Let’s Talk Money, Shall We?

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Don’t you just wish money really DID grow on trees?  (Image from pixabay.com)

And why am I bringing this up?  Well, I looked to see what the stats were on some of my blog posts over the years, and lo and behold, it seems like the ones where I talk about money or some other personal finance topic, tend to get the most views.  Is it because we have this voyeuristic impulse to find out what others are doing when it comes to money?  Do we think someone else has the secret key to unlocking all the answers to the problems we’ve experienced or hesitations we feel about money?

I know I’m always willing to talk about money and I’m fine with discussing some of my details on here.  But I know people who would rather have hot lava poured onto them than to do so.  Hell, I’m even related to some people like that.  They’ve just never felt comfortable discussing it, and I think it’s partly in the way that they were brought up.  That’s okay, I won’t judge them and I know they don’t judge me.

I was brought up by a single mom that was pretty open when it came to money.  We didn’t have a lot of it, and we didn’t pretend we did.  In fact, I remember ducking down to the floor of the car on several occasions as I was mortified to have anyone I knew possibly drive by and see my car pulled over to the curb so my mom could check out what someone else was getting rid of.   Nowadays, I think doing that is cool, because you never know what you might find! As they say, one woman’s trash is another woman’s  treasure….

So here’s some numbers from me.  When I was a librarian, living in a big city, I made over $84K/year.  These days, I live in another city but make roughly $24K per year, not counting my freelance work. Back in Boston, I paid $1100 in rent for a studio.  Here, my roomie and I split $550/month for a one bedroom apartment with a fenced in yard and half of a two car garage.  Oh, and I am saving 7% of my meager salary into a 401(k) and $100/paycheck divided among a few accounts.

Here’s a look at my average monthly expenses, with a disclaimer that our gas bill will definitely be higher this month due to heating costs, and our last electric bill was around $140 since we erroneously thought using two space heaters would be cheaper than paying for heat via the furnace. D’oh!

Rent = $550 (split by two) so $275
Electric = $33 (split by two), so $16.50
Gas (household) = $27 (split by two), so $13.50
Private student loan = 162.11
Car loan = $141.42
Internet = $47.23 (but my roommate is paying for all of it via his going back to school through the GI Bill), so $0 for me after reimbursement
Gas (auto) = $50 (only tend to gas up 2-3 times/month)
Food = $200 – ish (this has definitely fluctuated)
Entertainment (eating out, etc., and yes, it includes coloring books and materials) = $40
Car Insurance = $60
Renter’s Insurance = $20
Savings for Travel = $50
Savings for Emergency Fund = $70
Two Credit Cards = $120
Cell Phone (Cricket Wireless) =  $35

TOTAL = $1253.53

Take Home Pay for One Month (we get paid bi-weekly) = $1356.78 (after taxes, 401(k) and insurance deductions)

Full disclosure:  These expense numbers don’t include my vet bill at work which is about $1200 at this time because I plan on paying it off I get my student loan money for the semester.  My work charges 18% interest (ridiculous since we work there), and the student loan will be at 6%.  I will also use some of the excess to pay off the credit cards, because again, the interest rate is much lower.  Then I’ll pay the accruing interest on the student loan and not use the credit cards.  Into the freezer they will go!

Looking at the nunbers, you will notice that there is a bit of wiggle room.  That wiggle room will help me when it comes time to pay our heat bill.  And when it’s not working to pay bills, into the savings it goes!  And two months per year, we get that bonus third paycheck which I will use to pay down debt (or go into the tiny home/condo fund.)  Editor’s note — oh wait!! I forgot my pet food expenses!!   They barely have me breaking even!!  Yep, not so much wiggle room left over.  So that tells me that I need to keep a better handle on where my money is going.  I’ve started writing in my planner at night what I spent during the day. 

In case  you are wondering, my other federal loans are currently in deferment while I’m in the master’s program and when I start paying on them again, it’ll be at the IBR (Income Based Repayment) rate, since I know I will never be able to pay them completely off unless I were to go back to my same job at Harvard as I had in 2015.  Yes, I will end up paying them for 25 more years, but the amount of my monthly payment will vary depending on my income, and at the end of that time period, the amount unpaid will be written off.

