Updated as of June 2019: If you have a dream, you have to do more than just think about it. Take at least one small step toward it every day. That’s my philosophy. I’ve always been one of those folks who researches everything before they do it, or decide to buy something. So, of course, … Read more About Me
If you’ve just stumbled across my blog, or even if you’ve been a long time reader (in which case, I thank you wholeheartedly!), you know that I am a huge animal lover. So much so that I have my own little *herd* as I like to call them. I try to post pics of them … Read more The Herd
Oh, I wish I was talking about me!! Today is Wednesday. Hump Day. So, I thought you might like an overdose of cuteness to get you through the day. You can thank The Herd, aka the laziest supervisors ever, for their willingness to work so hard at sleeping and relaxing. It’s a hard job but someone has to do it, right?
I’ve been wanting to write for the past couple days and this is a faster one to get up here for you to remind you that no, I’m not dead. 🙂 My hardest decision about this post is which picture to make as The Designated Picture!
So without further adieu, here are some photos of The Herd, doing what they do best, other than pooping and eating. (And yes, Steel, the German Shepherd, who is an honorary member of the Herd until May 2020, when his dad (my roommate) and I will go our separate ways, has even joined in on the fun.) Many were taken from my office. While I slave away to make enough money to put food in their bowls on the floor (dogs) or on the dresser (cats, in order to keep it away from the dogs), they all work soooo hard. #notesarcasm
But yes….they really are my reason for existing and for living.
What is your reason for living and for working so hard? Drop me a comment below and share, if you can, pictures of your babies!!
First, I just wanted to say a big thank you to those of you who commented on my last post, whether it be through here or on my personal Facebook page. I felt a lot of love, knowing some of you were still out there, reading whatever I have to say. So, thank you. Because of you, and how I felt that day after writing, I will continue to write.
I have a friend who is also my personal finance accountability partner, Liz. When we are thinking of making some financial choices, we bounce them off of each other. Our financial situations are very different – she lives in D.C. and makes a very good salary and JUST PAID OFF MORE THAN 100K IN STUDENT LOAN DEBT! But as you can imagine, her living expenses are much higher due to the geographical area. I make peanuts but we realize we have made different decisions about how our lives are going right now. I will say it’s great that she also loves what she does.
Okay. I’ll get to the point. She calculated how much extra I needed to earn these next few months to be able to pay off what I estimate will be owed on my taxes. At first, I said I didn’t think I could do it. Surprisingly, this month, I think I did it. Yay! I had let my own thoughts limit me in the past in what I could achieve. However, I am FREAKING exhausted. So I have given myself today to not do any work at all. Just read, blog, and volunteer at the Peace River Wildlife Center, which has become my happy place on the weekends when I am not traveling to see my boyfriend.
I took a walk through an eco-preserve near me the other day. It’s a place where I normally jog, oh so slowly. Thursday is usually reserved for a spin class at 9 a.m. but my body and mind was just exhausted so I decided to just walk it and I was so happy to pull into the parking area and see that I was all alone, save for the park employee cleaning the bathrooms. I hope you enjoy the pictures scattered throughout this post. These images, seared into my memory, helped me get through the past two days of work. Apologies for not being a better photographer.
Wherever I end up after this lease is up in May, I will find another beautiful place that heals me. I was inspired to take this walk after seeing this YouTube video from Jane Berkel. Her channel is Simple Living Mind Body Home. I find Jane’s voice to be so calming. (Shout out to Double Digit Single Woman or DDSW for short, for turning me onto this lady’s channel. Btw, DDSW has also paid off over $150K in student loans!)
While I was walking, thoughts of work and finances occasionally made their way into my head but I pushed them out of the way. I thought to myself how nature, these trees, these leaves and the birds I could hear in the distance didn’t care about any of that. They existed anyway. Like that moment many years ago when I realized I could choose to be unhappy and feel a lot of pain every day, or I could choose to forgive myself for whatever wrong decisions or mistakes I had made, I realized I had a choice to make that day and every day.
The choice is mine. I can choose to be stressed or I can choose to be in the moment. I chose to just absorb all the beauty around me.
Once again, many moons or months have passed since my last post. I’ve started quite a few since then, only to never finish them. I start writing and then I think, who even cares to read my drivel anymore? And is there anyone even out there still reading anything I write? It’s not like I’ve been consistent lately. (Understatement of the year.)
