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.

25 thoughts on “Defining (and choosing?) priorities

  • Terri, I know what you mean about changing your mind. I think I’m the “King” of that. I got a degree in Civil Engineering right out of high school. That field bored me to tears…then on to school to be a forest ranger (which I didn’t finish), then in my forties went back to school to be a physical therapist assistant (which I didn’t finish). I’m to the point now that I usually don’t tell my family what I want to do next because they probably are thinking…”Oh, here he goes again” Lol. Anyway, I guess my point is: Our minds aren’t static and change all the time…sometimes this helps us to zero in on our true life purpose. There are so many people here in Kansas that are perfectly fine with working their mind-numbing jobs (that they hate) for 40 yrs. until their bodies break down, and then retire. So, you keep dreaming and changing your mind..its how we grow. Great post as usual Terri.

    • Gary, that idea of working at a job I hate for so many years just depresses the crap out of me. So many people feel trapped, I think. They don’t think for themselves and think “hey, maybe I don’t need everything everyone else does.” Hearing of your many stops and starts does make me feel better, I know I’m not alone. And as my friend (Wander Dano) tells me, it’s good to be working through all of these thoughts before making such a big change. You’re right though, I am definitely growing as a person and learning more and more about myself every day.

      • I hadn’t had a chance to, but after i read this comment of yours last night, I started it. Have just a few pages left to go and yes, it does help. Thanks, Gary.

  • I was going to comment that you sound like a perfect person for a tiny house, and then saw that you have several tiny house blogs on your blogroll!

    We moved from FL (my advice, DON’T move to FL) to western NC last spring and so far just love it here. Mountains, definite seasons but so far summer was very mild (used the AC six times) and fall was a delight. We’ll see about winter. This is a popular retirement town and is extremely animal-friendly. Not too far from Nantahalah Outdoor Center and the Smokies, so lots of outside things to do. We lived in NM near the Four Corners area for several years, which is very different from anything in the East. You have so many different environments to consider! And I agree, pay attention to the people who live in the community; they can make or break a place. The small town we lived in in FL was a nightmare because of the people living there.

    Good Luck!!

    • Hi Peggy, oh yes, I have heard such bad things about Florida – the economy, the hurricanes, you name it… My dad lives in Hendersonville, NC, and it seems like a pretty decent town, and the weather is very nice. He and I are just not that close, so…

      What did you think about the Four Corners area or the southwest? The weather, the people, the economy?

      Oh and tiny houses – Peggy, they have been an obsession of mine for so long now. I would love to have my own but I can’t afford to have someone else build it for me, and I live in a city now, so there is absolutely no place to start building it short of renting some huge storage space, and not to mention that I have absolutely no handywoman skills!

  • Terri…nothing wrong with changing your mind.. Thinking things through, before making costly decisions, is always wise.. With your debt being so high, and affecting your life in a negative way, I would not move until I had everything mapped out. It seems like that’s the direction you are going, and that’s a good thing.. Here are a few things to think about… You live in a very expensive part of the U.S., according to statistics, and you are considering moving to very expensive parts of the U.S. To help you get out of debt you may want to reconsider where to live, which might allow you to get out of debt quicker. The winters in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado can also be tough.. You might want to consider moving to states with a lower cost of living and no individual income tax. If you don’t mind hot summers, and mild winters, then Austin, Tx. has a lot of what you are looking for.. Check it out online…. Texas also has no state income tax. Housing cost in Texas remain one of the best deals in the U.S. If you want to live where there are mountains, snow, and an ocean (who wouldn’t want that) then Washington may be a better choice, but once again, west coast states can be a very expensive place to live.. With your educational background I would think a lot of companies would welcome you as part of their team, no matter where you want to live or work. I wish you only the best with all of your hopes and dreams. It’s these hopes and dreams that can make the daily grind so much more bearable. … The good is that you have so much going for you, no matter where you choose to live….Enjoyed reading your post…

    • Cary, when I did a google search the other night, on the cheapest places to live in the US, guess which state showed up three times in the list? You’re right…Texas! Are some parts of Texas not humid in the summer? (I’ve been to San Antonio, and god, it was disgusting….and yes, it was in July.) I deal with hot summers now already but they are humid here in the northeast and it’s just gross. I personally am looking for mild winters – it’s one of my main priorities and reasons to consider places, actually. What did you find about the people in Austin, by the way?

      • Hi Terri… Here is a nice an informative, as well as entertaining post on Austin, Tx.:

        Austin is about 90 miles from San Antonio, and so yes it’s humid in Austin during the summer. To escape harsh cold winters, one must go South, and thus the humidity.. or go west… As you know humidity is much more tolerable in cool weather than hot weather.. Texas has 8 nice months of weather, October – May, and 4 months of hot and humid weather. I guess it’s just a compromise people are willing to make.. Everyone I have met, that is from up north, tells me the humid summers are much easier to deal with than the very cold winters from your area.

