Hopes. Tears. Stronger.

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The Rio Grande at sunset

I hope that each of you out there has a place that they can go to that acts as an aid to help you breathe more deeply and feel more settled.  For me, that is the bosque (woods) near Tingley Beach in Albuquerque.  It’s right along the Rio Grande River.  Whenever I go there, there is a sense of the familiar, which is comforting, but also there’s always something new that I see or observe, and that’s also comforting in its own way.  Usually, I’m there with Morgan, but occasionally, it’s just me.  I love to hear the sounds of the birds calling to one another, or the wind in the trees above me.  On very windy days, I get to see the tumbleweeds blow across the trail in front of me.  And it’s on those days that there seems to be a certain urgency in the air, and I can see it in Morgan’s face when she walks in front of me.  She occasionally looks back to make sure I’m still there with her and I always assure her that yes, Mommy’s right here.

I’m feeling something here in Albuquerque that I haven’t felt in a long time.  I’m not sure i can put the right word(s) to it, but I’ll try.  I feel more like myself.  Running in the woods, it reminds me of how I used to run along the shores of the Charles River in Boston, and how I would run through the trails of the trees and relish the feel of the packed earth below my feet, watching the flow of the water so close to me.  I remember the instant boost of energy I used to feel when I would see the crew teams out practicing on the river, and I would think, “if they can keep going, then so can I.”   Here, along the Rio Grande, there are no such crew teams, but there is the current of the river, and the call of birds flying overhead, and on the river’s surface.  It’s a different boost of energy that I get.  The same, but yet different.

I see runners in front of and behind me, and feel like I’m slowly finding my tribe again.  I’ll never be at the same speed I used to, but that’s no longer the most important thing to me.  Now it’s the ability to get out there, and run for myself, and for my dog, Morgan, who is my usual running partner these days.  We get to share in the beauty of being outdoors, and getting exercise, and running the “crazy” out of ourselves.  I’ve realized she is a great companion to me.  Just like her mom, she’s always wanting to get out there and explore, and I talk with her about our adventures that we go on every day.  I feel less scared to explore things when I’m with her.  I know she has my back, just as I do, hers.

I’ve met a friend in town who I feel like I can talk to easily, as if we’ve known each other for years.  I can’t tell you how much that means to me after having felt unsettled for the past 16 months or so.  Knowing I was meeting people that I sometimes connected really well with, but just feeling like I hadn’t found my “place” yet that I was searching for.   No one will ever replace my best friend Sarita back in Boston, of course (she’s my little sis that I never had), but it feels really good to connect with a kindred spirit again.  Someone who just seems to “get” you.  Someone who accepts you for what you are and bring to the table.

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Sitting near one of the duck ponds at Tingley Beach, which is across the street from a beautiful golf course.  I just thought to myself, “yeah, this is where I need to be in my life right now.”

My job is challenging in some ways, but I feel like I’m in the right place for myself to be right now.  It’s challenging to see animals suffering, and also the suffering of their parents, whether it be for financial reasons, or just health problems that can’t be solved.  As I sit in the visiting room with folks preparing to say their final goodbyes to their loved furry ones, I’m often told “I don’t know how you folks do this every day.”  Truth be told, I don’t know either.  I just know that if there is a way that I can try to ease the pain of those moments for someone, I will do my best.  It’s hard to know when someone might appreciate a hug, or when you should ask them a question to make them smile or remember  a happier time in their pet’s life, but I do my best.  And more than one has made me shed a tear.  Last week was the hardest.  Several DOAs, and some very tough euthanasias.  It was a Sunday shift that I thought would never end.  Thankfully, it finally did.  Maybe I won’t end up becoming a vet tech after all.  I’m not sure.  I just know I’m good with people and with animals, and for right now, I’m not second guessing what it is I’m doing with my life.  If other people think I’m wasting my potential, so be it.  I will decide what is right for me, not someone else.

My life here is a humble existence, and a simple one.  I have a small apartment, but a lot of furry love surrounds me every day.  As I sit and type this, Callie sits behind me on the chair, purring away.  I look at the others, and see them all sleeping soundly away and that makes me feel at peace.  I’m able to provide the basic necessities for all of us, and that’s good for me.  I don’t need a lot to feel happy, or at least content.

At times, I do wish I had someone to share my life with again.  If you’re on facebook, you know how it likes to show you “memories” of posts from the past.  I was reminded yesterday that it had been about three years since I last spoke to my ex-boyfriend, six months after he had unexpectedly and very suddenly broken up with me on a trans-atlantic phone call from the Middle East.  That call brought some much needed closure to me, but I now realize it’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way about someone, and part of me wonders if I ever will again.  Am I broken if I don’t feel that way again?  Am I just hiding from the potential of being judged by someone, and found lacking?  Is this a mode of self-protection, or is it fear holding me back from growing in that way again?  I’m not sure, honestly.  I’m still trying to figure that one out.