WARNING — SIDE TANGENT:  Some of you might get upset at the idea of my loans eventually being written off.  But here’s the thing.  I have paid back those federal loans’ principal balance AND THEN SOME over the past two or so years.  I really have.  And the balance has barely moved.  Paying again for the next twenty five or so years – trust me — they WILL get THOUSANDS more out of me before then! So, in my mind, I will have paid and paid and paid them some more when it’s all over and done.  I just don’t want to be paying and receiving social security at the same time.  (Of course, assuming social security still exists by the time I get to that ripe old age.)

OKAY, SIDE TANGENT/RANT OVER.

My roommate is in the process of paying me back for a few months over the past year when I was carrying the expenses for both of us. So, as he pays me, I’m paying off my debts or putting the money into savings where/when I can.  (And no, I don’t feel comfortable sharing that amount on here because it’s a debt of someone else’s, not mine.  I don’t think he’d be comfortable with my sharing that.)

My roomie and I live pretty frugally.  Mainly our entertainment is watching movies/YouTube videos or taking the dogs for walks in the Bosque, and in my case, reading and coloring. And writing here (and soon, again, for school), or in my journal or elsewhere.  Things that don’t cost much in terms of money.

I wish I had known when I made so much more money, what I know now.  I speak for a lot of us when I say that, don’t I? 

I can’t beat myself up for the money mistakes I’ve made.  All I can do is learn from them,  listen to my heart and follow my priorities.  I share my mistakes and financial numbers on this blog so that hopefully they can help someone else in some way.  Maybe you’ll feel better about your salary when you see how low mine is.  Maybe it will help you to see areas where you can cut out expenses you really don’t need.

Or, maybe you will feel sorry for me or disgusted at the thought that I could have thrown away such a good paying job.  I hope that last sentence isn’t the case.  I don’t want pity.  And if you are disgusted by it, maybe take a look inward and try to figure out why you are having that reaction.  My experience as a librarian at Harvard Law will always have value for me in so many ways.  I just no longer felt that it and Boston were right for me. (And seeing the winter blizzard and freezing cold that they have right now, well, I just shudder at the thought of experiencing that again!)

This post has been a lot longer than some others, so if you’ve stuck with me to the end, thanks for reading.  Please feel free to hit like, share, comment or even subscribe to my blog if the feeling so moves you!

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Plans, plans, plans!

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I hope everyone had a happy New Year and that it was a safe one, too! Me, I stayed home.  Too many drunks on the road, and I’ve noticed that in most places, prices go up for celebrations on that night.  You pay more for the same experience you could have had any other night.

All the talk about how cold it is on the east coast, and in the northeast particularly has me thinking that wherever I end up after ABQ, it will be warm.  As in all year warm.   I just can’t handle the cold anymore.  It makes me want to hibernate.

To be able to handle a move like that, I need to earn extra income, so that’s one thing I am working on.  I’m not saying the move is going to happen soon.  I really want to do my research and plan for things financially and otherwise, etc. I’ve been journalling a lot of my thoughts.  Writing always helps.

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Some of you know I do transcription.  The lady with whom I’ve worked for the past 13 months or so is shutting down her business in March (for a well deserved retirement, I might add), so it’s a good thing I have lined myself up to start doing transcription for a company that does a lot of law enforcement work.  Jail house interrogations, courtroom transcription, depositions, wire taps, police dash cams, etc.

The pay is decent, and they say that they always have a lot of work – one thing that’s recession proof is the law,  and therefore crime.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet that crime increases when the economy is bad.

I plan on setting up two separate bank accounts just for this work.  This morning, I applied for an EIN (employer identification number, not a social security number), so I will have one account into which my pay will be deposited, and another bank account into which I will transfer money for taxes, because all this work will be done as an independent contractor.

I’m excited to begin this work.  When it comes to legal stuff, I can be a total nerd, and I actually like listening to this sort of stuff! Having been a librarian for so many years, I love LOVE LOVE learning about new things every day.  I never want my brain to become stagnant.

My school starts up again in another week.  I can’t believe it’s already the spring semester! I’m taking courses in Animal Protection and Writing for Social Change, and I am super excited by both!