        I’ve lived in Colorado, and I just think the cost of living is too high.. The really nice areas are either the ski towns, or areas close to the ski towns and thus they have resort prices. You can’t deny the beauty the state has to offer, and their summers are so nice.

        I’ve been to Seattle on several occasions, and I must admit I love that city. However, their winters are long, cold, and very wet. Add to that the cost of living is very high..In fact the entire west coast has a very high cost of living.

        This I know… Everyone is different and so only you know where you will be happy. Life is about compromise sometimes, and you will have to decide your priorities. I think a person can be happy almost anywhere they feel loved, secure, and can be around friends and family…

        One last note… This is a long shot… but I will throw it out there for you… I have met several women in my area, Houston, Tx, that are pet groomers. Some work at pet grooming shops, and some have their own mobil pet grooming service. They love working with animals, and they are very good at their jobs. Their is a big demand for pet groomers, and thus they are rewarded financially. There are schools that train you how to groom animals.. The mobil groomers make the most money, set their own hours, and work out of the van or trailer…

        Ok my posts are way too long…. sorry….

      • Cary, never apologize for the length of your comments. They are always well thought out and much appreciated by me, so please keep them coming. I like your long shot idea, I’ll see if I can look into pet grooming schools too. I was worried it might not pay enough to cover the bills.

        Colorado – yes, I have heard it is expensive. And I really do hate the snow, so I think it may be out for those reasons. I did notice in that article I read on inexpensive towns, there were two places located near each other – Harlingen, Texas, and McAllen, Texas. I noticed they are also in the “blue” part of the state, which is kind of important to me. However, every time I read about some place that has such a low cost of living (as they do), I also hear or read about the job prospects not being good. It’s like, you have to spend money to be able to make money, and it’s so frustrating…that said, I like the idea of those towns because at least they are on the coast. If I’m going to sweat to death from humidity, I’d at least like an ocean or gulf breeze, you know?

        I’m ok with wet, I really am. As long as I don’t have to shovel it. I even actually prefer running in overcast weather (as it will be today for my morning run). So rain doesn’t bother me. It’s the snow and bitter chilly cold up here that bothers me. I did find a website the other night that has you answer a bunch of questions and tries to help you figure out where you might be happy living. I’ll share the results on here when I do it.

        As always, Cary, I appreciate all your very thoughtful comments.

  • I try to not make plans anymore because they generally don’t stick. I’m too wishy washy and just wing it these days.

    An RV still might be your best option. A lot of apts/landlords have restrictions on the numbers of pets you can have in order to rent their units. You’ll likely also have surcharges on top of that if you can find a place.

    Maybe you can still buy a larger trailer by coming out west in a smaller vehicle or plane and then purchasing a trailer out there. You can tow it via rented truck/van, find a friend with a large vehicle or hire someone. That should get you by for a while or for good if you plan on staying in the same general area. If you plan on moving more often after that, you’ll need new friends because the initial one who helped you will have ditched you, having a truck sets you up for doing favors or continue to rent/hire a truck until you buy one.

    There’s always the option of a used Class A RV. You’ll have to overcome the fears of driving a large rig. With a Class A RV, you have the space necessary for your miny zoo and option for towing a small cheap car. Cost should be similar to an SUV and trailer that you had planned.

    • Ramen, I hear you on the possibility that some folks have restrictions on the number of pets that are allowed. I mentioned it to the med student at the doctor’s office who is from WA and she said she hadn’t heard of that happening near her. I am hoping that if i can offer a sizeable security deposit to allay their fears, and let them know of my background with animals, volunteering, plus have a letter signed by my current landlord, that that may make things work out. I’m prepared to take a while to find a place. I can be a power real estate shopper/apt finder when I get out there.

      So what is your newest plan or thought?

      • That sounds like a plan to me. You can always post a housing wanted/needs ad in the area and someone might be sympathetic to cause.

        My plans are still the same. Truck and toyhauler. Got my truck, toy hauler should be coming along soon. I’m currently accessorizing the truck and spending way too much money doing so =)

        Have you been to Washington state in recent years? With the legalization of pot there, seems like a breeding ground for the degenerates. Might be good to spend a week out there. Find a cheap place on airbnb and scout the area.

      • I definitely want to scout the area I decide to move to, in advance. I was thinking to spend about 5-7 days somewhere, see if I like it, and if so, find a place to live. You’ll have to email me a pic of the truck as you are blinging it out (lol.)

        They also kind of legalized pot here too, and so far, I don’t see MA changing rapidly into degenerates, but your point is well taken.

  • Oh sweetie . . . 59 years and counting and I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up! I do know that I LOVE my outdoor lifestyle and surround myself with people who love it too. There is no place I’d rather be than living on the coast. That said, Northern CA is not cheap to live.

    I lived in a 29 foot travel trailer for 4 years (while building my house) with my three cats. My guys were indoor/outdoor cats and had my 5 1/2 acres and several hundred more of open space to wander so no real stress. Cats are very adaptable and if dogs get walked everyday everyone should be chill. You can build in places for the cats to climb around and in the right circumstances you could do a screened in porch if they’re indoor guys. Don’t give up on your RV or tiny house idea so quick.