This is the post I wrote about that relationship, three years ago.  I just read it over to myself, and I’m glad to say that yes, I’m still getting a little bit stronger every day.  Learning about myself and realizing I may never achieve all my goals and dreams, but the journey really is in the time spent figuring them out.  It’s the growing that takes place along that path, that journey.  Because I know myself well enough now to know that whenever I achieve one dream, I’ll always be looking for another dream to latch onto.   Three years ago, I thought once I figured out a dream to chase, I had to do it NOW, NOW, NOW, and my friend Dan knows how often I used to obsess about and change my dreams on an almost day to day basis.  (That he is still friends with me now shows me that I have been blessed since I decided to go on life on my own, leaving what everyone has been taught should be their dream:  the marriage, the house, the good paying job, etc.)

If I were to die tomorrow, would I feel like some things were unfinished?  Yes.  Definitely.  But would I be able to die more satisfied, knowing that I had finally started to open up to my fears and hopes,  and acknowledge that I’ve been truer to myself in the past seven years or so, than I ever was before then, in my life.  Life isn’t about being comfortable.  For me, it’s about growing, and learning, and loving.

I’m not sure where this post came from, honestly, but it’s one that I feel has been trying to make its way out of me over the past few days.  I’m not sure I’ve even expressed all my thoughts the way that I really want to, but I now know it’s better to have tried than not to have tried at all.

Thanks for reading. And I’ll close with the video that I included in my post three years ago:  A Little Bit Stronger, by Sara Evans.  Still true, today.

 

My Debt….Journey out of Hell

I know there’s a saying that says if you find yourself in hell, just keep walking, because eventually you will get yourself out of it. The other day, I did something scary, but necessary. Except for my federal loans, I added up all of my debt. (The federal loans are just too overwhelming to grasp.) And here’s what the picture looks like (avert your eyes if you don’t want to be scared, or is it scarred, for life?!)

Tower Garden: $407.70
Capital One credit card: $2,651.65
Citibank credit card: $3,929.69
Auto Loan (through a credit union): $6,005.16
AES Loan (private student loan): $10,567.09

Grand Total (again, avert your eyes if you need to): $23,561.29

My gross income is just barely above that. As Dave Ramsey would say, I don’t have a debt problem, but an income problem. So I plan on trying to find a second job if I can. Or, finding a way to make money online. Some of you have given me good ideas in the past.

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Rio Grande River, as seen from the Tingley Beach open space area

I’ve also listened a lot to a podcast called Budgets and Cents. The “Budgets” part of the podcast is Cait Flanders, and she went on a shopping ban for one year. After the first year, she decided to continue it for a second year. During that time, she only bought essentials like food.She had a pair of jeans that ripped and she eventually had to replace them. When her one hoodie just got completely gross, she got another one, but only after months of looking for the perfect hoodie. It might seem a bit extreme, but it did help her to really appreciate the stuff she did have. I know it will help me too, even as I continue to get rid of stuff I have accumulated over the past year, but realize I really don’t need. Every dollar I save by not shopping for stuff, will go to the debt.

So, I’ve decided to do something similar. I’m not going to shop for things I don’t need. Just groceries for myself and for the furry ones, pretty much. And I am going to start checking out all the free things to do in Albuquerque. There are actually quite a few free museums that I can take a look at, ranging from the atomic bomb to meteorites! After all, part of the reason I moved to a city was to take advantage of amenities a city has, that a smaller town does not. I’ve already been checking out a lot of the free open public spaces and am really enjoying checking them all out with Morgan. We both get the fresh air and exercise we need.  So, occasionally, I may pay to go into a museum or some place like the Botanical Garden that does have an entrance fee. But I will space those out accordingly. I know if I don’t treat myself occasionally, this won’t work. I just have to remember, it’s ok to treat yourself, but in moderation.

I am going to keep my gym membership to Planet Fitness. It’s only $21/month and working out is once again, very important to me.  It all works together.  It’s helping my morale improve, and I am liking the way I look in the mirror, more.  Same thing with my running sneakers – if they wear out, I’m going to replace them. One thing I do know that it is worth spending money on is good sneakers if you want to run. Since my health insurance at my new job (once it kicks in, in January) has a high deductible, I need to focus on eating well, and staying healthy. Luckily, those are two things I already realize the importance of.

So, you will notice that up above, the debts are arranged in order from smallest to largest. I plan on paying off the tower garden first. I plan on taking a couple hundred out of savings, and then paying the rest out of my paychecks. (I’m not using it in this apartment since I heard that roaches like water, and well, it’s a hydroponic system. So I may try to sell it online.)  Then, the money I was paying to that every month (about $81) will go toward the Capital One card. I’ve found that gas here is cheaper than it was in Lake Powell (it was a tourist destination, so no surprise there), so whatever I budget for but don’t use per month, is going to go the debt payoff. I get paid $10 every month from  my credit union for having my checking account with them, having money directly deposited, and using my debit card a certain number of times. So, guess where that is going?!

I am paid way ahead (about 5 years) on that AES student loan, so I plan on making smaller than the full payments every month of $167.  It accrues about $27 in interest every month, so I plan on paying more than $27, but also paying it every two weeks, when I get paid. You see, student loans are different than other types of loans. The interest accrues daily. So while it may not seem like a lot, every little bit can help. It’s kind of like paying off your mortgage twice a month instead of just once a month. It shortens the loan time.  (I just paid $20 on it this morning.) The money that I am not paying toward the AES loan will go toward the Capital One card. That should help  a lot since the Capital One card has a higher interest rate.

