Getting Rid of My Debt: FINALLY some good news (I think)

I called up Navient today – they are the company that has recently taken over my loans from that EVIL BEE-ATCH, Sallie Mae. Have to say, it was nice talking to someone who didn’t sound like she was reading from a script and could actually answer questions. When she heard that I had already been paying my loans for 17 years (and she could see my balances), she said “oh, that makes me feel sick.” I said “trust me, if it makes you feel sick, you have NO IDEA how sad it makes me feel.”

Someone commented last week that they know about “student loans” and they hear about “student loans” but it’s another story to see them. So I need to put down some cold, hard numbers here. In addition to my LAL loan (which is private) and has a current balance of $13,390.70, this is what is sitting there for my federal loans:

BIG DADDY (consists of my federal law school loans):

Loan 1-09: $44,347.24, interest rate of 7.5% (fixed), unsubsidized
Loan 1-10: $30,821.51, interest rate of 7.5% (fixed), subsidized

TOTAL: $75,168.75

SIMMONS (consists of my library science school loans)

Loan 1-07: $9,106.26, interest rate of 1.62% (fixed), subsidized
Loan 1-08: $14,081.79, interest rate of 1.62% (fixed), unsubsidized

TOTAL: $23,188.05

GRAND TOTAL of FEDERAL LOANS: $98,356.80

GRAND TOTAL of ALL LOANS: $111,747.50 (including my LAL of $13,390.70)
Anyone depressed yet?? This is what the loan system has turned into! This is after 17 years of paying on the $75K portion of Big Daddy and the LAL loans, and paying for 10 years of paying on Simmons Loans!!  Ok, I digress and will stop ranting.

So, the good news: next year, when I change my living situation and move (probably south, but definitely someplace warmer), I will apply for what is called and Income Based Repayment or IBR plan. With this plan, I will never have to pay more than 15% of my AGI as long as I keep reapplying for renewal of the status every 12 months.  I know that as a veterinary assistant, my salary might be somewhere in the 20-30K range (and the 30K range is kinda pushing it.) So I asked the Navient person to run some numbers, if I had an AGI of $25K and 20K, respectively. Whereas right now I am paying $538 a month just to keep my loan from growing, my payments would go down to about $93/month and $33/month, respectively.

What’s the catch? You know there had to be one, right? Of course there is. The catch is that the IBR plan will last for 25 years. At the end of the 25 years, whatever amount is not paid off will be forgiven. (There is some question as to whether that amount would then be imputed to you as taxable income for that year or not.)  So if I were to do something like that, it could be conceivable that I could be paying off law school (and Simmons) loans for 42 years. You read that right. 42 years. And that’s if I changed to that plan right now. However, changing to that plan right now would actually raise my monthly payments, likely to something around $700, so if I do switch repayment plans, it’s not going to happen right now. I’d be paying something like $1800 to save myself somewhere around $360 or $1080 (depending on how low my salary is) to end the loan 25 years from today instead of 25 years from next fall.

So here’s where I am at. I don’t love the idea of paying loans for another 25 years, obviously. I’m already 42. Who wants to pay until they are almost entitled to social security and are almost three times the age they were when they first got out of law school? (I was 24.)  However, since I feel like I have paid for these loans already at least twice, I don’t feel too badly about making the government wait and wait and wait to be paid these amounts, and to then be paying  smaller amount overall. I know as a vet assistant, it’s not like my salary is going to drastically change over the years. It’s not like I could ever make it back to the salary I am making right now, I know that for sure. And, since I have learned to live simply, I could maybe afford to save a bit at the same time too, so I’m not living hand to mouth. I still want to be able to save for retirement, even if it’s at a smaller rate per year. And keep away from the credit cards, because those can bury you. Luckily, I don’t have any of that debt right now. And I would hope that working as a vet assistant, I could maybe get a break on vet care for my herd. :-)

Unfortunately, society just doesn’t place such a huge monetary value on those who care for animals. It’s not like I’d be running a huge investment bank or anything important like that, right? (Don’t even get me started on that kind of rant about executive compensation getting out of hand…again, I digress. Sorry.)