Since I’ve been doing transcription full-time, it is hard for me to rationalize writing on here and then typing about 70 pages a day. I know I should start the writing before the transcribing, because sometimes my fingers literally hurt at the end of the day. So maybe write posts on the days that I am mainly just audio proofing and therefore not typing so much? Anyway, it’s hard to believe I’ve been self-employed now for over a year. 15 months as of February to be exact.
Well, The Herd has grown by one since my last writing. Her name is Babs and she is a gorgeous calico cat whose previous fur mom died. Her human sister and I had a mutual friend who posted her picture and story on Facebook and one thing led to another. And well, Babs traveled across the country from LA to Jacksonville, Florida, where I picked her up and drove her back down to the Ft. Myers area. You know how I love my senior furballs.
As I mentioned in my last post, I am looking to move in May sometime as our lease is up at the end of that month. Thinking very seriously about the St. Pete/Clearwater area and its environs. Cheaper to live, more liberal and more people around my age. Down here there are a lot of 20-somethings and then there are a bunch of much older folks, like those who have been able to retire and live off of their savings or pensions or what have you. Really hard to make friends when you work at home and aren’t into the bar scene. I do volunteer at a wildlife center on the weekends when I am in town and I love it. But it’s not really a great way to make lasting friends since the volunteers change a lot on the weekends.
I have been dating someone now for the past few months. Yay! He’s about 5 yrs older than me and is very positive with his mindset. Also into fitness. Another yay! He lives north of Orlando. Boo! But he has two sons in the St. Pete/Clearwater area, so many times we meet halfway for both of us, around St. Pete. Or, I go up his way for a weekend, since I can take my work with me and he usually works 6 days a week due to staff shortages. (He works as a fitness director.) Oh, and he’s liberally minded and open to eating vegan or vegetarian food when he’s with me. Yay! Neither one of us makes a lot of money so it’s good that we like to spend time in parks, going for walks/visiting the beach, etc. We plan to go indoor rock climbing together in Tampa the next time we are up there.
The finances — eh, they’re there. Still working on improving them and increasing my income. Working with several different companies is helping in that I never have a shortage of work. I also learn about different types of proceedings and how they need to be transcribed, as well as from different jurisdictions. I won’t bore you with the details, but it does make my work more interesting as well.
So that’s about all that has changed. I have realized that being a nomad is just too difficult when you have as many furballs as me. I can’t afford nor would I want to drive around a huge Class A at this point. A Class C might work, but I would always be terrified about any of them getting out or being unhappy, and that is no way to live. Plus, living the RV life isn’t always that cheap, and I really do love being near the water. Even if you live somewhere inland like where my boyfriend lives, you are still just an hour away from a huge body of water like the Atlantic. To do the RV thing more cheaply means you live in the desert southwest or where there is a lot of BLM land, and I really need the greenery that I have around me here. I have come to realize that. I do miss the wide open spaces of the southwest though.
There are always compromises, aren’t there?
Anyway, I wanted to write this post while I had the ambition to do so, and while my hands weren’t hurting from typing 15-20,000 words in a day. Yes, you read that right. Not a typo.
Thank you to Dawn from Change is Hard for inspiring me to write this evening, after dropping a comment on my blog letting me know she was thinking about me. I admire her ability to blog so consistently. And if you haven’t read her blog or seen her pictures, well, you’re really missing something.
Again, I do want to write more. It’s just hard when you feel like you don’t have much to say, or you do feel like you have something to say but feel the need to earn an income for your furballs and put a bowl of food on the floor for them. Life, right? I’m not complaining. I love working from home and watching my babies sleep (seemingly all day, lol.)
Sooo much sleeping goes on during the day here. Sometimes I even join them. It cracks me up to go lay down on my bed and then hear the pitter patter of little feet as they wake up from their naps, only to realize that Mom has moved. So they pick their bodies up, stretch, and then come in and lay back down next to me. Sometimes, the bed is very crowded… LOL.
Anyway, I feel like I sound like a broken record when I say that I am sorry for the long lengths of time between posts. Thanks for reading if you made it this far. At least some of the photos were cute, right?
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!