So what’s next?

BEACH
Bunche Beach at sunset

That is a very good and very loaded question.  As you know, I’m back in Florida because the cold in the northeast was too much for me to handle after being away from it for a few years.  Apologies in advance if this post seems a bit disjointed but I hope you like the pictures.  I’m trying to work through some things that keep bouncing around in my mind.  Writing helps to clarify them sometimes.  So here goes….

I have been working hard at the legal transcription, working for a few different companies as a 1099.  They pay better than the one I have been working with the past year or so.  When you type as much as I do, 25 cents/page more can really add up in terms of how much you make every week.  So I work hard and I make my deadlines and in so doing, create a good reputation for myself with those folks.

Finances:

To put it bluntly, they haven’t been great since I left my job at Harvard.  Toward the end of my time in Boston, I didn’t have credit cards.  When I decided to move to Utah, I got myself one, “just in case.”  Dumb move on my part.  I now have two cards that are almost maxed out (one only got to that point a month or two ago when my Sophie cost me $3K at the vet when she had to get an MRI.)  I owe my roommate about $1K from when we moved in (we owed first, last and security deposit plus an un-refundable pet deposit which really added up.)   The credit cards are at 20% and 15%.  They are just killing me with the interest.

So I know that some may disagree with this decision, but I have decided to take money out of my retirement to pay it all off.   Yes, I know it has long-term consequences.  I hate myself for taking from my future self.   But with the rate of interest I am paying now, I see this as the best thing to do.  My retirement funds aren’t earning 20% per month.

We are also withholding money to handle the tax bill when it comes — borrowing from myself before I’m 59 1/2 means the amount distributed gets imputed to me as income for the year and I also pay a 10% penalty on the amount withdrawn.  I have about $212K in retirement right now and am taking a distribution of about $19,900 in total.  Living in Florida, I only pay federal income tax, thankfully. So that will help for sure, come tax time.  My plan is to then close out the credit cards, one by one.   (They’ve been in the freezer for about 6 weeks now.)   I will probably keep my Care Credit card just for pet emergencies and even then, I’d rather stab a fork in my eye than have to use it.

PALM TREE

Once the cards are paid off, I am going to focus on building up my savings for a few months and then start paying extra on either my car or my private student loan.  The car loan is below $2K at this point, and I have a very good interest rate of about 3.9%.  My payment is roughly $142/month.  The private loan is down to about $8900 and because the rate is variable, it is up to about 5.25% right now.  My payment is about $97/month.  

My federal loan payments are based on my income, so I pay about $10/month for each one (two total).  Yes, the payments are strung out for years and years, but I’m fine with that trade-off because it allows me to live my life. And when I look at how much I have paid back over the years, trust me, the federal government has gotten a lot of money paid back from me — the principal amount borrowed and then  A LOT in addition.

I am also starting up a Roth IRA because all of my other retirement savings are what we call tax-deferred, so when I do start taking money out on a regular basis, I’ll get hit with the taxes at that point.  With a Roth, I’ve already paid the taxes so distributions later on will be tax free.  (If you’re reading this from outside the US, I realize this may not make sense at all.  My country is screwed up, what can I say?)

I really don’t spend much money at all, other than on food for myself, my animals, and to put gas in my car.  The other day I did buy a yearly parking sticker for Lee County which cost $60, but now I can park at many nature preserves and some beaches and not have to worry about feeding meters. Knowing how much I plan to use these spaces in the upcoming year, I know it’s a good choice for me.  I really do love my time spent outside in nature, hearing the birds sing or listening to the wind ruffle through the trees around me, hearing the waves crash onto the shore.

I go to the library a lot to work (when I want to be around people), and to check out books (yes, I still like the hard copy feel in my hands.)  So that’s free and doesn’t cost me anything other than the cost of gas to get there.  And I don’t go every day because I have my own home office at this duplex and the animals all tend to congregate with me anyway, and that is a super calming feeling.