I have been reading up on how to grow this blog – the more I write for it, the more I want to write, and I really want to get information out there, both on topics I care about, and on those that you, the reader, find interesting.  I’m putting together an editorial calendar so I can be regular with my posting (I’m thinking Tuesdays and Fridays are good for posting), if not 3x per week.  I’m always looking for more bloggers and readers to connect with and follow, so I TRULY do appreciate all the comments everyone leaves.  I can’t stress this enough!

I hope you enjoy the illustrations – I’ve been coloring a lot lately and it helps to relax me, plus all the positive thoughts in my Good Vibes coloring book (which I got for just $2!!) help me to stay motivated.

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As always, thanks for reading!!

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If you need to shop online, I’d greatly appreciate it if you use my Amazon affiliate links or Ebates referral link! Every little bit helps, and it costs you nothing to do so. Thank you!

Seeking input from you, the reader!

ask-2341784_640One of my wishes is to really grow the community of folks who read this blog.  I mentioned in my last post I have been making changes to the blog behind the scenes, gradually.  A suggestion that I received the other day from my faculty advisor and another student was to add a page called “How do I?” or something to that effect to my blog.  Now this can take many routes!

I have a background as a reference librarian and a legal one at that.  I miss helping people learn skills that can help them be better researchers or critical thinkers or just helping them find information that at one time may have seemed elusive.

Ideas I’ve come up including the following:

  • tiny house resources
  • “how do I find zoning or building codes for my area?” (goes along with the tiny house resources, already in progress!)
  • find tiny house plans for free or at very little cost?
  • how do I find salvaged materials with which to construct my tiny house?
  • find out if a charity I want to donate to or get involved with is strategic and responsible with its resources?
  • what are ways that I can reduce my ecological footprint?
  • are there any ways I can learn to stretch my budget even further?
  • where can I find scholarships to apply to so my debt burden isn’t so high?

I know people read my blog for various reasons, so I’d really like your input on things you would like to learn more about, etc.

I’m also going to start adding book reviews, and the first one will be on Rob Greenfield’s book, Dude Making A Difference, which I finished in two days and the only reason it took me that long was because I had to go to work!  All I can say is, he is such an inspiring, positive guy and I really want to be a better human being after reading his book.

Please drop me a comment below and let me know what kinds of posts you would enjoy reading or what might be some helpful “How do I?” pages.

Thanks as always for reading!

The Little Things: A Matter of Perspective

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This photo reminds me of the West Coast and the ocean, which I’ve begun to increasingly miss more and more (image from pixabay.com).  Also, it’s a matter of perspective – these monoliths can also extend downward into the water for hundreds of feet!

Woohoo! I’m done with my first semester of the Masters in Humane Education program I started this past fall!  It’s been a while since I’ve taken classes in something I feel passionate about, and it makes all the difference. We had what we call our “Capstone” salons this weekend for each of my classes, where we meet with the professor and other students via zoom and share projects.  In one of my capstones, I got some great ideas for how to develop my blog!!  I really want this blog to also become an educational tool, not just me simply blathering on about my life. 🙂  (Although there will still be some of that, lol.)  It was so cool to see people you’ve been in contact with on Blackboard but never seen their face!

So last night it was so relaxing – I sat there and was reading Dude Making a Difference, by Rob Greenfield.  I love this book so much that I’ve already put it on my Helpful Books page.  He has some great pearls of wisdom in it and he makes me desire to be a better person.  One of my favorite quotes is on page.156:

“Life is a matter of perspective.  Change your perspective today and you’ll be living in a whole new world tomorrow.”

His book has been published by New Society Publishers, and they specialize in publishing books that provide solutions for those who want to make a difference – I can’t wait to see what they have in their catalog!!

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you all know how much I love taking pictures of trees from this vantage point – love the sense of perspective in this photo! (image from pixabay.com)

So, before I get into the meat of this blog post, I hope you will take a look at my newly revised About Me, Helpful Books, and NEW page on Animal Welfare and Rights Groups.   Oh, and I even created a Hire Me page!There are more new pages in progress, including Inspiring Videos and Inspiring Stories, to come in the near future!  The more I write, the more creative I feel!

So I thought I might suggest some little things that we can thing about anew, and feel more positive about our day, especially if it’s a crappy day for whatever reason – weather, people being grumpy, etc.

