, wiser, and with that comes sorrow. With that comes struggle.

Tonight, instead of TGIF, I’m watching the sun set from my apartment window. The sky is pink and purple; the horizon peachy gold. A few hours after work and eleven days before the election, I’m trying to remember that we move towards good. As MLK would say, better than I have here, the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice. And at least for tonight, at least for this weekend, it is enough to lay down the sorrows and the struggles, and remember that fact.

sunset

Tonight’s sunset

quote-the-arc-of-the-moral-universe-is-long-but-it-bends-toward-justice-martin-luther-king-jr-345965

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?

 

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.

soup

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!

Small Steps

I am the first to admit it: I like big steps. I like to be right right away, to be proficient and then advanced in short order. I like to make sudden and immediate changes in my life, to feel the satisfying reverberations of an earthquake-sized change.

I think of my vegetarianism like that (it wasn’t). I think of my veganism like that (not it either). “Before I was that way, now I am this” sounds good to me, like snapping fingers. I like to imagine that I make a decision and then methodically progress towards my goal. It sounds so orderly.

It isn’t that way at all, I suppose because I’m only human. I make big changes, like deciding to get up at 5 a.m., run two miles, write for thirty minutes, practice Spanish and read before work. I did that for awhile. I liked it, and then something happened and now I don’t anymore. Or I decide to meditate everyday, and ten minutes is hard, but I do it until…. I don’t anymore. Because it was hard and I was tired. I do very well in classes and then the classes end and…

Well here we are. Sometimes the steps I imagine are bigger than my feet. So I’m trying to try something smaller. It’s hard. I like big! I like monumental changes that make people sit up and say, “wow, you did that?” But the big changes don’t always work, and the truth is, they never work like they seem to from the outside. Most of the time, they’re really just small changes piled up over time to make a big change. Changing a life is like turning an oceanliner. Small degrees matter and you need time.

I tell people that I’ve been vegetarian since seventh grade, and that’s mostly true. What I tell very often is that I tried to be vegetarian in fifth grade and failed because that doesn’t elicit the “ooh that’s so long!” of the former statement.

And the truth truth is that I’ve eaten meat since then! Not much, but some. I remember being in early high school and a friend’s mom insisting that I eat meat spaghetti sauce because I was in “her house” so I should eat by “her rules.” I don’t think I’d asked to be fed, but I ate around it because I didn’t want to embarrass my friend. And I ate some meat when I was in Spain, though I didn’t care for it much. And there was the infamous pork chop incident, which I cared for very much.

I tell people I went vegan after reading a book on dog training because it’s funnier than telling them I’d been trying since college and I was finally ready, and it makes me sound better than telling them “I’m vegan but sometimes when I’m stressed I still sneak a reese’s, but I’m working on it.” But those are the steps. Trial and error and success and error.

The truth is when I make big goals and fail to keep them, I fail big too. I stop doing anything. When I stopped going to poetry class, I stopped writing poetry. When I broke my streak on the language site, Duolingo, I stopped practicing for weeks. When I miss a workout, I miss three or four. I want to be a person who does those things all the time, even if I am not ready to give each of those passions the time that I wish I could.

I have to get it out of my head that I “need” half an hour to write and get it into my head that one sentence is writing. If I write one sentence a day, which is really all it feels like I have time for this month, then I am a writer and I have written. If I’m not ready to read a novel in Spanish yet (particularly one that’s due back at the library in two weeks) then I need to be okay with reading “Si llevas un raton al cine” and practicing my Duolingo.

So what do I have on my steps list?

  • Say ‘I love you’ every day to my man. Because I care about having strong positive relationships.
  • Take deep breaths. I don’t have time to meditate right now. It’s just not happening. But, I have time to take a deep breath a few times a day. And that’s important because it keeps my stress levels lower which helps me make better decisions and it makes me a nicer person to be around which goes back to having those positive relationships.
  • Follow my half marathon running plan. Yesterday I ran for 25 minutes after work because it was on the plan. In the past, I would have said that 25 minutes is not long enough, but you know what? I don’t need to be the overachiever on the running plan, especially if it means I’ll burn out and stop running entirely. 25 minutes is enough.
  • Duolingo one time per day. This one was going to be tough, but it’s been going okay for a few days. Why? Probably because I blocked Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest on my computer so that it redirects to Duolingo when I try to access those sites. It’s just a quick reminder that this is a priority, and that if I don’t have time for Duolingo right now, I probably don’t have time for Facebook either.
  • Write one sentence. I’ll be honest. I haven’t even done this one yet at all. But I have it on here because it’s a reminder of my values and who I believe I am. If I can’t even write one sentence this week, I’ll drop it down to one word. But realistically, I’m starting my writing class this weekend, so hopefully that will also help me write at least one sentence per day.