Living plans for next year:

I do have a roommate and for reasons I won’t go into on here, I know we will be going our separate ways next year when the lease is up.  So I’m planning ahead and considering my options.  Do I move someplace cheaper and smaller with my animals?  Perhaps.  Do I somehow buy a trailer and finally pull the cord and do the nomadic thing?  Working remotely as a transcriptionist will allow me to do that.  But I would likely need to get another vehicle if I do that — one that can tow even a small trailer or a Class B type vehicle.

If it were just me and I didn’t have my furballs to feed and care for, I would be happy with just a small teardrop trailer, honestly.  But it’s not just me.  There are three, albeit senior, cats to worry about as well as my two small pups.  I want them to be comfortable.   The cats are approximately 14, 13 and somewhere between 12-15 in age. (With Honey Bun, we’re not totally sure of her age.)  Snuggles is roughly 10-12ish and I was told Sophie was 7 last year, but I have my doubts as to the accuracy of that. I think she’s younger.

Being able to work from home, I see what they do all day.  They sleep, eat, drink water and poop.  Sophie plays with Steel (my roommate’s German Shepherd, on whom I think she has developed a crush; it’s so cute), but even then there’s a whole lot of sleeping going on.  Even so, I want them to have enough space to feel comfortable.

However, I don’t want something that is built like crap and gets terrible gas mileage.  And let’s be honest, most RVs are built like crap.  And I am not a handy person, to say the least.  So whatever I go with, I want it to be pretty simple, because let’s face it, I’m a simple person when it comes down to it.  I’m considering the Wee Roll campers which are made in Florida, among others.   They are lightweight, would allow me to stand up, can have an AC built in (necessary with animals), aluminum, and over-constructed from what I have read about them. I like the sound of all of that.

BLUE AND CLOUDS
Love the blueness of the water from nearby Jaycee Park on a warm afternoon

I have been considering trying to see a lot of national parks.  Living in the southwest, although I was far from the ocean, I was able to see some amazing ones, and lived super close to Zion National Park. (It blows my mind to this day how close by I was, and yes, I did take advantage of it.)   I have been reading different books about them, and want to really see more of this beautiful country. I’ve never seen the Grand Tetons, or Olympic National Park and the forests near there.  I’ve never seen the Badlands.  So many different mountain ranges in this country that I’ve never seen, or only seen from the window of a plane.

I want to live simply.  I want to see things before I die.  I am happy being with myself as my own company.  Yes, I sometimes feel lonely, but that happens with everyone.  I like my freedom, not having to respond to an invitation to hang out (when it rarely does happen, lol) by saying I have to check with my partner’s schedule first.  (Maybe this just means I haven’t met that perfect person for me yet.  Who knows?)

PERSPECTIVE
I like taking pictures and looking at the trees through a different perspective

And honestly, I feel like I was put on this earth to make an impact, in some way, shape or form.  I want to improve at my writing and taking photographs of the landscapes I see around me.  I want to share that with others.  After having read the book, Before They’re Gone, I want to see different parts of this beautiful country I call home and share it with others, be it through my writing or photography.   (The book is about an outdoor writer who takes his family to several national parks over the course of a year and interweaves his thoughts and research about global climate change and its effects on the parks throughout.  I highly recommend it.)    Mandy Lea Photo has been very inspiring to me in that vein as well.  I’ve followed her on YouTube for a long time now.

But I also want to be environmentally conscious, and is my traipsing around everywhere pulling a trailer or driving a Class B or van responsible in that vein?  That’s also led me to thinking about living in an intentional community type situation.  It’s something I have thought about a lot over the years.  Dancing Rabbit is an example of one.   However, then I would have to stay in one place, and I need to do some soul searching to see if that’s really the right thing for me to do at this point in my life.  Many of them allow visitors (Dancing Rabbit even has a visitor program or internship program set up), to allow people to see if it really is a good fit for them or not.

CRAB
Little crab, just because I thought he was cute

So I hope that will happen next year, but if I need a bit more time to do it in a financially stable way, I will take that time if needed.  I’ve made some rash decisions these past few years and they have cost me financially.

I’m still trying to find my way, folks.  I wish I had all the answers.  But then, I wouldn’t have challenges or self-discovery to work through and life would be boring, right?

