So what’s next?

BEACH
Bunche Beach at sunset

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

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

Finances:

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

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

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means the amount distributed gets imputed to me as income for the year and I also pay a 10% penalty on the amount withdrawn.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

PALM TREE

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

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

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

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

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

Living plans for next year:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CRAB
Little crab, just because I thought he was cute

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Arched Cabins: an option for a tiny home that won’t kill your budget

house-48820_640.png
Image courtesy of pixabay.com (and no, this isn’t an arched cabin!)

This post has changed a lot over the past few days, from discussing multiple options for “tiny” living such as park model RVs, converted sheds, etc., to just covering Arched Cabins.  I’ll discuss park model RVs in an upcoming post!  And just so you know, I’m not being compensated to talk about arched cabins – with my tiny blog, I would be surprised if they ever even find this post. 🙂

I prefer a studio type of layout to anywhere that I live, rather than a bedroom type situation. When you have a bedroom, inevitably one part of the house is going to get used a ton more than the other — at least that has been my experience.   For example, before my roommate moved in, I hardly ever  used the living room.  I have some shy cats who tend to stay in their “safe” part of the house and not venture beyond the bedroom, so if I want to spend time with them, I go in there and sit with them, giving and receiving cuddles. 🙂

arched cabin photo
Finished cabin from Arched Cabin website

So, thinking along the studio-layout, I’ve come across an option which is a prefab home, but not the one you might traditionally think of.  A coworker of mine had a house fire a few years ago and on their property, they are now putting the finishing touches on something called an Arched Cabin. It’s delivered and put together for  you on your property but then you have to finish the interior on your own (or hire someone to help you with that.)  The company is based in Texas, and they ship to 48 US states.  (Their patent is only in the US so far.)  Transportation fees are $2/mile for the smaller models, $2.50/mile for the larger models.

With the arched cabins, there are many sizes to choose from, with the smallest kit costing about $1,000.   (I think my coworker is getting one of the biggest ones.)   If you’re wondering what comes with an Arched Cabin kit, they have a lot of answers on their FAQ page, including this important one:

“Our Arched Cabin kits include a build manual, floor plates, ribs, ridge beam, standard R13 insulation, Super Span Roof Paneling, trim and fasteners needed to assemble the cabin. The kit price does not include the foundation, installation, interior, end caps, delivery, or anything that is not included in the list added above. Our upgrade options include a color upgrade on the roofing panels (choose from 26 colors including Energy Star rated colors), a fireplace thimble, insulation upgrade to R25, a custom loft, foundation (choice of pier and steel Ibeam or block and beam), stairs leading to the loft, and a quote for rough-in labor and delivery.”

Now, if I were to go with one of these cabins, I would definitely go for the upgrade on insulation!  I would also likely go with a blue color (or the one that is Energy Star efficient).  And I have a feeling I would be happy with one of their 12′ foot cabins – the 12 x 12 would be awesome! You would have a 12 foot ceiling at the apex, more than enough room to build a loft, especially for a little short person like me who is just five feet tall!

If  you live in an area prone to high winds, they are able to withstand 150 mph winds. (I’m looking at you, Floridians!) And if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, they can withstand 30 psf (pounds per square foot).  (Again, see their FAQ page for more info.)

 

green arched cabin.jpg
Photo of finished cabin from Arched Cabin website  – notice all the windows!!

I also know if I were to have an arched cabin, I would like a lot of sunlight. You can build them with big windows on the “end caps” and if you want skylights or windows in the walls/roof, you can build them but they can’t be more than 2 feet wide due to the ribbing that you see in the roofs.  I would also want a second door on the other end as a means of egress in case of a fire or some other problem.