I do still plan on paying off that LAL loan by the time I move. I could pay it off right now – I have enough in savings, but it would definitely put a damper on what I have saved. And it feels good for  me to mentally keep looking at the savings balance I do have and know I’m getting somewhere. Right now, so much of my payment on that loan goes to principal, that my financial advisor suggested I keep hoarding cash and then take a look at things in the spring or summer and decide to pay it off then. That way if anything else happens in the meantime, expected or not, I’m prepared and have some liquidity.

I find it somewhat sad, but this actually seems like good news to me right now.  Any thoughts from any of you? If so, please drop me a note below.

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My Winter Jacket is Hot Pink! (READ: Live your life!)

A little one that makes me smile every day, all day.

A little one that makes me smile every day, all day. This photo was taken by my friend Gail of Warmest Wags Pet Services.

There, I’ve said it. I’m a 42 year old woman who wears hot pink and is super proud of it. I don’t care what others think. And it’s so liberating!!

I was thinking about this this morning as I waited for the bus (after yesterday’s miserable bike rides back and forth to both jobs during the pouring rain, I decided to not ride in today with the temps in the 30s and the winds in the 20-30 mph range.) I got this jacket last week for $20 at a consignment shop when I was home with my mom in upstate NY.  Some might think I got it for the name on it (Calvin Klein) but really, I could care less. I would never pay for the name on anything!  I just knew I needed a warmer jacket than what I already had, and that it needed to not be made of animal products, and that would last me for this one winter season. Let me make that, my LAST winter season in the northeast! :-)  And this jacket fit the bill. Made of all synthetic materials, will keep me warm (until it gets EXTREMELY cold and then I have another jacket I bought (with tags on) for $30.  I know it would have cost me about $200-300 if I bought it brand new. Score!

Seriously, how many people do you see walking around in warm winter coats that are all black? If I were to look and take a tally while on the bus, or on the T, I’m sure about 80% of the people would be in black. How depressing is that? And, more importantly, why?? Why all dress the same? Why all follow the same path in life? Go to work (which you may or may not like, most probably would say “not”), come home, eat, watch TV, sleep, get up, eat, and work out or get ready for work, and then commute to work. Repeat, more times in your life than is healthy.

You know what? When I look at that jacket, it makes me smile. It helps me to realize how far I’ve come and especially in the last year or two in growing and becoming more aware of what inspires me, motivates me, and makes me tick.

You know what? When I look at all of my five cats and my dog resting contentedly in my apartment, I smile. A lot of people would term me a Crazy Cat Lady because of how many I have. But I don’t care. They make me happy.

You know what? My ex boyfriend broke up with me for a few reasons, one being the different way we viewed animals. (He hunts, and thinks it’s ok to have a working dog like a hound stay outside all the time — luckily, for the dog he has now, he lives much further south.) Whereas at one point, I took his breaking up with me as a negative judgment on how I live my life and what I choose to care for and consider important, I now feel gratitude that that comment made me really take a hard look at my life. It made me realize you have to know what you feel in your heart is right. You need to know what touches you and gets you really fired up and makes you want to get out of bed in the morning.

What got me out of bed this morning was knowing that this afternoon I was going to be able to volunteer and learn about livestock animals. I met a horse, several chickens, a pig, and some goats and sheep.  I learned how to put the halter on the horse, how to lead it and also petted her quite a bit. She is about 15.2 hands tall, dark brown all over, and just has the most gorgeous brown eyes, and her name is Fancy.

One of the sheep came up to me and clearly wanted to be friends, as she let me pet her! Some of the goats in that paddock are very shy so it’s going to be my goal to get them to be more comfortable around humans. I figure, I can bring a warm thermos of something to drink and possibly a good book, and if I stand still long enough, they will become curious about me. If I can show them I’m not going to hurt them…they say that animals react to the energy you put out, so hopefully my energy will be one of calm and love and acceptance. Yes, even while cleaning up after them (READ: ahem, picking up poop, lol.)