These are some of the little things that have helped my weekend to be a good one:

  • that perfectly brewed cup of coffee first thing in the morning
  • the cat that insists on sitting on your lap and putting his head on your laptop screen as you are trying to type (ahem, happening right now – I remind myself that it’s because Max loves me, as shown by his loud purring now taking place)
  • waking up in the morning and realizing today is what you make of it.  You might have to go to work, but only you can decide how to react to things, events, and people
  • a good conversation with a good friend
  • seeing your roommate start to flourish in this new town, meeting new friends and joining a community of like-minded souls
  • joining in a free(!) webinar with other interested souls to learn about building your own tiny house from this guy, Ethan Waldman
  • hearing from another writer whose work you really admire that your blog is one of her favorites (check out Sal’s blog at One Empty Shelf – her writing is so calming)
  • sitting in silence enjoying the beauty of your first Christmas tree in a few years
  • on a cold night, having a roof over your head, a comfy bed to sleep in, and a very cute dog named Snuggles, well, snuggling, at your side, knowing he is safe and loved
  • realizing the notebook with the cover “My Brilliant Ideas” that you recently bought for $3 was a great use of your money

What are some little things that help to center you and ground you in a positive perspective on life? Please share them below – I’d love to hear them and get a good conversation started! 

As always, thanks for reading.  And please, do check out my newly revised and created pages and let me know what you think!

And thank you to those of you who have recently used my Amazon Affiliates link and Ebates Referral link!  (Every little bit of income helps, so thank you!!)

I’m Still Here! and Looking Forward

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Image courtesy of pixabay.com

This is my last week of the semester and I have two presentations due this week, plus I’ve been given the gift of some extra transcribing these past few weeks, so I’ve been a busy girl!  Also, two of my cats have had dentals performed in the past week, and so I’ve been worried about them and their recovery, which takes me away from other duties.  (Poor little HoneyBun – check out The Herd page – she’s my beautiful orange/buff colored beauty) has a cone on her head now.  But she remains her extremely loveable self, even rolling onto her side so we can rub her belly.)  But I want to let you know I’m still here and plan on getting back to posting twice a week once this week is over.

I’m excited because next semester, I will be taking two classes:  (1) Animal Protection and (2) Writing for Social Change.  These are two classes that I already know will be near and dear to my heart.  The latter is one that is usually taken in your second year of the program but my advisor thought it to be a good idea for me to take it now, earlier on.

I’m looking forward to using my blog to include some of my humane education efforts, but for those of you who read it (maybe to cure your insomnia?!) to follow along with my life, don’t worry, I won’t abandon writing posts to discuss my life, decisions, hopes, and of course, simple dreams, etc., so please keep with me!!

And in case you are looking for some good books to read, or maybe to even give as a gift, please check out my newly improved Helpful Books page, which I’ve recently changed and plan on updating regularly.

As always, thank you for reading! What’s been keeping you busy lately? Drop me a line below!

And to any of you who have used or plan on using my Amazon Affiliate or Ebates Referral links for your shopping this holiday season or just in general, thank you!!

And remember to always . . .

enjoy today
Image courtesy of pixabay.com

 

 

 

Our Changing Environment

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Forest, image courtesy of pixabay.com

As I move along in my Humane Education classes, I’ve begun thinking about some issues in more detail than I used to, and sometimes it can get a bit depressing, I won’t lie. When it gets to me, I try to remember a few essays we read in the beginning of the semester on keeping hope alive in the face of what looks to be insurmountable problems, such as the warming of the planet and what appears to be the unwillingness of many to acknowledge what is going on, and that we have to take some actions now to preserve the planet for our kids, grandkids, great grandkids, and so on.   All too often, it is to easy to just say “oh, I’m only one person, what can I do?” and throw your hands up in despair without having at least  tried to make a difference or a change.

To me, that is almost as bad a strategy to have about climate change as the one undertaken by many to deny it exists whatsoever. Such is the case with the Heartland Institute having mailed books to science teachers all across the country this past March.  Have you heard about the Heartland Institute? They’re the same organization that used to argue that second hand smoke didn’t cause cancer.  I think we all know how (un)truthful that statement is now.