I’ve talked with my coworker.  Her arched cabin will be 24 X 40 and they will have a loft.  They have lots of windows on the front side of the house and a sliding door in the back. They will have a patio on the backside of the building.  She told me that working with the Arched Cabins folks was very pleasant, and the actual erecting of the cabin on their property went really quick! It was the permitting and planning stages with Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties that created the most headaches.

arched cabin on trailer
Photo of cabin on trailer from Arched Cabins website

My coworker mentioned that the company can now help you with having an arched cabin built on top of a trailer! So  you could have an Arched Cabin on Wheels or ACOW (I just made up that acronym, lol.)  But they can also be erected on top of a concrete slab if that’s what you want to use as a foundation.  The photo above is of their 12 X 8 size trailer.

 

When it comes to financing, the Arched Cabins website says that most people use a construction loan or a home equity line of credit to finance their project.  Getting a traditional mortgage might be a bit difficult due to most lenders wanting to find comparable properties, and well, you don’t see arched cabins every day.

So yes, there is a lot of things to think about when you’re considering building a tiny home.  Budget can be a main part of it, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from imagining what could be.  Do your research, spend hours on Pinterest (here’s my page), read through blog posts, look at design books.  And write down a list of what you really value, what you like to spend your time doing, etc.  Do you want to live off-grid?  Use a composting toilet?  Or be connected to all public utilities or have a well?  That can really help you properly plan out your indoor (and even some of your outdoor) spaces.

What do you think of the Arched Cabins?  Could you live in something like that?  Please add a comment below and let me know your thoughts! And as always, thanks for reading!

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Those who inspire me right now

be brave
Image courtesy of pixabay.com

 

timothy ward fingernailI don’t watch a lot of TV, but I do have some favorite YouTube channels I turn to for inspiration.  One is Timothy Ward’s channel.  Currently, Tim is working in Colorado, and he is working on a series of videos called “100 Ways To Create Your Dream Life.”  He is so down to earth in all of his videos.  He’s lived in an RV, like me, but decided it wasn’t for him.  He loves to travel and so he does a lot of seasonal work, most often lately in housekeeping, even though he is qualified to do so much more.  (Another reason I like him – he does what he likes to do, not because he feels it’s a job he HAS to do to be what is considered a “success” in today’s world.)   He goes to work every day with a positive attitude.  His laugh is genuine, and luckily,  he laughs a lot (sometimes at himself) in his videos.  Though he doesn’t have tens of thousands of subscribers, he doesn’t care.  To him, it’s more important to connect with his viewers and create a community, much like I am with this blog.  Please go check out his channel and tell him I sent you! 🙂

dylan magaster fingernailAnother channel that I like because of the Alternative Living series that he has begun, is Dylan Magaster’s channel. His film-making skills have improved so much from the early days.  In particular, one video he shot recently really spoke to me.  His subject was a guy called Artisan Josh.  I’d seen videos of Artisan Josh’s house, Lil Red, in the past, but they hadn’t really gone into who he was as a person.  Josh grew up in foster care, spent time behind bars, and now has found peace in his tiny home, among the tiny home community.  He travels and builds tiny houses for others. It might not be a life for everyone, but it’s the one that works for him. When he laughs in this video, I hear a man who has found peace and seems genuinely happy with his life as it currently stands.  (He commented back to me that he sounds like Woody Woodpecker, lol.)

artisan josh.jpg
At the end of the video Dylan shot, Josh reads some of his original poetry.  I just felt drawn to it, and the first time that I listened to it, I felt chills, but in a good way.   Check out some of the work he has done at his website: Artisan Josh.  He also appears to have begun his own YouTube channel and he is also on Instagram.

becky fingernailBecky Schade is the author of the Interstellar Orchard blog of which I have been a fan for a long time.  I’ve written about her in the past, and she never ceases to amaze me.  She’s like a very old soul in a thirty-something’s body.  She has written and published a blog and now started up her own YouTube channel, chronicling her six years (6!!) of living full time in an RV.  She currently lives in a Casita, but has decided to downsize next year into a teardrop trailer!  Since she’s announced her decision, she has had to deal with a lot of flack and comments from those who think they know better how she should live her own life.  She’s amazingly mature at dealing with those types of comments. And knowing her own mind and what is best for her to do to follow her own dreams.  She inspires me with her independence, her self-awareness, and her writing skills.  Plus, she’s also a good human being! (Oh, and she now has her own YouTube channel too!)