It’s all about the journey, right?   Thanks for reading, and especially for sticking with me if you are a longtime reader.  I’m working back to writing more regularly.

*Disclosure:  some of the links in this post may be affiliate links.

 

 

 

Why, hello there! (READ: the blog is not dead.)

If you read this whole blog post, this map will make sense. I promise.

No, the blog isn’t dead.  It’s just been on ….. life support, I guess you could say these past several months.  I am so  sorry everyone.  Let me just catch  you up on what has gone on in my life, as succintly as I can, over the last (gulp) 10 months. Read more

I’m Back – Still Finding My Way

I got a text message from my friend Heather back in ABQ yesterday, saying “Terri, we miss your blog!”  And I wrote her back saying I did too.  I have missed writing here.  So, I am back.  I’m not sure how often I will write in the future – I was writing twice a week at one point, maybe once a week is more realistic.  That will be my goal anyway.

As with all big changes in life, there has been a bit of an adjustment period, and it’s still ongoing now.  The drive from ABQ to southwest Florida took 4 days and 3 nights.  There is a limit as to how many hours I can drive in a day, and how many hours my cats could stay in their carriers before we would all collectively start to lose it.

beach.jpg

I have started numerous drafts over the past three months, always intending to finish them, but something else came up, or I just wasn’t “feeling” like the post was really “me.”  I need to stop always searching for the perfect words, or the perfect tone, and just put it out there.

It was freeing to move with only what I could fit into my car and the car-top carrier.  I miss Morgan though, a whole lot.  I know she is happy with my old roommate, and he sends me pictures of her.  She is getting along better with other dogs, and his new living situation includes another dog and they have become best friends.  I am glad to hear all that, and I know she wouldn’t be happy here in this small apartment, but still, I miss her and all of her goofiness.

sleepiy.jpg

I see pictures that friends post of ABQ, and I remember how beautiful the surrounding areas were.  I see pictures friends have posted of Lake Powell and the awe-dropping, inspiring beauty of the expansive vistas in that part of Arizona and Utah. I miss those scenes but I think back and remember how when I was living there, I just didn’t feel completely like I belonged there.  So, I remind myself, I can always visit.

I have been busy doing lots of side transcription jobs, partly out of necessity.  It’s expensive to live in this part of Florida.  Just a few miles away from me, there is a Bentley dealership.  Right next to the Maserati dealership.  Yes, you heard me right.  A Maserati dealership.  On my way to work, I pass by the Porsche dealership.  There are lots of people in this town with LOTS of money.  Many are retired.

Food is more expensive here, for sure.  But some things are free, or close to free.  I have an annual pass to the state parks, and once I change my license and tags over to Florida, I will be able to get a free beach parking permit.  (Until then, I pay for the meters close to the beaches, but since the sun is so strong, I only go for a couple hours at a time anyway, and even then, I seek out shade whenever possible.)

 

My credit card balance has risen more than I would like it to have.  That’s another reason for the extra transcription jobs. At some times, I feel hopeless about getting them back to zero.  But I remind myself that they were before, I can do it again.  It will just take hard work and discipline.  But then there is that little voice in my brain that reminds me, I can’t live to work.  It’s better to just live, so sometimes on my days off, I push the work aside and go to the beach or just take time off to hold Snuggles in my lap and love on him, or do the same with my kitties.  Because I can’t control the future.  No one can, and I don’t want to spend every moment of every day working.  If something were to happen to me and today were to be my last, I don’t want my epitaph to say, “Well, she worked really hard.”

You may be wondering if I am going to continue school.  For this fall semester at least, no.  I need time to really adjust to my new life here, and I honestly don’t think I can stomach taking out more student loans.  I have read through the Public Service  Loan Forgiveness program and think I may actually qualify.  (I think I misread some of the details in the past.)  So, I’m in the process of filling out the paperwork and figuring out how to contact my past non-profit employers such as Harvard and Best Friends so I can determine how many payments I have made toward that 120 payment requirement since 2007.  (Payments made during times of forbearance or deferment don’t count.)  I believe my present employer also qualifies.  Pray for me that my federal loan nightmare will end soon!!!