One of those times that it seemed a bit depressing to me is when I talked to my sister in  Michigan, who has three kids, ages 15, 12 and 9.  I asked her what they were learning about climate change in the schools, if anything.  Turns out, they haven’t touched on the topic at all. Not even as part of a unit on something related to climate change like the hurricanes of this past summer, or the fact that what was once-in-a-century storms seem to be happening with much more frequency lately.  Why is that, I wonder?  Is it because it might be considered “controversial” and therefore they should stay away from it?  Is it because it’s not on a standardized test and therefore the school can’t show how proficient their teaching methods are?  If so, that’s just ….. sad.

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tropical cyclone, courtesy of pixabay.com

So if you’re reading this and you’re a parent, I would ask you to ask your kids if they are talking about any of the following in their science classes:  climate change, the weather (such as hurricanes, droughts in California, forest fires),  rising ocean temperatures,  coral reefs dying near Australia, how the ice is melting at the poles and in Greenland, how our glaciers keep shrinking every year.   You don’t have to ask them all of this at once – that’s way too overwhelming.  Just broach one topic at a time.

If you’re a parent, maybe you can attend a PTA meeting or school board of education meeting at your school to discuss the curriculum.  If there are any climate deniers on the board of education, you can point out some of the facts and studies that debunk the ideas espoused by the likes of Heartland Institute,  on the Skeptical Science website.   Call your school’s principal and find out if the teachers are using or mentioning Heartland Institute’s book.  If so, provide them with a copy of this flyer, explaining five reasons why the book shouldn’t be used in the classroom.

if your kids have questions that you don’t feel comfortable answering, maybe showing them one of the three flyers linked here, created by the NCSE (National Center for Science Education).  And take them to their local science museum – in Albuquerque, we have one that is very hands on, called Explora. (Check out your local library to see if there is a pass you can use so you can attend it at a discounted price or possibly even for free!!!)  The point is to get them thinking and getting excited about science and the human effect on the world around them.

If you’re interested in reading further about this, or how to talk to your kids about climate change and the environment, please check out the following resources, as well as those mentioned on my Helpful Books page.  (It’s been revised and republished!)

Or, even better, if there are woods or a lake nearby, take your kids there for a short field trip.  Encourage their love of the outdoors and ask them questions about the trees or the water, or any of the living creatures that might cross their path (age-appropriate questions, of course.)  You might want to talk about experiences you had as a kid with different animals or species we don’t see so much of anymore, such as fireflies.  (If you’re in the US, around my age, think back – when was the last time you saw one??  Didn’t they seem to be everywhere when you were a kid?!)  Ask your kids why they think that might be, that some species seem to be disappearing from our planet.

Finally, if your kids are learning about climate change or any of its related issues in school, I’d love for you to drop me a comment and let me know where you live (just a state is fine if in the US, or a country if not in the US), and how they are discussing it so that we can help spread the word.  And if they’re not discussing it, but you think they should, then let’s get a conversation started and maybe we can brainstorm ideas on how you can approach your local school or community and raise its consciousness on the issue of climate change.  It’s here.  Let’s not close our eyes to what is happening right before us.

If you’ve liked this post or think you know someone who could benefit from reading it, please hit the like button or any of the share buttons!  As always, thanks for reading.

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lightning flash, image courtesy of pixabay.com

Writer’s Frustration

 

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photo by congerdesign, via pixabay.com

Some days the words just flow onto the page.  Other times, you sit there and want to beat the crap out of that blinking cursor. Why is it that you can have so many awesome ideas in your head and then when you try to get them out onto paper, they just come out sounding, so – what’s the word I’m looking for? Bad? Crappy? Awful? Cringe-worthy??  Making you pissed off that you even set the alarm an hour earlier, thinking you could get up and actually get something done?

 

On those days, do you turn to mindless activities like surfing the web, scrolling through your facebook or instagram feed, or other such time wasters?  (Maybe I should just delete the Candy Crush app on my phone now before it gets any worse.  Yes, I know I’m a few years late to that game.  Never said I was fashionable.)

On those days, I’m torn between wanting to read something like Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, and my latest fiction obsession, The Girl on the  Train.  Anne’s book appears to speak directly to me – she gets it, the frustrations, the self-doubt, the condemnation of one’s own mind.  And she even turns those thoughts into humor.