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one of the few moments in which I could get Morgan to sit still on  our walk at Tingley Beach

The Citibank card is currently on a 0% interest rate, and I need to check to see when it ends. It was 21 months when I signed up, so I think I have another year or so. If that time comes up, and it’s not paid off (the likely scenario), then I will transfer it to another credit card which is giving 0% interest for a certain number of months. Then I will snowball what I had been paying on the Capital One card into the minimum payment on the Citibank card, and then on to the car, and then on to the AES loan at the end. The car loan has a low interest rate so a lot of my $142 monthly payment goes to paying off principal.

So yes, this is the snowball method. It’s different from picking the debt with the highest interest rate, but it does provide you with more “wins” and let’s face it, handling money is an emotional thing. If it wasn’t, we would all be millionaires, right?!

I’ve updated my direct deposit with my work – luckily, they allow you to put your paycheck into 5 different accounts! So from every paycheck, I will be saving for the annual or semi-annual bills that come up, like renter’s insurance, car insurance, etc. That way, when the bill comes due, the money is there. And I am also continuing to save to go to my brother’s wedding in Florida in May.

I watched this video earlier today via the His and Her Money youtube channel, and I was definitely inspired. This girl started out making $15K per year and she owed $25K on her student loans. She paid it off in about 3.5 years. I don’t know that she had some of the expenses I have, but if she can do  it, then I have no excuse to not even try on my end.

I will talk about the budget I have planned in a later post because this one has already gotten way too long!  But I wanted to get this post out there so that the few of you who read this blog regularly can be my accountability partners. I need people to know what is going on. (And thanks to those of you who do read it regularly, even though my posts have been somewhat sporadic lately.)

Finally, I will leave you with a picture of Baby O doing what she does best: sleeping. 🙂 Well, she snuggles pretty well too. LOL (She and Max are both snuggling up to me as I type away. There could be worse things in life than having two animals trying to love you at the same time.)

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my adorable baby girl, Baby O

As always, thanks for reading and please feel free to leave a comment or suggestion below. 

 

 

 

 

Wow…Just Wow… (Or, did that just happen?)

One of the ponds near the Rio Grande River - at the Alameda open space area.

One of the ponds near the Rio Grande River – at the Alameda open space area.

Those titles could apply to so much in my life lately. The election, where I just couldn’t believe my eyes as the map filled up more and more with red (I think it’s fair to say it’s pretty obvious I’m a liberal.) But more than that… about 3 weeks ago, I packed up a U-Haul and loaded my car onto a transport trailer and drove it 450 miles from Page, AZ to Albuquerque. Had I ever driven a U-Haul truck before? NO! Was it the smallest one they have? NO! (The smallest one can’t handle the auto transport, I found out.) Had I ever towed anything before? NO! Sure, why the hell not learn how to do both all at once and drive all day with two dogs and a cat inside it? What could possibly go wrong?!

[For the record, I’ve used U-Haul before – it was always just another family member who drove it while I drove a jammed-to-the-gills car in front of them.  Also, in case you were wondering where two of the other cats were, they were with my friend Jordan who drove ahead of us with his car. To ensure he stayed my friend afterward, I gave him the two least likely to cry the entire way – Callie and HoneyBun. Max the Diva rode with me and yep, he was pretty talkative for about half of the trip. Sigh.]

So, um…yeah. I moved to a new city without having a job lined up. Had I ever done something I felt to be so risky in my life before? NO! Stability is very important to me – a phobia of mine is ending up being homeless. And in Albuquerque, there are quite a few homeless folks. So at a lot of intersections, I would see the signs they were holding up and thought, oh my God, what happens if I can’t get a job? Now I have all these animals to feed and I can’t let them down. I’ve promised them that they will always have a roof over their heads.

The first night, I saw a roach in the apartment. And then a few more. Um…yeah….I super freaked out.  I am a pretty clean person and have been neurotic about making sure my food has been cleaned up and put in plastic bags or jars ever since. No dirty dishes for me. I’m told that they are common in these parts, and especially in the southern end of town where I live because it’s a student section.  My friend Jordan said I will just have to get used to them. Say what?! No matter how clean you are, if your neighbors have them, you likely have them.

So now, every time I get up in the morning I do the check to see if there are any I can squish, or stomp. And yes, I am getting used to this new normal, but I still keep saying out loud, “six months til the lease is up and we are out of here!” By the way, it’s not like there is an infestation of them like you hear of in horror stories, but the fact that they are here skeeves me out, so I’m definitely going to find a new place to live come June 1, if not sooner. It’ll just take some hard work and lots of questions to folks I will meet as to where I can move and where I can find someplace that will allow me to have my pets.  I’ve already started asking around and plan to take some drives to other parts of the city, with Morgan in the back seat of course!