There’s one common thread that ties these folks together in my mind.  They have each found happiness on their own terms.  They don’t sugar coat how their life is – life is not a set of Instagram photos as many would like us to believe.  Some days are good and some days are bad, and they acknowledge that, just as do I. They’ve all realized that life is (to use a cliche) a journey.  You learn more about yourself every day. And that’s something that you can’t put a price on.

If you have any comments as to who inspires you, or if you’ve already begun following these folks or learning about their stories, please let me know! If you’ve liked this post, please hit the like button or share it with someone who you think could benefit from it too! And as always, thanks for reading!

And now, I’m off to volunteer at a food pantry! My hospital gives away pet food on the third Friday of every month and today I think we’re going to have a lot of extra stuff like leashes and collars to give to everyone, as part of an early holiday gift.  These are some of the best four hours I spend every month – it makes me grateful for my life, my job and my pets.  Have a great weekend everyone!

Determining wants and needs through my tiny house/living fascination

Tiny_house_in_yard,_Portland
If this house looks familiar, that’s because it belonged to Dee Williams!   Photo taken by Tammy Strobel.  Attribution:  By Tammy – Weekend with Dee, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11211685

 

I’ve been obsessed with the idea of living simply and living in a tiny house for many years now, way before it became trendy. Thinking about living in a tiny home helps me to stop myself from buying things I “want” but don’t necessarily need. Kind of like when I was getting ready to move cross country.  The way I made decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of was to ask myself, “was there room for both this thing and my animals in the car?”  The animals were definitely going – that was not even a question.  It was more a question of whether there was room for this additional thing.

So now I sit and think to myself – is this object I’m perusing, be it a second-hand shirt or pillowcase, or whatever, something that I would definitely want to move into a tiny house when I finally achieve that dream?  Or when I move into a small bachelor-type apartment? If I can’t picture it, I don’t buy it.  Do I already have something at home that can fill the “need” it would otherwise cover?  Usually, the answer is yes.

When I first got out of law school, I should have done what I advise all students to do now.  When you get out of school, don’t live any differently.  Continue to live like a student while you pay off your debts and get started with your life.  Just because you’re no longer in school doesn’t mean your home needs to look like it just walked off the pages of Dwell magazine.

So these days, I live frugally.  Like a student.  I have a roommate and it’s a one bedroom apartment, so my bed is in the living room and I’m totally fine with that.  Every morning when I wake up, I look at the Sandia Mountains to the east of Albuquerque.  It’s a beautiful view, especially when the clouds are so low they obscure the tops of the peaks. I have a large picture window that lets in lots of light.

Speaking of beds, mine is on a platform of milk crates. Guess what?  It’s pretty supportive on my back.  It’s also a good way of creating some built-in storage in a very inexpensive way.  My mattress cost me all of $129 from Walmart, and I bought it online so didn’t have to deal with transporting it in my small car.  It came in a box and once it was opened, my roommate rolled it open, and voila, in an hour or so, it was ready to go up on top of said milk crates.  And instead of buying heavy, hard to move bookcases, I have, guess what?  Milk crates!  When you have to move, you just turn them, your stuff is in them, and voila, no need to get lots of extra boxes to pack your stuff in, because it’s already packed!

You  know those plastic white bin type of drawers you can get at Walmart or Target? I bought those to organize my stuff in the fifth wheel I owned in Utah.  Still got ’em.  The old me of several years ago would have gotten rid of them as soon as I could afford a nice “dresser.”  But you know what?  It’s hard to move heavy furniture on your own and when you have a small hatchback type car.  Plus, these white drawers can be configured in a multitude of ways.  I can see everything I have in them.  When they’re too full of crap, it’s time to downsize.  Looking at them now, I see that yes,  it’s time for me to get rid of stuff again.  You really do only wear 20% of your stuff, 80% of the time.