My fiction obsession – I read it for the entertainment, but also to study the writer’s technique.  And I wonder, did they know what direction their story was going in when they started writing it? Or did they just let the words flow onto the page as they flitted in and out of their mind, hoping against hope that at one point, it all might make some coherent sense? Because that’s what my writing is like right now.  A bunch of jumbled thoughts.  Some thoughts are of fictional content, others just musings of a distracted mind …. hey, look, SQUIRREL!??

One of my favorite authors is John Connolly.   When I first started reading his work, many years ago, I believe it was because he usually sets his stories in the northeast.  Maine, in particular.  A state located so close to Massachusetts but so different in every way.  John’s writing is quite dark but also spell-binding.  I don’t want to read about all the horrible things that can happen to the characters in his books, but I also can’t tear myself away sometimes.  His Charlie Parker novels have spanned the years, and I wonder, “did he know all of this was going to happen to Charlie when he first started out?  Did he storyboard or mindmap his ideas? HOW does he do it?”

For those of you out there who like to write, what helps you on the days where you’re just not feeling it?  Where everything you write down makes you want to just give up and remember to not quit your day job?  Do you work with writing prompts?  Pull out your journal and let the words flow via your pen and not the computer?

A good friend of mine said to me that writing can be like running.  Some days you just have really shitty runs but you persevere and push through them because you know that, not long from now, you’ll have that one run where you feel euphoric like that’s what it is all about, where you could just keep running and running and running. (No, not like Forrest Gump.)   This friend should know – she trained for a marathon with me, and God, did I feel sorry for her having to put up with me on many of those days.  There were some days that if I had been her, I would have said “Screw you!” and just run on without me.

But she stuck with me. As I hope many of you out there will stick with me. Thanks for reading my drivel today. And enjoy the earlier than normal morning sunshine, if you’re already up, like me.

As always, thanks for reading. Please share this post if you think there’s someone out there who can commiserate or benefit from reading it.  And please drop me a line if you have a suggestion or comment!

 

You only see the ugly up close. Or do you?

IMG_20170929_132853.jpgYou only see the ugly up close. Or do you? 

Makeup.  It hides a lot.  It makes things look prettier than they are.  it hides flaws.  The too-large pores or the blackheads, pooled areas of trapped dirt in the skin.  The zits, sometimes white on top and sometimes so pink and red it’s painful to just look at them. Makeup hides the truth while creating this image of perfection.  

You might have a crush on someone at work.  You fantasize about what your life might be like with them.  And in your daydreams, they never disappoint.  Of course not.  Because it’s all in your mind. It’s a world you create to get yourself away from this world you now find yourself in. If you started dating them in real life, you might see that they have flaws just like yourself.  Maybe they forget to shower some days or leave the toilet seat up, or leave too many dirty dishes in the sink.  Maybe they take too long in the bathroom every morning, leaving you with cold, or, at best, lukewarm water when it comes time for you to take a shower.  

A novel that you just can’t put down.  Every line, every word, seems so perfectly chosen. You wonder how these words could have come out of the author’s mind.  Is he or she a genius, that much better and smarter than you, who could never come up with something so clever? It looks so “perfect.”  Of course it does.  It’s been edited over and over, possibly over the course of several months or even years.  

What you don’t see is the ugly behind it.  The hours of frustration the author spent staring at a blank computer screen, the blinking cursor taunting them over and over with every second that ticked by and the page not coming any closer to being filled up. And before the advent of computers (shock, gasp! was there such a time?) the mounds of rolled up paper thrown into or around a wastebasket, thrown in a moment of sheer dramatic agony of the author, convinced that they couldn’t form a single thought in a coherent manner.  

Ever read through a company’s annual report or documents sent to their shareholders about how the company is doing?  Be honest.  From beginning to end? Of course not.  If you’re not one of the document’s drafters or one of the company’s lawyers, or a student reading through it for a class assignment (yep, that was me), then you would likely fall asleep by page 3. The document looks nice and pretty from afar.  Perfectly formatted paragraphs and logos and strategically placed phrases in italics, or perhaps other various uses of formatting techniques such as bold and larger fonts, hiding the ugly truth that a company is going down the tubes.  