Well, a week to the day after I moved here, I had a job offer. Actually, two. And two days later, I had a phone call from the city of Albuquerque about an animal handler position I had applied for. One job only paid minimum and no benefits, but it would have involved working with cats and doing a lot of cat adoptions which really interested me, since it’s something I did a lot of on a volunteer basis back in Boston. But ultimately, the job I took is full time, with benefits, and it’s a closer commute, and the pay is better. I’m still not going to ever become rich working with animals, but it’s a wage that will allow me to support myself and my fur family, and that’s important.

Now, as many of you may recall, part of the reason I moved to Albuquerque is because of a vet technician program at one of the community colleges. I wanted to establish residency in NM as fast as I could so that I would only end up being considered an out-of-state student for the 1st of 5 semesters. Well, here’s the good news…(as if getting a job wasn’t already cause enough for celebration!)  So, my job is working as a vet receptionist at what they call a hybrid hospital. There is the General Practice side, where I will be working, and there is an emergency side, as well as many specialties covered such as oncology, acupuncture, etc. One of the benefits that they provide is a break on the tuition to Penn Foster and its veterinary technician program. Also, because they have partnered with Penn Foster, I can do the externship that is necessary to complement the online school, with the hospital where I am working. And, the cost will be about 1/3 of what it would cost me to attend the local community college, and I can do the course work on my own schedule.  To me, these are all pluses. The program at the community college is small, so when classes are offered, there is usually only one section, so there wouldn’t be so much flexibility in terms of scheduling for classes. With online, I can do it at 4 a.m. if I want to.

Once I knew I had a job, it helped me to relax a bit.With the election results and my not knowing if I had a job or not, I found that my stomach had been clenched for two or three days. It was clenched or tight for  so long that even my back started hurting. So after I knew I had a job, and had a few days until I started, I let myself play a bit of tourist. I went to the Botanical Garden and might be going back after Thanksgiving because they decorate it with a bunch of Christmas lights and I think it’ll look really cool. And you guys know me, where there are animals, I will find them. They have a very small farm at the botanical garden so I spent some time with this beautiful steer, and hung out with him for a bit. I scratched his head and part of his back/shoulders for quite a while, and he didn’t move away so clearly he liked it! I felt so bad for him – he was there all alone. (Sorry for the bad quality of the photo.)

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I’ve also joined a gym – Planet Fitness, so it’s only $10/month and it’s super clean and well taken care of. And yes, there is even some “eye candy” for me to watch while I’m dying of boredom on the treadmill! 🙂  And they have all these Open Spaces here in Albuquerque, so I’ve taken Morgan on walks at four of them so far. (The Aldo Leopold Forest is my favorite trail so far.) It’s a great way to be out and about, getting fresh air, and some exercise at the same time. Plus, it walks the “crazy” out of Morgan, lol. She gets so tired that I can get some work done when we get home!

So again, sorry for the long silence between blog posts. I have actually had this post written for about a week now but had problems attaching pictures (i’ll explain how I am getting internet for my computer in a later post) and then I had a problem with my chromebook. But it’s up and working now – I’ve jut given up on adding the pics!

I’m going to be writing a post shortly about how I plan on tackling the debt I’ve accrued over the past 17 months after having quit my well-paying job to work for much less money. I love my new job – the people I work with are great, the clients are also for the most part. (You’re never gonna find perfection at the work place.)

As always, if you have a comment or suggestion, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

 

Big News!!

Hi everyone, I’m so sorry it has been a few weeks since my last post, but believe me, I’ve been very busy and productive! Because times/things? They are a-changing!! (I’ve even had this post mainly written but haven’t had a chance to add photos until today.)

Ok, so first off, I’m moving to Albuquerque! I went there almost two weeks ago and found an apartment that will allow me to have my pets, and is in a safe neighborhood, is clean, and is just what I was looking for. Linoleum floors – awesome for animals and picking up animal hair! It’s about 380-400 sq feet, so it fulfills my dream of living tiny, and there are a lot of trees in the courtyard right outside my window! I can park my car close by, and keep an eye on it, and it’s close to school – only about a mile and a half away. There is a golf course close by so I can go for a run and see beautiful scenery.

Isn't she a cutie?? Her name is Morgan - this was taken on her first overnight visit with us.

Isn’t she a cutie?? Her name is Morgan – this was taken on her first overnight visit with us.

Oh, and guess what?? I am adopting a 3 year old beautiful cattle dog that I have fallen in love with at the Page Animal Adoption Agency! She is my favorite dog there and the one I always make sure to walk, no matter what. She just loves loves loves walks, and she is going to be my new running partner once I move! We will start out gradually, of course, since I think we both need to work up to running distances of 3-5 miles, but I’m looking forward to having that baby girl join my family. She has been with us for an overnight visit, and yesterday for a 5-6 hour visit, and it’s like my cats are invisible to her. The only time she even reacts to them is if they hiss at her, and then she just kind of looks at them as if to say “sorry!” and then moves away. No barking back, no chasing, nothing. And she is fine with having little Baby O around – she is only selective about dogs when they are larger or close to her size. They have met and she seems to “read” Baby O well. Many times, when Baby O meets a younger, friendly dog, they sniff at her and sniff and sniff and sniff…you get the idea, even as she tries to walk away from them. Morgan realizes that Baby O is done with the meet and greet and pretty much leaves her alone.  She loves to go for walks, and she loves doggy jogging! So I am looking forward to her getting me out there every day and getting exercise again.