I promise to not wait another three months before posting again, I really do.  And for those of you whose blogs I have subscribed to through email, I’ve been getting the updates and reading them.  Sorry for not commenting.  Just, some nights, I have been so exhausted when I get home, I fall asleep on the couch, wake up around midnight, take Snuggles out, and then crash into bed for the next few hours. (Oh and my couch was free, as was a lot of the stuff you see in my new apartment, thanks to some very generous folks.)

I  know it’s all a matter of balance.  I just have to continue looking for it. Thanks for your patience, if you’re still a faithful reader.  I do appreciate the support.

 

 

 

 

 

Moving to Florida!!

beach 1.jpgThat’s right, I’m moving again!!

My last day at work will be May 15th, and my plan is to start driving eastward on May 17th.  I am so excited to be near a large body of water again, you have no idea!

I won’t keep you in suspense — I am going to be working at a humane society in southern Florida, on the Gulf side, or as they call it there, the “West Coast.” I’m going to be providing animal care to the animals directly, which includes bunnies!! I am also going to be working in adoption, which I have really missed doing since my time with the Animal Rescue League of Boston when I volunteered in cat adoption.

No, I don’t have experience living through hurricanes, but I’ve seen my fair share of blizzards, and well, at least you don’t have to shovel rain. 🙂

Why move back east?  Well, I have now fulfilled a bucket list item of mine, which is to have lived in the west. I used to think I had to live on the west coast, California, to be exact.  That didn’t happen but I have  lived in the southwest now for just under three years.  The landscapes out here are amazing.  Such a feeling of openness.  I have met some AMAZING people everywhere I have lived in the past three years, people that I will always call my friends, and thanks to Facebook, I can keep up with them and what’s happening in their lives.

Living in the desert or very arid climates takes some getting used to.  I have found I really miss cloudy days and days of rain, because you appreciate the good weather days all the more.  I also really miss green.  It’s part of the reason why I have tried to go to the Bosque so often while living in ABQ.  The woods reminded me of back east. And of course, there was the Rio Grande, the only large body of water around.

School is finishing up over the next few weeks, and there is no shortage of transcribing work, so I’ve had some long days over the past few weeks.  While the new humane society is giving me a stipend to move, I won’t get it until I receive my first paycheck, so I’ve been trying to save as much as I can, and work as much as I can right now.  The animal hospital is quite busy (it’s parvo season in an area of the country where it doesn’t get cold enough for that nasty virus to freeze and die.)

Once again, I plan on moving with just my car and the car top carrier.  While you look online and see smart cars towing trailers, etc., they’re really not meant for that.  A Mazda2, technically speaking, could have a trailer put on it, but I don’t want to pay for a hitch and trailer and then have something happen to my car as a result.  While it is a stick shift, it’s a 4-cylinder car and you can tell when it’s loaded down with possessions or lots of people.    It slows down.  And nothing I own really has much monetary value.  My most important items I want to move with are my pets and the urns from my pets who have already gone to heaven.  And pictures of my grandmother.

Morgan is going to stay with my roommate, who she adores.  When he’s around, I cease to have so much importance in her life, and she follows him around like, well, a lovesick puppy.  It’s actually very sweet to see.  And he clearly loves her.   I know it’s for the best where she is concerned — he can give her so much more attention than I can.   And they are calming influences on each other, but still I’m going to really miss her.

So it will be me and the cats and Snuggles making the 4 to 5 day trip.   I suspect Snuggles will spend most of the trip on my lap as Osito did a few years ago.  (Now if only he didn’t weigh about four times as much as she did!)

I’m excited at the idea of living in the same state again as my best friend and her husband, my “movie theatre husband.” 🙂   In August, they are moving to the eastern side of Florida but will only be about 120 miles away from me.  An easy drive!

I’m excited to start fresh again.  To purge what I don’t need and move with only the essentials. I suspect all my sweaters will not be making the trip with me, as will many other items.