    I don’t know much about Washington but I’ve heard things are generally pet friendly. I like Ramen’s idea of spending a week or so wherever you think you might want to move and pursue housing, etc.

    It’s nice to have options in life. Anything you pursue, degrees, certifications, and ideas are never wasted. It’s all life experience and it’s a beautiful thing : )

    • Darris, I’ve actually been hoping that if I do move out to the NW, I could look to (at first, anyway) rent a small house. It seems like out there, it’s much more frequent that you see tiny houses for rent (well, not super tiny, but you know, like 500 sq feet or 1 bedroom, 1 bath houses.) Around here, that doesn’t happen too often.

      I have definitely thought of something like what Ramen suggests. Before I move cross country, I want to check the area out and possibly find a place to live in advance. So yes, I have been thinking of taking a trip out west next spring or summer. Depending on where it is, I have a friend or two with whom I could ask to stay with as a base camp too. But i like airbnb, sometimes there are even tiny houses available on there! 🙂 Oh, and yes, all my cats are indoor guys. Living in the city, they have to be.

      And thanks, Darris, I love how you say you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. 🙂 I’m 42 today and am still figuring it out.

  • I’m always suspicious of folks who have done the same thing, lived in the same town, drank the same water all their life 🙂 After the recent election, as a woman I’d stay out of TX. My son lives in Seattle – cold and wet in the winter, beautiful late spring to early fall, mostly liberal (few degenerates), extremely pet friendly (dog walkers make a great living), reasonable rent, public transportation, several educational institutions, unlimited outdoor areas to enjoy, big city amenities. Still, he plans to take off in a camper van in a couple years and find another place to land – because he can. Oh, and yes he has debt and no high-paying job.
    Knowing and working your priorities is key IMHO and yours certainly sound reasonable and focused.
    Personally, I’d be doing everything on this end to save enough to just get out next Spring. Get 90-120 day supply of prescriptions. If you try to pay for education now you’ll never get out. Go find a job where you really want to be and then figure out the education piece from there. There will never be a perfect time, with everything perfectly lined up, and time is just going to keep passing. A small RV of some kind gives you transportation across country without having to find a pet friendly place to stay on the way and a place to live in immediately when you get there. It gives you a place to live while you get your first pay checks in the bank. The animals will be fine wherever you are.
    Scary yes, but not as scary as staying in the soul-sucking situation you seem to be in!
    You certainly inspire long winded comments from all of us – guess you struck a cord 🙂

    • HI Jodee, thank you so much for writing. When you say to get out next spring, do you mean because of the weather? Because believe me, I’d love nothing more than to move next spring and be there for the beautiful weather. The only reason I was planning on staying here through next August was so that I could have my full 8 weeks of vacation time accrued (Which definitely helps with savings, nest-egg wise.)

      You must have heard my doctor talking to me yesterday. She said I should stockpile my medications right now – with the asthma stuff that i have weaned myself off of, it’s expensive, but right now i have good health insurance, so she said to get it now. If I need it in the future, then I’m not “Stuck.”

      My concern with moving out there with an RV is that that is a big chunk of change to put out there before I move. And then when I get there, I still need to worry about probably paying anywhere from 400-800 for a monthly spot at a campground. (I’ve checked some of them out.) and for the drive out there – well, I’d try to make as good time every day as possible so as to not have to stay too many nights in pet friendly motels or hotels. I have a sis in MI, but I know her husband is allergic to cats, so….

      You bring up a good point about moving and then figuring out the education piece. I was thinking if I went to a college like out in Bellingham, WA, I could move out there first and establish in state residency to save myself some dollars. And who knows, maybe while I’m out there, I’ll find something I want to do without needing any more education.

      And yes, I remember the movie Thelma and Louise and how one of them really didn’t want to go through Texas. I hate to make this kind of stereotype, but the state kind of scares me. Lot of red zones in that state. i know there are pockets of blue, but…

      Thanks for telling me about your son.

  • You might want to check out Moab Utah . Great running , mountain biking , canyoning , rivers , all round outdoorsy place . Not too big , not too small . Amazing landscapes . Animal friendly . Never been there in the winter but it can’t last too long I bet . Looks like a good folk music festival there this week end .

    • Thanks, Jeff! I did look it up after you suggested it and unfortunately it looks really small, so the job prospects are not that great. But wow, is it gorgeous!! Actually, what I read of it, the winter is not bad at all. 🙂

      • Did you check out the Moab advertiser ? Or ? Looked like quite a few jobs . One in outdoor rec , Montessori school assistant , waitstaff and cooks ; looked like some good chances to get started in a beautiful place .

      • I looked at the Advertiser – was looking to see what rents were, primarily. I actually want to work with animals, so I didn’t see a lot listed. But i have a feeling that if I get a job working with animals, I’m likely going to need to supplement that income somehow to make ends meet.

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