Now, the question everyone asks is – do I have a job lined up yet? NO. Am I terrified of not finding one? YES! I have been trying to get schoolwork done, do prep work to move (i.e. trying to figure out the most cost effective way to do it with all the animals and the few things I have acquired over the past year), and look for jobs, jobs, jobs! Seriously, people, I am TERRIFIED of not finding a job!  I do have some savings, and thanks to a very generous friend in my life, I was able to put down a deposit on the new place without having to touch those funds. And I have applied for financial aid with the college – not that I want to have to take out any more loans, but just in case it takes me a bit of time to find something. Who knows, maybe I can even get some work study funds?!

Morgan, sitting near me, even though she had a comfy blanket just a few feet away.

Morgan, sitting near me, even though she had a comfy blanket just a few feet away.

I’ve been applying to vet receptionist, and vet assistant type positions, and am applying to retail spots in places like Petco and PetSmart,  and plan on applying to hotels as well. I’m also setting up a profile for myself with Rover.com, and have sent resumes and letters to some pet sitting services I’ve come across. I’ve applied to an animal sanctuary, and am happy to say that I have an interview set up with them just a few days after I arrive in ABQ.  Also, I plan on applying to seasonal jobs. I’m a hard worker – maybe it can turn into something more permanent.

Also, this past weekend, I went to Phoenix to celebrate one of my nephews getting married. I was able to see my younger brother (who many of you may think of as the crazy runner who does all these ultimate distance races like 100 miles) who came with his fiance all the way from NYC. I don’t dance, but while I was there, looking out at the dance floor, I looked at so many family members who I don’t get to see too often, just thinking how lucky I was to be able to spend the time with them. I realized then that there had been a change in my thinking. I used to go to weddings and look at the guests and wonder how happy were they really? Was everyone just faking being happy when really their lives weren’t? Or maybe their happiness that I saw that day was fleeting, just a moment in time. I know, it sounds very cynical, right?

You might be wondering, why Albuquerque? Because I want to give the southwest another shot. I’ve not felt completely at home where I’ve been so far but maybe because it’s been small towns, and I’ve come to the realization that I am more of a city girl. I need to live in a place that has more amenities and the possibility of more jobs. It’s a very dog friendly town, and there are many rescue groups as well as veterinary clinics. The weather is milder than the northeast – there are some cold(er) days, but hardly any snow, and it’s still an outdoor-activity friendly town. Lots of places to run and bike. There are mountains to the east, and lots of trees (it’s at a higher elevation than Lake Powell)< so I’ll be able to go hug trees whenever I feel the need. 🙂 The cost of living is low (necessary if you are looking to work in a field that doesn’t pay huge wages), and also, it’s where the community college is located that I am attending. It has a good vet technology program, and once I become an in-state student, the tuition is incredibly low. Since I am moving now, I should only have to pay out-of-state tuition for the first semester. It’s a 5-semester program, and it only begins in the fall (otherwise I’d just wait another semester until residency has been completely established.)

Again, sorry for the delay between posts. I wasn’t sure the Tuesday postings were working for me, honestly. I’m going to try to be more organized, going forward, and get posting more regularly. Thanks for sticking around with me.

As always, thanks for reading.

 

What the Heart Wants

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The night I took this photo, it had poured rain, so the sun was peeking through the clouds, shining on the large rock formations at Lake Powell.

What the heart wants and what the mind thinks it can do are sometimes two totally different things. Allow me to tell you a short episode from the other night. If you’re friends with me on facebook, you may already have seen this, so I apologize to those of you in that category.

The other night, I was driving home from having dinner with a friend in town. As soon as you drive out of town, it’s quite dark. The national recreation area is what they call a dark sky area, so there are no street lights and such like you would find in a city. It can sometimes make things feel pretty desolate, honestly. But, that night, I saw an animal in the middle of the road. It looked like it was just sitting there, but it was a jack rabbit. They don’t sit in the middle of the road and wait for cars to come by. They get the hell out of dodge and fast! So I knew that it must have been at the very least, injured. I quickly pulled over and turned around to try to take a look at it. Cars were coming along and I somewhat hoped that if it was injured, that someone might strike it so it would die quickly and not feel any pain. You see, out here, it’s not like there is an emergency vet I can take it to within a few minutes. The local vet isn’t open on weekends and the closest vet (even for domestic animals) is in Flagstaff, which is about 132 miles away. I don’t even know if they take wild animals. Best Friends is about an hour away, but I doubted that someone was there after 10 pm at night. (Actually, it would be even later them as Utah follows daylight savings time and Arizona does not.) Continue reading

Dreams…A Constant Evolution

I have a friend who seems to be at a bit of a crossroads in his life. In his twenties, not sure exactly of where he wants to be, but knows what he wants to do. And I started asking him some hard questions that a guidance counselor or career advisor would – in other words, questions I wish someone had put to me back in my twenties before I went to law school. It reminded me of many, many conversations I had with students over the years and how some of those conversations led to our being friends, which we still are today. Yes, I’m thinking of you, Claudia. :-))

And then it hit me – I’ve got to answer those questions for myself as well. I’ve got to be blunt and honest with myself, my financial situation, my living situation, what it is now and what it can become. Where I want to end up, and what I want to do with my time here on this earth. I still feel like I’m in my twenties a lot of days, and can’t believe I’m turning 44 this year. I guess age truly is what you make of it. It’s just a number, if you ask me. Your attitude defines you.