I also heard from my local vet’s office last week about my inquiry into volunteering with them. They asked for my resume and availability, so I sent the resume off to them yesterday. Cross your fingers! They are part of the VCA animal hospital network, so I am hoping to see how a private vet office operates from an insider’s perspective, rather than as the person paying the vet bill. :-)

One of my friends commented on my last post that I should do what makes me happy because people are going to judge me nonetheless, and that’s what I’m doing. And that is what I am hoping I can encourage all of you to do, if you haven’t begun doing so already!

Anyway, I just wanted to share how happy I felt this afternoon as I stood outside in the freezing cold but learned about something I think I am going to love doing.

As always, if you have liked this post, please hit like or subscribe! And stay tuned because I have some ideas for changes to the blog, in what I hope will be helpful (or at least entertaining) to many of you out there.

Getting Out of My Debt: A New Plan (I’ve Had IT!!)

I came to a few realizations last night and I went to bed angry. Fighting mad angry. But in a good way. I owe a lot of this to my friend Dan, who answered a text message of mine that said “Do you think I’m stupid for wanting to leave a good paying job to do something that will pay so much less?”

The reason I asked this question is because I see so many people struggling just to get by and I feel like I should just be thankful for whatever opportunity is thrown my way. For example, there are the cleaners/housekeeping folks at my gym – all three of them work two jobs. None of them have English as their native language, which definitely hurts their job prospects.  I know for a fact that one of them works seven days a week, and that a second one was until he finally had his daughter talk to me to write a note to the manager stating that he would like to take Fridays off since he was working seven days a week. (He and I are slowly teaching each other some words in Spanish and English.)

In response to these concerns, my friend Dan told me, among other things, “you can still be thankful and desire to live a Purpose Driven Life.”  He also said something that struck home: “No one says on their death bed, ‘Thank God I paid off that student loan.’” Finally, “It (my student loan debt) runs your life in that it makes your decisions for you.”

So now, I’m going to do what he suggested: “Find a balance between the obligation you owe the debt and the bigger obligation you owe yourself.”

I looked at my loan details last night for my Big Daddy loan. I started paying (or shall we say, deferring and forbearing) back in 1997. Now that I have been paying interest-only payments on it for the last two years (as part of a graduated repayment plan), just to keep it from growing, I see that the final repayment date is in 2034 and another in 2035 (Big Daddy consists of two consolidated loans – one is unsubsidized federal money and the other is subsidized.)

In case you’re wondering what the difference is between a subsidized loan and an unsubsidized one–well, the difference is when who pays the interest that is accruing during terms when you are not in repayment, such as when you have taken a deferment. Deferments can be for a number of reasons but the most common ones are that you are currently in school or you are going through some sort of economic hardship. With a subsidized loan, the federal government pays the interest coming due. With unsubsidized ones, that interest just keeps on accruing and accruing and accruing and at the end of your deferment or forbearment period, all that unpaid interest gets thrown on the top of the loan, essentially making your principal balance, upon which more interest accrues, even larger than when you started. Do you see why this can get overwhelming to think about? I had loans that were unsubsidized during my first year of law school. You’re encouraged to not work during your first year of law school for  a lot of reasons. So even by the time I graduated my principal balances had already grown by a whopping lot.

My Big Daddy loan actually consists of two loans – out of $75K, one has a principal balance right now of $44K.  So that puts the other one around $31K.  Here’s the funny thing – that loan that now has $44K to its  name – when I consolidated that loan back in 2001, guess what the principal balance was at that time? Yeah….it was about $41K.  All these years, I have paid at the very least $538/month, and for many years, while I was married, I even paid extra principal to it every month. Sometimes, about $700/month, on the combined Big Daddy loan.  So, how, you ask, is that balance even higher? If you take an average of $6000 paid every year and you multiply that by 13, how much do you get?? Hmmm. 78K.  And yet the balance of Big Daddy these days is still over $75K.