I’ve been thinking of what I would want in a tiny house.  I honestly don’t need much, aside from room for me and my animals. I think about whether I would want a flush toilet or a composting toilet.  To not have to deal with a black tank would be awesome, so I’d likely go with the composting toilet. I’d like to do solar and have as  much of my energy needs filled off the grid.

Would I want my tiny house to be on wheels?  I sometimes think so, but then realize a shed that could be insulated, etc., might be a more economical way to go.  Just have to find a place to put it (and oh yeah, be able to afford that place/land.)  So I have begun to save.  It’s a small amount right now, but that online savings account is named “Tiny Home.”

You might wonder how all of my animals will fit into a tiny home.  If my roommate and I go our separate ways, Morgan will likely stay with him.  She does very well with training – her brain likes to be challenged, and she helps him in a great therapy-type way.  He has PTSD and a few other problems from having been in the army and Iraq.  Also, since Snuggles is so possessive/obsessive of me, he has become “her human.”  (It is a trait of weiner-dogs to be super possessive.)  Morgan adores him to the moon!   Yes, I’m her momma and the one who feeds her, but he’s the one who takes her on lots of walks, and snuggles with her and plays with her in the yard during the day when I’m at work.  When he is feeling down, she stays close to him.  Every time she hugs him, I see the bond that has formed between them.  It makes my heart feel good.

So in closing, if you started reading my blog because of my tiny house posts, never fear, I’m still very interested in them!  I still watch tons of YouTube videos about simple living and tiny houses.  Yes, I used to live in an RV and that one didn’t work out for me, but I feel like a tiny home is different and can be made much stronger and much better insulated than that fifth wheel was!  I haven’t given up on the tiny living dream, so don’t give up on me!

And yes, in case you’re wondering, I don’t like that they’ve become trendy and that the prices have increased so drastically over the past few years.  I think they can still be built economically, and I’m willing to put in the elbow grease on mine, if someone is willing to help me figure out what the hell I’m doing!

Are you interested in living more minimally?  In a tiny home?  Or an RV?  Let me know what you think, what you would prioritize, if you’d want it to be on wheels, etc., in a comment below!  And if you’ve liked the post but prefer not to comment, please hit that like button or share it! 

And as always, thank you for reading!

 

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.

 

Inspirations and Internal Changes

Cactuses are starting to bloom near where I live. After visiting the botanical garden, I'm more aware of them.
Cactuses are starting to bloom near where I live. After visiting the botanical garden, I’m more aware of them and the desert’s beauty. Amazing that something can live and thrive with so little water.

While I was in Phoenix, I visited the Desert Botanical Garden and the Butterfly Wonderland. Both were a bit pricey (the botanical garden was just over $17 with the AAA discount and the butterfly garden cost about $21 with another discount given to me), but very worth it in my eyes. When I was at the botanical garden, I saw so many volunteers and you could tell they were very happy to contribute to the beauty of the place as well as connect with visitors. When I was with the butterflies, I just thought of all the changes that these creatures go through, and how many we go through in our own lives. They showed a video on the lives of monarchs and all the challenges they go through on their several hundred mile long migrations. Then I spent a lot of time in the butterfly room afterward, and even had the luck of having a butterfly land on me – I’ve never had that happen before!! Ever! (And I’ve been to a few butterfly museums/sanctuaries in my life!)

When it landed on me, it really tickled!
When it landed on me, it really tickled!