14080001_10154173687084930_8639474599137396149_nThis morning, I was thinking these thoughts and I remembered when I was taking prerequisite classes for a vet technology degree. At the time, Harvard was helping with the tuition payments through its tuition assistance program. That of course ended when I left its employment. And then I turned to my left and saw this little brown bird on the ground. It appeared to want to be able to fly but it just couldn’t. Its breathing was a bit labored. At first, I didn’t want to touch it, thinking, it’s just injured, and will eventually fly away and I don’t want my human scent to be on it because then if it’s a young bird, its mommy won’t want to be around it again.

However, I did reach out to help it, and realized it must be really hurt because it didn’t even attempt to fly away from me. I tried to give it some water but that only ended up getting the little guy wet which made me feel even worse. Soon after, he took his last labored breath. I petted him and told him I would take care of him, and shortly afterward, found a place to bury him outside of my apartment. That’s the second bird I’ve now buried since I live here. And it reminded me of the post that I wrote about a month ago on listening to  and watching for the signs that are presented in front of you.

I then spent a good part of today looking into the possibility of again attending vet tech school. And this evening, I spent some time looking up grant opportunities for the local animal shelter to apply to (Page Animal Adoption Agency.)  I realized how much I love the thrill of the chase of looking for information, and finding it, then evaluating it, and figuring out if it’s relevant or not. From having worked with a large number of students over the years, I have realized that it’s a skill that not everyone has. I need to have confidence in these abilities of mine and use them to accomplish my dreams. For some reason, it made me think of a conversation I had with my mom just a few days ago.

The other day I had a conversation with my mom during which she asked about my job and soul searching and what I was thinking of doing. I told her about the phone interview I had a little while ago with a farm animal sanctuary. And we talked about what would keep me interested in a job and use my skills, and as she said “You’re not stupid. You’re very smart and can use that intelligence and skills. Eventually you will have to find a job that will pay enough so that you’re not starving.” [My mom can make things seem much worse than they really are. It’s not that bad in the world of animal welfare, it’s just a huge pay decrease.)

The animal shelter and rescue had a team meeting last week and we spent some time talking about applying for grants, and finding someone who can do that type of work. I’ve only worked on a few very small grant applications, but one thing I know I can do is research the hell out of something like that! I feel like my writing skills are strong, and I know that one thing that those who run animal shelters and rescues never have enough of is time.  In addition to money, there NEVER seems to be enough time to do everything you need to keep the shelter running. It’s not just a 9-5 job that ends on Friday night and picks up where it left off, the following Monday morning. Animals need to eat and be walked, and they poop every day. They don’t know if it’s a Monday or a Saturday.

So, now I’m wondering …. can I somehow use my research skills to help shelters find and apply for grants? Is this something I could start to do on a freelance basis? How does one even get started on something like this?  And then, of course, I started looking into the possibility of attending grant writing classes or workshops. It’s my natural inclination to think this way – come up with an idea and then look to see who I can learn from, someone who already knows how to do it well, and then I will feel more qualified to offer my own services in that field. (Possibly, it’s having worked in academia for so many years that has me thinking that way. Or, maybe it’s because it provides a structured way of working on a goal. There’s still that part of me that likes the comfort of something that is structured and pre-established. It’s that fear of the unknown creeping in.)

So, yes, this is my long-winded way of saying, I’m still trying to figure out what my simple dreams are and how to achieve them. I have this feeling that they will always be changing, even if it’s just with little tweaks here and there. And slowly but surely, I am becoming more comfortable with that concept. (Oh, but trust me, there are definitely days where this constant questioning is super stressful and I just want to throw my hands up in surrender and just wish that life could be easy and someone could present the answers to me on a platter.)

Have you ever felt like this? I’m curious as to your thoughts on this – am I completely insane to be thinking along this route as a potential career path?

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By the way, I’ve made a few small changes to the appearance of the page – what do you think?

Do you believe in Signs?

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From the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. The place where I met the raven (see the story about him later in this post.)

Sorry for the long delay between posts. I’ve had this one almost done for a while, but I’ve been fighting some feelings here on my own which has cut down my motivation to get some things done. I’ve made some decisions though, which I will talk about in another post. However, I would like to get this out there today, so here goes nothing…

I’m not a religious person, but I do have a spiritual side of me, I guess. I don’t feel like when you die, you completely cease to exist. I think your energy is still out there, in the universe, somehow. And when i feel like I need guidance or a little extra “lift” sometimes, I ask for it. One time, I was out for a run, and I just felt so tired. So much that I just felt like walking and throwing in the towel on that run that day. And I said, aloud, “I think I could use a little help today.” And I swear, I felt a hand at my back. A gentle push. Just a little support. And during the rest of my run, if my energy seemed to wane, I felt it again. It’s very hard to describe or put into words, but I know  I was not alone on that run that day. I know I had angels, or something, looking out for me.