So here’s what I decided the other night – I’m going to switch careers to something that I find much more fulfilling, and if I pay less money per month to my student loans, so be it. I want to have a life where I feel like what I am doing every day is more in tune with my heart. And for me, that means working with animals.

Beginning this week, I am going to begin volunteering with the Animal Rescue League of Boston and work with their livestock animals. Right now, that means goats, sheep, a horse, and some chickens. I heard back from my local vet who asked me to send a resume or CV and let them know the hours during which I could volunteer, so I would be able to get experience working in a private vet office with small animals. I want to try to expose myself to as many different types of animals and types of organizations so I can see what best fits with me and my personality, etc.

I already know the average salary for vet assistants is something like $22K-30K. This is about what I live on right now, but I currently pay extra money to my student loans and paying the higher amounts on my loans. With a lower salary, I will be eligible for different types of repayment plans, and one can lower your payments to about 10-15% of your salary. So yes, it moves the final payoff date out that much further into the future, but life is short.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a slacker. i do want to pay back my debts. I do. I just think that with all the money I have paid this government over the years, the government can continue to wait for the 2x and 3X the principal amounts I will end up paying back. I could walk outside today or tomorrow and get hit by a car or something worse. I could be like Brittany Maynard who was 29 and found out she had an aggressive form of brain cancer. I’m not trying to be melodramatic or anything. I just have decided to not let these loans run my life anymore. I’m going to start living my life for me. And for the animals.

So this is the new plan. I’m going to pay off the private student loan which is sitting around $13,500 right now. That one, I don’t have tons of options about. But the federal ones…I’ll deal with them, probably for the rest of my life, but at least it’ll be a life that I feel good about at the end of every day. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given in this world, and every time I go to a talk at my school about animal rights, I get this strong feeling in my stomach that I NEED to do something to help them. And with my background, I can. I want to work with the animals in a hands-on way, but if there’s a way I can also be involved in using my education or my social or personal skills to their advantage, well, I plan on doing it. I’m open to the opportunities.

I’m home with my mom this weekend to celebrate an early Thanksgiving. I hope you will all have a great weekend. If you’ve liked this post, please hit like or subscribe, or drop me a line below.

Living Your Life with Purpose and Finding Out What That Is

HoneyBun in her hideaway.

HoneyBun in her hideaway. She looked so cute, I just had to take this picture.

I get daily emails from a website called Mind, Body, Green. The most recent email I received had this in the subject line “7 Signs You’re Living with Purpose.” I was so glad to read through it and see that, hey, a lot of that fits me in my life right now!

The first sign mentioned is you’re scared. Um, yeah, that would sum me up as I start thinking and planning toward my life changes of next year. When I would sit and think about taking my life on the road, I would become terrified of all the unknowns that would possibly happen to me. All the things that could go wrong. All the times I would get  lost. But as the article says, if you’re afraid, then you’re growing. And I know that as I keep questioning all of my ideas and feel that bit of fear on a daily basis, thinking of leaving all the security I have right now, I am fearful but I’m growing in that I’m becoming more self aware every day. And I see that as a gift.

The second sign is that your friend circle is changing.  I would say that is also the case for me. I’ve added a few new friends, especially in the online world. People with whom my life would otherwise most likely never have crossed. They’ve given me such great advice and friendship.

The third sign is opportunity seemingly comes out of nowhere. Wow. Earlier today, I was at work at at the gym.  One new member with whom I instantly felt comfortable as I gave her a tour of the place, stopped by to chat for a few moments and lo and behold, she’s a vet tech with the same animal hospital where I have begun taking my oldest cat, Bonkers, since this past June. Needless to say, a great conversation ensued and I let her know I had called the vet’s office last week to inquire about volunteering with them or shadowing some of their vet techs as this is a career I’m seriously looking into right now. I asked her for her email in case I had questions and she readily wrote it down. You never know who you’re going to meet, right?

The fourth sign is that the puzzle starts to make sense. Things that you’ve done or events that have happened, or people that you seem to have met or experienced, seemingly random, now make sense. This one I’m still working on.