In the past, I would have tried to schedule date nights or dinners together every night, or set aside an hour for time with my man. I would have set aside ten or fifteen minutes to meditate even though I found it really hard to do for that long, and I would have added additional workouts to my half marathon training plan. I would have tried to get to the next Duolingo level each day, or gotten a book in Spanish to read because that’s “real Spanish.” I would have set aside hours for writing.

And there’s nothing wrong with that if it can be done, but I wasn’t actually doing any of those things. I was just setting goals and making plans that invariably would get derailed when I had an extra long meeting or a fun opportunity arise, or if I was just tired. And the truth is, I don’t want to wait until I have hours to spend on writing before I write. I want to write now, even if I can only write blogs a few times a week and one sentence on the other days. It’s more than I’m doing now! It’s progress. I don’t want to wait until I can go to Spain for three months to learn Spanish, because that may never happen! Likewise, a weeklong silent meditation retreat in order to find inner calm. I need those things now, even if it’s just one breath a day.

Especially when things are hard and busy, just one breath, just one sentence, can make a big difference.

A look back and a look forward

This was the first week that my Man was gone. The first few days have been rough, but I think I’ve settled in again. The cat seems to love me more, or maybe it’s that I’m even more desperate for her love now that he’s gone. The mornings have been more cloudy, the first sign that our endless southern California summer is shifting (almost imperceptibly) towards fall/winter.

It was a heavy work week. Our major volunteer conference and celebration was yesterday at the San Diego Convention Center, and I worked late on Thursday to help my coworkers get ready for it. For my part, I mostly ignored the session I was running until a few days before, and I felt the difference in my presentation. It was good enough–competent, but not my best work. Fortunately, there are no academy awards of conference presentations, and the feedback I received was positive. Still, the rest of the work to prepare for the conference kept me busy enough, and distracted enough to forget to blog on Friday.

The stress also showed up in the form of birthday cake oreos, a couple of trips to Starbucks, and dinner with a good work friend and her fiance after a stressful day. It was needed, and I’m not sweating the “break” from my “spending fast” (have I even really started yet?).

Good things came from this week too in the form of self-care. I started a new knitting Follow her on insta--@hkforpresidentproject to use up some of the yarn in my yarn box, and I’ve learned some new skills and gained some additional knitting confidence. I drank wine with good friends on Wednesday, something that will become a regular tradition, I hope. I’ve gotten fairly good sleep, and I’ve tried to spend time with the cat as much as possible. It seems like she wants to spend time with me too.

But I’m worn out from this weekend, and I know the slog will continue as we move from August to September and work picks up again. So this week, I want to take better care of myself, especially in the food department. This afternoon (after a long nap) I made a delicious kale and potato salad, based on this recipe from Angela Liddon, one of my favorites. I’m looking forward to eating it over the next few days, and then moving on to more salad in other forms. I bought some cherry heirloom tomatoes that I can’t wait to eat with a little balsamic vinegar.

And I want to take care of my mind/spirit this week. I’m committed to writing at least ten minutes every day to get back into the habit after missing out for a few weeks, and hopefully to prepare for my class that will start in a few weeks. I’d like to get back to a little bit of meditation each day and some Spanish practice, which fell off this weekend as work took over.

Tonight I’m having dinner with friends, something I hope to do regularly as they take pity on me in my single state and feed me the best peanut sauce known to womankind. Then it’s off to bed, getting set for another full week ahead.

The Tortoise vs. The Hare

Lately I’ve been dreaming of the lotto again–a sudden radical leap to the finish line of financial independence with zero effort, zero waiting, and zero control. Like the hare, I want a quick and easy victory, a gift from the universe.

Reality is more like the tortoise. No great leap forward, not even $1,000 saved this month, but another $417 set aside like last month. Another step on the way to $5,000 saved this year, $25K in five years. Not fast, not exciting, but steady and boring. It could be worse.

September’s Final Numbers
Total Income: $2,664.71
Total Spending: $2,135.12
Difference: $509.59

I wasn’t as careful about tracking my spending in September as in August. I was surprised to tally up how much I spent in restaurants this month when if you’d asked me yesterday, I would have said that I’d hardly eaten out at all. Restaurant meals so easily forgotten probably weren’t worth the price.

I look at the individual totals and see big exceptions.  I bought a bike. I finally paid for my bridesmaid dress. It’s easy to say if it hadn’t been for those purchases, I could have saved $1,000 this month, so theoretically I should be able to save $1,000 next month. But, every month sees big exceptions. Next month my membership with the Clinton 2030 Foundation (tax deductible! still regrettable!) is due, an unusual $230 I already know is coming. There’s H’s wedding and my birthday and the work gala, and I have no idea how any of those events (especially the last one) will derail my spending.

It’s better if I can try to be the tortoise: take it slow, write down my spending, forgive myself if I *only* save $417 instead of keeping the big money. It’s still savings. It’s still progress. It’s not small potatoes. But it is hard to see it that way when a couple of months ago the higher bar seemed so achievable. Turtles climb under bars and keep going.