But what if you only wanted to see the beauty up close?  Is that possible?  

Yes.  

On a run, you see wild sunflowers up ahead.  From far away, they’re like a sea of yellow and black swaying gracefully in the breeze.  As you get closer, their individual shapes begin to emerge, and some beckon to you as would a grandmother to a child.  You raise your hand out to give them a very slight touch with your fingertips.  They look as if they are smiling in return. You whisper “thank you” to them as you run by and can’t help having a smile crawl over your face as a result.  A runner then passes you in the other direction, and the smile is contagious.  

The feel of a lover’s kiss for the first time after a long period of separation and anticipation.  

The feel of a cat’s paw on your face, urging you to wake up in the morning.  

The first sip of a hot cup of coffee on a brisk morning, sitting outside your tent, gazing at the mountains in the distance. 

The tentative steps forward of an animal that was formerly abused, now daring to feel a human touch that doesn’t cause pain. Your falling asleep while sitting near them, in companionship, waking up to see them next to you, looking at you with what appears to be hope in their eyes.  Hope that you will now become their family, their protector.  Their love.  Their life. And they will become yours.  

Seeing the ugly or the beauty up close is a choice.  A choice only you can make. I choose beauty.  To choose otherwise just isn’t possible.  For me.   

Which do you choose?  

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 As always, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy these photos, shot at Elk Island National Park, just north of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. 

If you have liked this post and would like to read more like it, please hit the like button below or drop me a line, or even just share it with someone who you feel would also enjoy it.  I’ve been starting to write more and I’m definitely feeling the creativity expand within me.

 

 

 

 

Reconnecting to Nature: Take a Field Trip

 

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The site of my field trip (sunflowers were behind me.)

My Environmental Ethics requires us to go on four field trips in our neck of the woods. The goal is to remain in the present for at least 30 minutes.  No cell phones.  No thoughts of what happened earlier today or what can happen tonight.  When you find your thoughts drifting away from the present, you do your best to bring them back to the here and now.  Try and use all of your senses: sight, smell, touch, hear, etc.  Our assignment limits us to the number of words, and I’m finding I’m embracing those limits rather than fighting them. One of my fellow students said I should publish them somehow and he would want to read one of them every day to reconnect himself to nature. So, I thought I would do so here, in the hope that it can have some beneficial effect to those of you reading it.

Our assignment limits us to the number of words, and I’m finding I’m embracing those limits rather than fighting them. So without further adieu, here goes nothing, er, my first field trip.

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Yesterday, I took a field trip to the section of the Bosque knowns as Tingley Beach.  The Bosque is a wooded area located along the banks of the Rio Grande in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  It stretches for miles with lots of dirt paths for walkers, runners, bikers, and nature enthusiasts.  Usually, I run there.  But yesterday, I decided I would just sit and observe.

I wonder – what made me choose this spot?  Because it’s familiar?  But, I’ve never sat here on a log and just looked and listened while not moving.  There are so many wild sunflowers growing here, some out of what appears to be dead, inhospitable wood accumulated on the ground.  How did all these dead tree branches come to be here on the ground?  Were they cut down?  No, they’re too randomly placed.  Did they break off in the wind?  That seems more likely, given the winds we have here in Albuquerque, a high desert city.

The breeze blows through the green leaves of the tall cottonwoods above me.  I’m comforted by it, even though I can tell by its ferocity that a rainstorm might be coming.  I welcome that.  To the south are dark clouds.  To the north are white puffy clouds that seem to be speeding effortlessly through the sky because of that strong wind.  The sun keeps peeking in and out from among the dark clouds, alternately warming and cooling my body.

Sitting quietly, I start to hear the sounds of birds chirping.  I hear one chirp, then another, and then a third, all from different locations.  They are of different types; each chirp is unique.  And are those crickets or cicadas I hear?  I love the sound of them, but seeing them in person freaks me out.  I’m not a fan of big bugs.

I hear the sounds of civilization off in the distance: traffic noise, a plane flying overhead, the sounds of humans along the dirt path.  The humans are close enough that we could both see each other, but they’re too engrossed in their conversations or own thoughts to notice me sitting amongst the cottonwoods.  And I am grateful because I want to be left alone to observe, to feel, to hear, to smell.  I’m irritated by the intrusion.