The fifth sign is that you rely heavily on intuition.  This one, I totally agree with. At one point, I thought I would buy a motorhome for the ease of always having my home with me and my animals with me at all times. I then thought, well, how will I get around when not driving it? I came up with the idea of getting a scooter – it seemed to make total sense. 90 miles to the gallon. Much less maintenance than a car. So I went through with the motorcycle driving school and got myself a motorcycle license. I thought a scooter would be much easier to ride than a regular motorcycle. Turns out my gut was screaming “no, no, no, no, no!!” Every time I got on that thing, I felt this sense of foreboding, like it might be my last time.

One night, after practicing on very quiet side streets, I literally felt myself having trouble breathing and just about in tears. I felt the same sense of anxiety that I had felt when I first decided to leave my marriage. All the same doubts about myself.  That might sound melodramatic. Maybe it was a small panic attack. But this time, I listened to it. I know I’m going to lose money on this deal when I ultimately sell it (please God, let someone buy this pretty much new scooter in the spring!!)

The sixth sign is that you experience joyful exhaustion.  Some people think I’m crazy to be working two jobs right now since I make decent money at my full time one. In fact, they really thought I was crazy when I was also doing the freelance research on the book, as that was pretty much a third job. Yes, it was very exhausting and still is some days. I don’t always want to be spending an 8 hour day at the gym, folding mountains of laundered towels, and picking up dirty towels out of the bins. I didn’t always want to be opening the gym twice a week in September, at 5:30 a.m. But I also had this feeling that it was all going to be worth it in the end. It will be worth it when I get to work at a job that, while it will pay much less, will be much more fulfilling to me.

The seventh sign is that you feel light.  To quote the article “In your quiet moments, the times between actions, you have a lightness of being. You’re not burdened with existential anxiety. You may be preoccupied with how you’re going to achieve your dreams, but you’re not obsessively trying to figure out what they are. . . . Purpose may expand and evolve or completely change during a lifetime. As a result, these signs may make several reappearances.”  Oh wow. Does this describe me or what?? I can imagine at least a few of you out there laughing your ass off, out loud, reading this quote. I am definitely preoccupied (or healthily obsessed, one might say) with how I’m going to achieve my dreams of living a simple life with meaning and be able to make a difference in the lives of, or take care of animals.  And yes, your purpose can definitely change from time to time.

Someone is feeling pretty content in this picture.

Someone is feeling pretty content in this picture.

There are definitely times in my life when I feel light. There are times when I feel content, such as during those times that I find myself reading a good book in the quiet of my place, and I take a look around me at all of my sleeping animals, knowing they feel safe and secure enough to relax and let their guards down. And that’s when I know that each of the steps I’ve taken over the past few years to getting to where I am now, mentally and physically, are part of that ever expanding and evolving purpose.

What do you think about these signs? Do you agree with the Mind, Body, Green article?  Are there other signs that you think show you’re living your life with purpose? If so, what are they?

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Little Things for Which I am Thankful

Hi everyone, sorry I didn’t get this regular post out last week. I started writing it and then had to get ready to go to a wedding, so yeah, that’s on my list!

1.  Went to a wedding of some good friends last week. Very cool, and all different types of music was played as well as Billy Idol’s White Wedding, which the DJ played as the bride and groom and their bridal party exited the ceremony! Gotta love it.

2. Some of you already know this, but yesterday was my Birthday!! Yes, my “something schmunthing| annivesary of 29. At least that’s what I sometimes call it.  But honestly, I’m not embarrassed by my age. It’s 42. Yep. Over the big 4-0. i have to be honest. Once you get past 40, it really doesn’t bother you as much. Well, maybe I can only speak for myself, but there you have it.