So, I will do my best to keep blogging over the next few weeks, but during the move, I suspect this blog will stay pretty quiet.  Driving by myself, I can only handle 400 miles a day or so.  Anything more, and I start to get very sleepy while driving and that’s not safe.  I’ve built in a cushion of time for me to arrive in Florida and get what little furniture I need from neighboring thrift stores.

beach 2.jpg

In case you are wondering, the photos above are from one of the beaches only a few miles from where I will be living.  On the day I was there, the water temperature was like bath water. 🙂

More updates to come! Until then, thanks, as always, for reading!

Quick update!

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Image from pixabay.com

Hi everyone!

I know it’s been a few weeks since I last posted.  It’s been a crazy three weeks, so I just wanted to take a minute to let you know I’m still alive, and yes, this blog still matters a lot to me.

I’ve been working full time at the animal hospital, as you know.  I’ve also been doing a lot of legal transcription work which is always good for the checking account balance.  School has taken some of my time as well.

Oh, and looking to move to another part of the country – that does take some time too!  So all I will say at this point is that I am going out of town for the next few days for, wait for it…. a job interview!!

It’s been hard to concentrate on much more than my excitement about this trip and this potential job.  If I get it, I will be in a place that is warm year round, lush with greenness all around me! But best of all, I will get to work with homeless animals.  I will get to care for them directly and work at getting them adopted!  I seriously can’t wait!!

It is definitely more expensive to live in this other location, so I’ve been busy looking online, trying to figure out what I could afford if they do like me enough to offer me the job.  An RV is not out of the question, so of course I’ve been researching that a ton.  A studio would be the least complicated way to go, but of course, there is the question of my pets.  It would be me, Snuggles, and the three cats.  Morgan is going to stay with my roommate because they are a match made in heaven and he can give her more attention than I can. Plus, she just simply ADORES him.

So stay with me folks, even though I have not posted much the past few weeks.  I promise, I have not forgotten about this blog.  In fact, I’ve been reading through some of my old posts and trying to figure out how to work with some of the underlying themes of those posts and kind of shape them into chapters for my memoir that I’m working on for my writing course.  🙂

And, wish me luck!!!!! I get a good feeling about these folks.  By the way, the photo above is my hint to you as to an area close to where I will be this week.

 

Indecision . . . questioning . . . what is the “most good?”

cat-3041498_640.jpg
Image from pixabay.com 

Hi everyone!!

In case you didn’t know, I was out of town for about 11 days, from March 1st to the 11th.  Went to Boston for my dad’s memorial on March 3, and then went to Florida for a conference and to spend some time there on my own.  Since returning home, I’ve been pretty busy!!

Florida:

I LOVED Florida!! I met a lot of really nice people (one guy even gave me a big piece of finger coral which I now have sitting on my desk to remind me of my time there.)  I visited two animal sanctuaries while I was there and individual  posts will be forthcoming about those.  One was Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary in Punta Gorda, Florida (Gulf Coast side), and the other was Journey’s End Animal Sanctuary in Deland, Florida (Atlantic Coast side).  I met friends in Sarasota who I first met online via Twitter so many years ago! They were super supportive to me during my going through a divorce, so it was so nice to finally meet them and give them big hugs, and meet their kids and their dogs.

Always value the friends you make online.  For me, I think I have made some lifelong friendships that way.

I also went to a humane education conference, which was enlightening for me.  Many of the traditional humane education positions include working at an animal shelter, and with groups of kids, running things like camps and birthday parties.  I think I’ve been pretty honest on here before about my wanting to work with kids, as in, not so much.  So I need to rethink what I want to do with my humane education part of my life, going forward.  There are so many ways to use a humane education background so I’m not worried that it won’t get put to good use.

Indecision:

Many of you know I took a HUGE pay cut when I left Harvard Law Library.  HUGE.  60K HUGE. In addition to taking that cut, I can no longer put as much into retirement (of course, I no longer will need as much since my priorities as to what I need to be comfortable have changed). I also get much less time off, and the health benefits through my current company are not great.

I’ve been struggling with the notion of discontinuing the formal schooling of humane education and trying to get positions just based on what I already know and my background of experiences.  I’ve been told by a few people that I don’t need to do anymore school.  So, most likely, this semester is my last.