Both places reinvigorated me to remember things that really make me happy and I decided to take the plunge and go ahead and buy the Tower Garden for my apartment after all.  (It’s something I have mulled over off and on for the past year or so, but when I was in the RV, I just didn’t have the available space.) I have a friend back home in Boston who has one, so I know the claims that they make of producing so much produce in such a short time are legitimate. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and tasted the produce her garden made! I know it is a bit expensive to start off with, but my goal is to eat primarily what I grow myself. I feel much better when I am eating a lot of greens and fruits, and the tower garden will even allow me to grow strawberries! Yay, I can’t wait! And just knowing it is coming, I have not had the inclination to eat a lot of sweets and junk this week. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I feel like I want to detox, detox, detox!! Get all the crap out of me and out of my apartment!

When I spent that hour along Oak Creek Drive just north of Sedona, I think it transformed me. I can’t put it completely into words but it seemed to have a profound effect on me. Since then, I just feel, well, different. It made me want to slow down and listen to the birds more and figure out why that is. Why I feel so drawn to now learning about nature and holistic health and detoxing my body, and my life, etc.

View from the scenic view pullout at the top of the Oak Creek drive. This photo only shows two of the many switchbacks you have to navigate to get there.
View from the scenic view pullout at the top of the Oak Creek drive. This photo only shows two of the many switchbacks you have to navigate to get there.

On Monday, I just had this major urge to clean out stuff in my closet, so I took about 5 bags of stuff to the local animal shelter for the animals there to use. My pets don’t need all the extra blankets I had in my closet, and they don’t need all the extra rugs and pet beds. However, the animals there do. Not all of them have a soft surface to sit on – mine do. It felt AWESOME to take all that stuff in, because I knew I didn’t need it, they did. I also realized, when I tend to hang on to more stuff, it’s coming from a place of insecurity inside myself. Like when I first moved out of my marriage, I took all these extra things like towels, and blankets, etc. I was scared at the time that I wouldn’t be able to afford even the basics so I took everything that I could that he didn’t want. I felt like more stuff equaled more security. I know now that it’s just the opposite. When I have less stuff, I feel happier and more secure because the stuff I do have is the stuff I want and love. And it’s all that I need, no more.

Look close - do you see the butterfly hiding among the leaves?
Look close – do you see the butterfly hiding among the leaves?

I know Sedona is one of those new-agey kind of places, where people believe in vortexes and crystals and what a lot of people might think is a bunch of junk. But I want to open my eyes to some of it – I got a few books out from the library about crystals and their healing powers and am going to educate myself about them. Maybe there is nothing to any of it, and maybe it really is a bunch of “hooey,” but maybe I will find them helpful, and in this life, I think we need to each find our own way. If there is anything I have learned these past few years, it’s that there is no one RIGHT choice of life for any of us. Trying to pigeon-hole myself into the box or boxes that I thought were right for me only ended up hurting myself in the long run. Or, maybe, they didn’t. Maybe they were all leading me to where I am meant to be, and what I am meant to be. After all, I wouldn’t be who I am today without those experiences. I wouldn’t  know how strong I can be alone if I hadn’t gone through the pain of a divorce. I wouldn’t know how empowering it feels  to be true to yourself if I hadn’t not been true to myself at one point in my life. Does that make any sense?  I hope so.

Blue butterflies always catch my attention.
Blue butterflies always catch my attention.

I’ve just finished reading a book called Most Good Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and A Meaningful Life, by Zoe Weil.  And I’ve recently begun reading another book called Living Forward: a Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want, by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy. Both of these books provide you with some questions to really focus on and think about your answers. The second asks three questions at the beginning:

  1. How do I want to be remembered?
  2. What matters most?
  3. How can I get from here to where I want to be?

I will let you know what I think of the Living Forward book when I finish it. It’s also available through Audible.com.  I’ve started formulating my answer to question number 1, though, and here is what I have so far.  I want to be remembered as someone who was good to animals and to others, as someone who was positive and who made a good contribution to this world. I want to have been a happy person, someone who was in touch with herself. Someone who always  liked learning. Someone who wasn’t wasteful. Someone who had a good handle on her financial situation and wasn’t a mess when it came to saving money or having debt. Someone who didn’t have a bunch of extra crap in their life!