3. i am so grateful that Netflix finally got the fourth season of episodes of The Walking Dead. There aren’t  many shows that I will binge watch, but that is one of them. I watched it yesterday while it was raining and cold outside, and had a few animals snuggled up next to me. It was a really nice, relaxing day. I didn’t have anything planned on a schedule, just the way I wanted it. :-)

4. I talked to the adoption supervisor for the animal shelter with whom I have volunteered in the past, the Animal Rescue League of Boston. This time, it was with the Dedham location. I’m hoping to start volunteering very soon with their barn animals or livestock animals. I’ll only be able to go once per week, but I’ll be able to help clean out their stalls/pens, as well as learn  how to groom them. I can’t wait! I seriously should have become a vet or a farmer if I hadn’t so stupidly gone to law school!

5. A gentleman just stopped into my office this afternoon and we have a mutual acquaintance/friend in common. It was great to discuss our mutual friend as we both have a huge respect for him. He told me that one of our Brazilian students had recommended he come by to meet me while he was in town. Wow, such a compliment. This same student told me that the mutual friend had asked the Brazilian students if they had met with me yet (he was in town pretty recently and took them all out to dinner.) He told them that if they hadn’t, or didn’t, they would regret it! This is a HUGE compliment for him to have given me, given his stature in his home country. But again, that’s just how he is. :-)

6. I am so thankful for the advice and thoughts many of you left on my last post, about defining (and choosing) priorities. You’ve given me so much food for thought. I thank you very much.

7. Lastly, I am so thankful it’s FRIDAY!!!!!!!!!!

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Defining (and choosing?) priorities

I just had to snap this photo of little Osito when she wore her new parka for the first time. She seems to really like it as it keeps her ears warm!

I just had to snap this photo of little Osito when she wore her new parka for the first time. She seems to really like it as it keeps her ears warm!

Editor’s note, written a few hours after the post was first published:

I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor’s office to see how I’m doing and feeling with cutting my Wellbutrin dosage in half. I’m happy to say, I’m doing pretty well, I think. And having cut out the Singulaire I take for my allergies-induced asthma, I’m breathing really well and clearly. Even ran outside yesterday and didn’t experience any wheezing afterward, like I used to do.  There is a medical student working there now, and she is from Seattle. She told me I can definitely can get work out in that area, and that yes, it really is possible to find a place to live there for about $700. She said things are definitely cheaper out there, and after having talked to her, I’m so jazzed, and leaning toward the PNW again. But I know, I need to keep an open mind and think everything through.

*******************************************

So, one thing I have learned over the past year or so is that I change my mind. Sometimes a lot. Enough that I am now somewhat making fun of myself when I tell my friends what my “newest” plan for next year is. I go from wanting an RV, to just having a tiny apartment, to wanting an RV, to wanting a tiny apartment or small place to rent. And well, after I put my post up about so many RVs to choose from, I spent a good week or so watching my animals, and I mean really watching them. Watching how they interacted with each other, when they seemed to be the most content, and how far apart from each other they might be at that time. And I realized a small travel trailer just isn’t going to be enough room for them. Not if I don’t want them to be in a constant state of stress, and if I don’t care to alleviate that, it makes me quite selfish and a horrible fur mom.  Two things I never want to be.

I’ve changed my mind about what I want to do with my life a few times – for about two years,  I thought I wanted to be a personal trainer. Enough so that I took two certification tests (the second being known for being extremely hard.)  However, I have realized that while I do like working out, and occasionally helping out friends, I don’t think the lifestyle is for me. It would have me inside all the time (or a majority of the time) and it can get kind of boring to do just do one-on-one training all the time. I see that in the face of my gym’s trainer.  (He’s a great trainer, don’t get me wrong, but I can imagine it gets boring to work with the same types of problems day after day.) Plus, I find it hard to justify spending the money myself for the sessions (and I get them at a discount) when I’m trying to save money and pay off debt. So how could I then be asking people to pay for my services?

On a sunny day like this one, you just HAVE to be outside even if there is a brisk chill in the air!

On a sunny day like this one, you just HAVE to be outside even if there is a brisk chill in the air!