No education is ever wasted.  I have learned so much during these past two semesters, especially regarding how I communicate about certain issues, and my word choices.   My teachers have asked us to respond to tough questions, and they are so supportive.  I wish I had had them earlier on in my life, because I think my career path would have taken a much different path.  But….you can’t change or shape the past, only your future, so onward and forward!!

You can’t change or shape the past, only your future, so onward and forward!

Determining “most good”

I’ve been struggling with the idea of how I can do the most good for animals.  Is it by working with them directly?  Or by working at a job that  pays more but might not be necessarily working with them in a hands-on manner, or with an organization specifically dedicated to improving the rights and lives of animals?  I know, only I can know the answer to these questions.

I have seen law library jobs posted (including one at my former employer, Harvard) which I know I am qualified for.  Obviously, they pay more than one that has me working directly with animals.  Working at a job like that again would help to engage the intellectual part of my brain during those hours when I am working for my paycheck and can make a positive impact on my bank account balance.  I could help to donate more  money to causes about which I care.  All of those details are positives.

I think you know when you are doing the “most good” when you are excited to do something every day.  A lot of people say that you don’t have to change the world for all animals, as long as you change the world of a few.  Well, I think I’ve done that for some, but I also don’t feel like I’m way near the completion of improving the lives of many, many animals.

Quandaries:

There is this difficult psychological hurdle to get over when considering returning to a former type of career.  While I know that all life experiences are learning opportunities, a small part of me thinks that by returning to such a life, I’m giving up on my dreams.  Admitting defeat.

The rational side of my brain knows that if I were to go back to being a librarian, I’m not giving up on my dreams.  I’m just making a trade-off.  I might be able to help a larger number of animals if I can donate more, financially, to the cause of animal welfare.  And I will still be able to volunteer on my days off.

But, will I be happy?  Read on, below. 🙂

Trusting my Intuition and Making Decisions:

I have spent some time talking to good friends and a trusted teacher.  She asked me a question that really helped me think.  She told me to imagine that I had interviewed for my old job, gotten it, and was getting ready to return to Boston.  How did I feel?

I hesitated for a bit.  My intuition knew the answer.  My brain just felt hesitant in saying it.  But once I said my answer aloud, it was like I was giving myself permission to say good bye to a portion of my life.  The answer was “I feel like I have a pit in my stomach.  That’s how it makes me feel.”

I also told my professor that as I see jobs listed for animal sanctuaries or shelters, I get excited about applying and the possibilities that are out there for me to explore.  And that tells me something about myself.  I just can’t go back to a job that I once held, without knowing I have exhausted all avenues of finding the right place for me, first. Does that make any sense?

The long and short of it is that I will never be  a rich person, not in the monetary sense.  And I think I have finally made peace with that.  I just spent the past 6 1/2 hours today volunteering at a spay and neuter clinic along with so many other people who had given up their free time to provide a much-needed service in New Mexico and so many other places. It felt amazing.

You know something else?  I didn’t feel like what I did today at the spay and neuter clinic was work.  The time flew.  To me, that’s how I know I was doing what I needed to be doing and what I am meant to be doing.

I didn’t want to leave but knew I had to, as I have homework and freelance work to do today, and maybe get a visit in at the gym or a run at the Bosque.  (I’ve begun work with another transcription company as a legal transcriptionist.  It’s a small company, which I like.  The CEO even called me last week to welcome me aboard as a contractor and in his words, to collaborate on projects.)  I like that when I am working on a new transcription project, I’m always learning about a new topic.

Looking forward:

I have an interview this week via Skype for a position I think I am well suited for, and for an organization that is rapidly growing, so I like the idea of the potential growth something like that can include.  I’m not one of those people who needs to feel like they are always moving upward in a job to feel like they are successful.  But I do like the idea of being able to contribute a lot.  So WISH ME LUCK!  (And if it doesn’t come through, then I know the right place and job is still out there, waiting.  The right place is out there.   I just have to have hope that we will find each other.)

And thanks for reading as always, and being patient these past few weeks since I last posted.  Now that I am back in ABQ, for now, anyway, I will try to get back on track with more regular posting.

Have you ever had to make a decision between taking the safe route or finding your way to a destination unknown?