A few weeks ago, when I felt the need to just sit and be still, or “just be” as my friend Dan says, I talked aloud again. Thanked the universe for allowing me to see this beautiful place and hear the birds calling to each other, watch the road runners dart from bush to bush after some unseen-to-me prey, view the jack rabbits hope so quickly from one piece of scrub to another. I was completely alone and I loved it. It was at that time that I felt the need to put my questions out there. Am I supposed to do something with my life involving nature or animals? Should i keep pursuing my love of animals and wanting to make their lives better, to help keep them safe, or to contribute to this world in such a way that is positive, and somehow involves animals? Should it involve natural resource management, as I have been considering lately? Because aren’t the two intertwined? I also let my angels  know, expressly, that I knew I would need some very clear or obvious signs, as I’ve been known to be pretty “black and white” in the past. (I’d even talked to my therapist about it in the past.)

I’m aware that just because I asked these questions, it wasn’t like the next day, boom, there would literally be a sign in front of me like the one you find a few miles from where I live that says “Welcome to Utah” in HUGE letters. Sometimes the signs can take a bit of time to emerge.

A few days after that, I walked outside of my apartment to find what  looked to be a dead baby bird that didn’t even have any feathers on it, it was so little and young when it died. I have buried it in front of my apartment – he (I called him a “he”) deserved to be buried properly. Not sure if he had fallen out of a nest or what, but I felt like he was outside of my apartment for a reason.

A few weeks ago, I was at work. A coworker looked up from her computer screen and asked pleasantly “how may I help you?” and saw two foreign tourists shove what turned out to be a baby bunny in her face! She didn’t know what it was at first and freaked out, the tourists continued to shove it in her face, and of course, the bunny did then what bunnies do – it jumped! This little creature was so small, he fit in the palm of my hand. To make a long story short, I almost drove 75 miles to Utah that day to transport the bunny – I have since found out it was a baby jackrabbit – to an animal sanctuary, but luckily a gentleman from the AZ Game and Fish Department lives in my town and was able to transport the jackrabbit there. I just called the animal sanctuary to check up on him, and found out he is doing better. He started “wilding up” rather than acting calm at feeding time and for a jackrabbit, that is a really good sign. It will be touch and go over the next few months, I am told, but for now, he is doing well. I hung up the phone and cried tears of joy.

If you want to see just adorable this little bunny was – here’s the link to the facebook page of the Wild Friends section of Best Friends Animal Society. Scroll down to the video of the black-tailed jackrabbit giving himself a bath after being fed breakfast by “dreaded” humans. He’s trying to get all the human cooties off of him! 🙂 He is absolutely ADORABLE!!!  (Sorry, it may have really moved down on their page right now since it’s taken so long for me to get this post up and going.)

The following day, again at work, a gentleman came into the store to look at our books for sale and kill some time. He explained that his family was out on a boat and he was staying behind to make sure their puppy was safe and sound at the trailer. We got to talking and I learned that he worked for 30 years for the Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife. We talked about how both of us would be the type of person who would break open a car’s window to free an animal from dying of the heat trapped inside, and he told me how because of his work, he sometimes helped wildlife recuperate at his home in Oregon. While I was talking to him, I thought to myself “yep, angels, I’m seeing your work, loud and clear,” and I smiled to myself.

Recently, I met a friend in Zion National Park. We made our way to the top of the Emerald Pools trail, where there were some very smart squirrels who stayed close to the humans, but not too close so that they couldn’t get away if needed. As we left the pools, I saw a squirrel close by, watching me. I reached my hand out toward it, not expecting anything, but just wanting to let it know I meant it no harm. I expected it to run away when it saw my outstretched arm, but instead, it jumped down and walked toward me, and then tapped its feet on the front of both of my shoes. I’ve had a squirrel come close to me before, but always for food (outside of Harvard, the squirrels are so tame, they will take a sandwich out of your hands.)  I just felt like he was trying to give me a message.  Then, as we parted ways at the end of the night, I saw something in the middle of the road. As I drove closer, I saw it was a deer that was lying down in the road. I’m not sure what happened, if it was hit or not, but I saw a man come out and wave his arms at it, his face showing an expression of what appeared to be disgust. The poor thing got up as fast as it could and ran off away from him. I couldn’t tell if it was hurt, honestly. All I do know is that I almost broke into tears at the thought of this beautiful animal being in pain and now running in that pain. I can’t bear to see any animals, wild or not, in pain.