I was interested in going to an outdoor awareness school at one point (in the PNW) but then, of course, reality started to set in. The program was $10K or so, and involved a few trips that would require me to leave the animals for at least a week or more. That, and while I love the outdoors, I really do like some creature comforts, like, a warm bed. One that doesn’t involve sleeping on the ground, constantly worrying about bugs crawling over me as I try to fall asleep. You get the picture. So that idea went out the window, but the one thing behind it stayed the same – I love to be outdoors, and it would be awesome to live in a place that values the outdoor lifestyle. And if I could find a place to work where I could be outside, or teaching others about nature, so much the better.

So my thought is now to work with animals. That’s always been part of my plan – to do more to help them, but now I want to make it part of my future career, to the extent I can. I have been researching into what it takes to be a veterinary technician, if I need to have an associates degree, etc. I’ve been looking into the various AVMA accredited programs and their locations, cost of living, etc. Still have a lot of research to do on that, but hey, it’s what I do!  If I do go that route, I want to cash flow it as much as possible and would plan on applying for as many scholarships as I am able to do.  And I hope that I can start to volunteer at either a vet’s office or clinic or even work with the livestock that the Animal Rescue League of Boston have at their Dedham location, so I can see what it might be like to work as a large-animal vet tech.

I’ve thought about living in the southwest, like NM, and the Pacific Northwest, and just last week, Colorado. What do they all have in common? Yep, the weather is better than in the northeast, and they all value outdoor lifestyles.  The weather is certainly different in all three places. But one thing I have held fast to, and even more so, as we have just changed our clocks back to not be on daylight savings, and as I saw *snow* flurrying this past Sunday along with 40 mph wind gusts, is I’m DONE with the New England weather and winters. DONE. When I rode my bike to work that morning (it’s either that or walk since the buses don’t run early enough), it was sleeting outside. It hurt my face, not to mention the wind was out of this world, making me very glad my bike has a motor and is a bit on the heavy side. And I thought to myself, yep, I am DONE with this weather. It’s way too early for this crap.

So, here are my priorities:

  1. Live simply. Regardless of what the home looks like, it’ll be just what I need and nothing more. It’ll be a lifestyle that allows me to take care of myself and my animals, and pay off my debts (eventually).
  2. Live someplace where an outdoor lifestyle is valued and desired. And where winters don’t force you inside for months on end because the weather is so miserable and nasty cold. There are so many things you can do for free in the natural world, hiking, running, biking, etc. Why sit inside and stare at a TV or computer screen when you can experience all of that?
  3. My animals need to be happy and have enough space to be so. I have found that most of the time, we are all within the same room and a half (my living room and bedroom alcove), with usually 4 of them being within arms’ reach of myself. So I think a place that is about 400-500 square feet is going to do us just fine. Maybe even someplace smaller.
  4. Find a community of like-minded people. People who are somewhat liberal minded and don’t care so much about appearances or that the almighty dollar is the thing to be worshipped. Living in the NE, I think it’s hard for some people to understand why I would leave a good paying job to do something that makes so much less, especially with all of my degrees. I don’t want to constantly feel like I have to explain my decision to do so.Around here, and especially where I work, I work with very driven students and people who have always strived to be at the top. Many are proud of saying the name of our institution and hearing people go “oohh, and aaahhh.”  The name of my employer means nothing to me. In fact, I even ask people to not hold it against me sometimes, as it can also have a negative connotation, at least in my mind. It can conjure up images of wealth and prestige and power. All things that I simply could care less about.

So, these are my priorities, and while I may change my mind about what I will ultimately end up doing, and where I may be, from time to time, I’m holding fast to them. If anyone knows of any places that fit the bill, I’m all ears, so please drop me a line or comment below.

And, as always, if you have liked this post, please hit like or subscribe! Thank you for reading.

Oh, and just one more pic of Baby O below because she is always just too cute for words, and really makes everyone smile when they see her on our walks.

This is her "old lady" red sweater, complete with flowers and everything. But, it's the perfect weight and thickness for the mild fall days when there is a brisk chill in the air.

This is her “old lady” red sweater, complete with flowers and everything. But, it’s the perfect weight and thickness for the mild fall days when there is a brisk chill in the air.