I went for my first run in several weeks yesterday. A “run” might be a bit of an exaggeration. It was more like a slow jog. But it got my heart rate going, and I even broke a sweat, and I reminded myself of why I liked to exercise before. I told myself it would only be two loops around the neighborhood and that’s all I did. I also told myself that it was ok to walk, and I did. I don’t know why I just stopped several weeks ago, I just did. I was finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning and the idea of getting up even earlier. I just couldn’t stomach the idea of getting up early to exercise, even though that had been a mainstay of my life for many years now. It’s only been the last few days where I have even woken up BEFORE my alarm, and felt excited enough to get out of bed. I’m not sure what’s going on, with these changes, but I will let you know when I figure it out, if I do.

Navajo Mountain off in the distance. I see this every day from my neighborhood and on my way to work. A very sacred place for the Navajo Nation.
Navajo Mountain off in the distance. I see this every day from my neighborhood and on my way to work. A very sacred place for the Navajo Nation.

A friend of mine from back east left a great comment on my blog last week and has inspired me very much with many of her thoughts she has shared with me. She reminded me that it’s ok to not be the person you once were. It’s ok to change. It’s ok to not feel comfortable when you are somewhere new, and that you can invent or create who you are, NOW.  Who you are now can be different from who you once were. 

Ok, that’s enough of my musings and babblings for now – I’m going to get out there and go for my run, ahem, slow jog, and sweat out some more toxins. Until next time… thanks, as always, for reading!

 

Lot Going On…

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Taken during my off-roading adventure yesterday, something I won’t ever forget.

Sorry it’s been a few weeks since I last updated everyone as to what is going on. It’s been a busy few weeks, and I have been working a fair amount of hours, only to grow larger, I suspect, over the summer. That’s ok, because any overtime I make will be going to pay off debt and save up cash for the leaner times.  Also, the way the internet works out here is not so reliable. For me to even be typing this, I have my chromebook tethered via USB to my phone and am using my cellular data. To get satellite internet at my apartment was going to be a huge hassle and a half, involving drilling through the roof (don’t even get me started) and quite expensive. I have decided to just buy more data for my phone if the need arises.

So…ok, where do I start?!

So, you might be wondering – did I sell the RV? Yes!!! I sold it to someone who used to work at the resort where I currently work. He was so happy when he drove away with it. I’ve moved into an apartment and there was a bit of a hassle over the furballs. That’s all I can really write about it publicly, but suffice it to say, it was stressful.  Then about a week and a half ago, when I went to a neighbor’s to hang out, I left my door closed (or so I thought) but unlocked. I came home a few hours later to find my door standing open, and Max and HoneyBun had flown the coop. We get high winds here sometimes, and the wind had blown the door open.  To say I was panicked is an understatement!

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HoneyBun, exhausted after her second escape to the outside world. Never letting that little one out of my sight again!

Max was returned to me the next night, but HoneyBun was on the lam for almost a week until I was able to catch her in a trap that a friend loaned me. She has since made a break for it once, and now I’m even more paranoid of opening the door and OCD-ish when making sure the door is locked every time I step foot outside of the apartment, even if it’s to sit on my own patio. I’ve ordered a flexi-gate to put near the door to act as another barrier – it should arrive in a few days.

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This photo epitomizes the sweetness of Bonkers, how he used to curl his paws when he slept, and how sweet and big his heart was. In his sleep, he kept moving closer and closer to Osito until they were touching. ❤ Bonkers. RIP.

I have some sad news, and it relates to my oldest cat, Bonkers. On the day after Max and HoneyBun escaped, I left work early to come home and search for them. Bonkers was having issues pooping, as he has had over the past year or so (he has dealt with constipation issues, an irregular colon, kidney failure and a heart murmur.) I called the local vet immediately, who was triple-booked, but they urged me that if I could bring him down within the hour, I might be able to get him seen.