Recently, I talked to my mom on the phone and learned that she is feeding about 5 or 6 stray (or more likely, feral) cats in her neighborhood. She said, “I don’t know how the word is spreading, but it seems like it is. There used to be just one or two.” A few years ago, I don’t think my mom would have done something like that. She told me that she worries about their crossing the road to get to her house. By the time we got off the phone, she had decided to call the local animal sanctuary when she gets back from vacation and talk to them about trapping them. (At the beginning of the call, she thought that many of the cats look too old to still go into heat or make little baby cats. At the end of the call, she had changed her mind and become more open to the idea of TNR, or trap-spay/neuter-return.)

About a week ago, I was taking little Osito for our walk/carry, as I call it (she doesn’t walk a ton and gets tired in this heat so I end up carrying her a lot.)  I ended up talking to a guy in my complex who was just arriving home from the beach with his yellow lab. Turns out he had also had an experience with a jackrabbit, but his was one that had been hit by a car and was still alive when he and his dog found it. Took it to the local vet (who is awesome), who only charged him 50% of his regular rate, and then his girlfriend took the jackrabbit to Best Friends where he still resides today, and will if he can’t be returned to the wild in the end run because of his health.

And finally, this past weekend I was at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. There were a lot of people there but I still felt quite alone sometimes. It’s something I have been fighting (more on it in a later post which is itching to pour out of me.) At the end of my time there, I found a spot where I could be alone and just look at the canyon. After a little bit, another couple showed up, so I walked back to my car and found another spot where I could sit and be undisturbed, and write a few thoughts down in my journal to describe how I was feeling and why I felt so alone even when in a crowd.  I was also wondering if I was doing the right thing to start looking for animal-related jobs again.

Then, I saw a raven walking, close to the spot I had just vacated. He could easily have flown, but he decided to walk a few steps. Then he did take flight. I thought to myself how awesome it would be if he decided to come towards me. I went back to writing in my journal and then when I looked up, there he was. Within about 6 feet of me. And here’s the thing. He kept walking closer to me until he was about 3 feet away, just beyond my feet. He would stand there for a bit while I talked to him, and he let the strong winds rustle through his feathers. Occasionally, he would take a small step closer to me. He wasn’t looking for food, but just sat there silently with me. You will have to take my word for it that this happened – my cell phone was in the car and I sensed that sudden movement by me might spook him. And honestly I didn’t want to spoil the moment either.

So what does all this have in common? In a word, animals. Just have to translate it into something I can do or learn how to do – animal rescue or wildlife rescue or animal care (I know some of you may think I’m more qualified than to do something so manual but it’s what makes my heart happy in the long run. Helping creatures that can’t talk for themselves in a way us humans can understand.) I also need to learn or figure out a way to exist financially and get by if I do go back into working full time with animals. It’s really not a field you go into to get rich, at least not in the monetary sense. I don’t want or need a ton of money but just enough to feel stable and be able to take care of my fur family and myself. That’s all I ask for, and sometimes I feel like it’s too much.

I realize some folks may think I saw all these thing as “signs” because now I am looking for them, rather than ust going about my day. Maybe that is the case. Or, maybe it really is the universe or my angels reaching out to me. I choose to believe in the latter.

A friend shared a great link with me: Seven Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose and one of the questions is what makes you forget to eat and poop. I love this guy’s post!  I would say that if I were to be involved in an animal emergency or working with animals, that would be one of the times I would forget to do at least one of those (eat). Another question is what would make your 8 year old self cry? And it might be that I have not kept on writing at the same feverish pace that I did when I was that age. I let myself think that to follow a creative path like that was not going to mean a “success” in today’s world. I was not practical. Didn’t require me to wear a suit to work and work in an office and do “important” things for a big company. You get the idea.

I DO know that I have always loved animals, my entire life. I’ve always felt like I’ve had a connection to them that I know not all of us have. And I know I have always liked the feeling of pen to paper and creating stories from my mind. I find myself reading novels and wondering how the author came up with the ideas they have, and how many rewrites it might have taken to get the book to the point it’s at where I am holding it in my hands. I try to remind myself that the book is a finished product, not something easily come by and to not judge myself so much by what I put onto paper.

I also DO know that what I am doing now is not what I want to do for a career. I’ve gone back to being the supervisor, but will have a new (immediate) boss in another week or so, and because of that new addition in the hierarchy of the company, my pay has been decreased. The Team Lead position was not going to pay me enough to live, quite  literally. So for right now, it’s a means to an end. It’s what I am telling myself every day.

I’ve decided I will be moving when my lease is up, if not before.  (I am hoping to work overtime whenever possible through this season.) I would need to get a subletter if I moved before the end of the lease, and am wondering when to start that process. It’s a small town which helps and hurts me – there isn’t a lot of inventory available, but how many people then want to move here and can afford to do so? So if I stay until next April, I will be just trying to save and live as frugally as humanly possible, or buckle down and get a second job. I have $1200 tied up in security deposits with my apartment that I plan on getting returned back to me.  My tower garden (pictures will be coming in a future post) should hopefully allow me to grow my own produce and thereby save some money.

So this is where I am at right now. Definitely fighting feeling overwhelmed, and scared, and feeling lost. But I’m trying my best to get through all of it.

As always, I love to hear from all of you. Thank you so much for the support on my last post. It has meant so much to me.