Little Things for Which I am Thankful

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I know these posts usually come out on a Friday, but I wanted to be able to write this post from a place of gratitude, you know? And that’s how I am feeling today. Yesterday, well, in the words of someone who commented on my blog recently, I was just “waiting until Friday.”

1. I was lamenting with a colleague how it seems like libraries have changed so much over the past few years. To me, they seem to have become very corporatized (well, some of them, anyway) and I look at my own library and see how it’s changed. When I started there, I was by far, the most inexperienced person. And I mean, BY YEARS, I was the least experienced. And knowledgeable. Now, I’m the one who has been in the department the longest. It’s scary, and it’s sad.

But, someone decided to make my day yesterday, and it came in the form of one of the reference librarians with whom I worked in the very beginning. Naomi came into the library yesterday for the first time since she had retired, back in 2006. She’s the only librarian in our library who has a plaque dedicated to her near the reference desk. At first when she walked in with her family, I asked “are you here for the reunion?” and then I looked at her and was like “oh my God, Naomi!!” and immediately ran at her.

That woman has probably forgotten more than I will ever learn in my life. She reminded me of a time in my job when I was always, always learning. You’d think you had exhausted every avenue you knew of, and every resource, and you’d go to one of the more senior librarians and ask, “is there anything I’m missing?” and inevitably they would come up with something. (I still have that today in a colleague or two, but it’s just not the same. When you add up all the years of experience in my department these days, we probably add up to about 1 to 1.75 of the library reference librarians’ experience before, and that was a big department of about 7.

When she left, her husband turned to me and said “you made her day,” and I said “no, she made mine.”  We just kept giving each other hugs.

2. I may be dating myself by bringing up this movie, but does anyone out there remember the movie, Legends of the Fall? Back from around 1994? You may remember it had Aidan Quinn and Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins? Well, there was a line in the movie where the old Native American says something about Brad Pitt’s character, Tristan, coming into the “quiet stage” of his life. That’s kind of how I felt earlier this week when we had all that rain, and the shortness of the daylight seemed to be strikingly obvious to me, much more so than normal. It made me really start to think about things and get some things sorted out in my mind. And I have felt kind of “quiet.” It’s kind of like the feeling that comes over me when all I can hear in the apartment is the sound of the bubbling pet water fountain and maybe a snoring animal or two. Like right now, as I sit here typing this, every single furball in this place is sound asleep. It’s a feeling of contentment, of just feeling like everything is right as it should be, right now.

3. I am grateful for having good friends and for having good friends who give me good advice. Not necessarily what I want to hear, but good advice in that it comes from a good place inside of them and because it’s honest.  One of them told me to think of my dreams or life as a sentence that you diagram – think about the big picture, and then see the parts that make up the whole. Think of what you want the end result to be, and then you’ll figure out how to get there.

4.  I am grateful that the weather today is absolutely gorgeous. The sun is out, and lots of people are walking and running around the reservoir out back. It’s one of those days where I wish we could just freeze the calendar and not move forward.

5. I am grateful for quiet, peaceful days like today, where there is nothing on the schedule unless I want it to be. So, I’m going to the movies tonight with my best friend and her husband. We’re a movie watching trio – Gone Girl is what we will be seeing. I’ve read the book, so I can’t wait to see how it translates to the big screen. Definitely one of those books that is hard to put down.

6. I am grateful for young adult fiction about vampires. Yes, I said it. There, I admit it!! It’s what I like to read! It allows me to escape into another world and reminds me of what I loved about reading as a child. I used to lose myself in books, and now I”m doing it again.

7. I am grateful for views like those pictured above. And for coming home and seeing my two boys, Max and Sebastian, curled up on the loveseat (see below.)  I wanted to sit there, but I don’t have heart to make them move. Could you??

Sleepy boys...

Sleepy boys…

What are you thankful for this week? Please drop me a line below. And if you’ve liked this post, please hit like or subscribe! Thanks for reading.