Well, a few weeks before this episode, I ended up having to drive 150 miles one way to the town of St. George, in Utah, to help Bonkers out with another pooping issue that required sedation. At that time, because of his heart murmur and other health issues, the doc had wanted to do some blood work before putting him under sedation. His blood work came back and showed high calcium levels, which I learned usually means cancer. However, they couldn’t see a tumor at the time.

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After only one day of being on the run, Max seemed very happy to be at home and has stuck close by my side ever since. This photo was taken the day after he was returned (a helpful neighbor called me when Max found his way into their courtyard.)

Fast forward to the day that I took him to the local vet, who felt around his bum area and noticed it felt quite hard. He felt his colon and said that the lactulose which I had been giving him religiously was doing its job and his stool was soft as it should be. But he had a tumor growing near that area which was making his “exit” hole that much smaller, and therefore harder for him to defecate. The doc said that with anal gland tumors, they usually grow fast and are very malignant. If I wanted to consult with a specialist, he predicted it would mean a large medical bill, surgery, chemo, and in the end, a totally incontinent cat of 15 years. It was clear Bonkers didn’t feel well that am, and I had noticed he had not been eating as much the past few weeks, nor was he sitting still for his subcutaneous fluids like he used to.  So, I decided to do what was best for Bonkers, and he crossed over the rainbow bridge on April 15th.

Now that Max and HoneyBun have been safely returned to me, I feel like I can finally properly mourn Bonkers. I’ve arranged for him to be individually cremated, and I plan on donating all of his unused medicines to the local vet. The local vet said that while he can’t re-sell the meds himself, he can offer them to an owner who might come in in the future with a pet needing such expensive meds but can’t afford them. (I was able to buy them all at cost from the animal clinic with my former employer.)

I’ve been working as a supervisor of the resort’s campground, but have recently acknowledged what my physiological system has been telling me, and which I suspected was the case – I don’t like being The Boss, and dealing with all those stresses being The Boss entails. So I have asked to be moved to the role of Team Lead. I will still do a lot of what I am doing now – dealing with campers/customers, but not with all of the stresses of having to discipline employees, etc.  So right now I’m in a transition period where we are hiring lots of new employees for the summer, and working with my (temporary) replacement in the supervisory role. And yes, there have been some rough patches. Nothing is ever easy. I wish it was, but lately, that just doesn’t appear to be the case where my life is concerned.

I do like living in the apartment. I love taking long hot showers, and being able to even turn around in my bathroom! I love being able to do a load of laundry while I sleep at night. I love living close enough to work so that I can drive home the 2-3 miles at lunch and visit my furballs. I love living so close to Lone Rock that I can even see it from the front patio of my apartment. I love the fact that in April, just yesterday, I was in a tshirt and shorts and sitting at the beach, even if only for a short while after I volunteered at the local animal shelter. And yes, I have loved taking some of their energetic doggies for walks.

I am having a problem setting into a routine, however. I’ve not worked out in weeks now (shock, gasp!) because getting to work by 7 or 7:15 in the am already requires me to get up pretty early and after being on my feet all day, I just don’t feel like going for a run. And I’ve not been writing (obviously, as you’ve seen from the lack of posts on the blog). Until a few weeks ago, I’ll be quite honest. I was so stressed out of my mind on a daily basis from one thing or another that it was all I could do to get msyelf to eat an entire bagel for breakfast without feeling like I wanted to puke. That’s how I get affected by stress.

But lately, my stress level has been coming down somewhat, and I’m working on getting my positive attitude back on a more regular basis. I’m feeling like I can eat food again.  i did lose some much needed weight during those stress-filled weeks, so that was actually a good thing, in retrospect. And, I learned some valuable information about myself, so that was also good.

Well, this has been a rambling catch-up post, and I hope some of you are still out there, interested to read it. Please drop me a line or comment below if you like. I promise to write more now that I am slowly getting established. And I want to write more fiction as well. The book dream has not left me – it just got misplaced during the move and the following stress.