I realize I haven’t seen a single bug crawling along the log on which I sit.  Surprising, because I usually see them everywhere on the path when I run.  And this is the woods! As if I willed it into existence, one appears, and it’s time for me to shift positions.  I take a seat on the ground near the sunflowers.  I can see the honeybees darting from one flower to the next.  But I don’t hear them making a sound.  Funny, I thought this was grass, but it feels more like straw.  Looking closer, I notice it covers the dead branches and twigs found below it.  It’s uncomfortable, and it’s time for me to go, so I walk toward the river.

If this post touches you somehow, please share it.  And thank you for reading.

 

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Wild sunflowers abound in the Bosque, not too far from where I sat

 

Thank you letters

 

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image from pixabay.com

Remember when you were a kid and your parents had you write out thank you letters after you received a gift for your birthday or a holiday like Hanukkah or Christmas?  Have you ever gotten a thank you note from someone out of the blue for something you did at your job, and you’re like, “I was just doing my job, wow!”

 

When I was at Harvard, I kept all of the thank you notes I received, even via email, and posted them on my wall near my desk.  I liked to think of it as my wall of positivity. When I was having a very bad day, I’d look at the wall and remind myself, “THIS is why I do what I do.” Sometimes students would see the notes and remark on them, and tell me that it made them feel even more comfortable meeting and talking with me.

I had a great Zoom meeting with my faculty advisor this morning and felt really inspired afterward.  We talked about how I can use my writing skills in humane education and she gave me lots of ideas and suggestions.  I remember a comment she made on one of my assignments – had I ever thanked the Creative Writing teacher I had in college?  And I thought of my work study job I had in college, where a true gentleman by the name of Carl G. Martin was my supervisor and ran the Office of Student Services.  I’ve thought of writing to him and thanking him for the influence he had on me in my college years.  But I’ve not done it. So, that ends today.

There are many people I want to thank for how they have positively changed my life.  But today, I’m going to start with just one, and I would like to encourage any of you to send me your thank you letters and I will gladly post them here.   Maybe you want to thank someone who is no longer with us, or someone you have no idea how to find or reach.  You will receive all the credit, of course.  I won’t edit them, I promise.

So here it goes, my first thank you letter, to my friend David B.   

Dear David,  

Thank you for having been my friend for the past 12 years.  Thank you for always being such a calming, positive influence (even when you didn’t think you were.)  Thank you for always be willing to sit and listen and then answer probing, thought-provoking questions in a non-judgmental way.  Thank you for being “that poor bastard who had to deal with you for more than eight hours a day for two years, sharing an office with you!” (That’s what my now ex-hb said at one point, and I remember telling you, and laughing about it.)   

Thank you for being that friend who was willing to sit across a table from me the night before I left my marriage.  You held my hand as I sobbed, hysterically at times, not being able to catch my breath.  I remember you giving me a key to your apartment in case I needed a place to stay.  You didn’t say much that night, and I suspect you knew you didn’t need to.  I just needed to know I wasn’t alone.  I needed to know I wasn’t a horrible person, and that I was loved, even though what I was contemplating doing was ripping me up inside. And you let me know that I would be okay.  It might take time, but I would be okay.

Thank you for watching me grow these past several years and for supporting my newest quest to start a master’s program at the young old age of 44, and not calling me insane for doing so.  Thank you for understanding that like you, I need to constantly be learning to be happy with my life.  Thank you for writing one of my recommendation letters for that program and for talking with me for quite a while beforehand, again, asking those great questions you always do.  

Thank you for being that type of friend, who, when we talk, it’s like we just saw each other yesterday.  Thank you for loving me as only a friend like that would. 

Love, Terri

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If you would like to email me a letter or write one as a guest post, you can email me at chasingsimpledreams AT gmail.com.  Or, please feel free to drop a comment on the blog with your email (the email is not shared or shown publicly), and I will gladly post it for you. 

It’s my hope to get an atmosphere of gratitude flowing around those of us interacting here or reading the blog.  When you’re grateful, it colors your whole world in a very positive light.

Thank you for reading.