All I want (Read: Inner Conflict)


It hit me tonight.  I want two diametrically opposed things out of life.  I want to live a very simple life, just me and my animals in our one-room house, with a small garden and a body of water located not too far away.  Oh, and warm weather all year round.

But I also want to go out of this world having left it in a better place than it was when I first entered it, way back in the ’70s.  Specifically, where animals are concerned, I want to make it better.

I took the dogs for a walk yesterday in the Bosque and asked the two of them that very question.  I said, “Guys, how can I make the world a better place for you, and for all the animals?  Just tell me how.”

If Snuggles or Morgan knew the answer to my question, they weren’t going to provide it.  They were too busy enjoying themselves.  Smelling all the smells on the path, leaving some smells of their own, getting tangled up in their leashes.  You know, the usual.  (Lazy Bums, the one time I ask them for something in return for all the food I feed them….geesh!) (j/k)

While a part of me hungers for stability where finances are concerned, I’ve been thinking of what it would like to be able to support myself through a combination of transcribing, proofreading or copy editing, and writing.  Would I then able to help animals more?  Or does it make more sense to try to get a job working with a sanctuary or other animal-related organization somewhere?  (Note, I’m looking a few years ahead into the future.)

When I get thinking like this, I get frustrated.  I can’t come up with an answer that feels right.  I feel adrift.  It ramps up my anxiety.  I need to be able to focus on just one thing at a time.  I need to feel control.  Or rather, in control.

That’s when I usually sit there and try to figure out my financial situation, depressing as it may be.  I try to start with the positives:  my retirement fund and itty-bitty savings:

Retirement:  $209,230
+  Regular Savings: $2141
Grand total:  $211,371

And then, of course, there are the liabilities.  (Luckily, my savings as noted above is larger than the liabilities.)  I just received my student loan refund check today and I decided to wipe out my credit card debt with it.  Six percent interest vs. 18 percent interest, that’s why I made that move.  And the credit cards are in the freezer.

I plan to pay off my overdraft on my checking account and then call them and have them deactivate it.  The credit line is only for $500 but it’s $500 I don’t want to have hanging over my head, at 11%.  No more revolving line of credit for me after the overdraft is taken care of.

I think that the second student loan refund from yesterday is what is stressing me out at the moment.  The idea that I am taking on even more debt.  I know, I know, many of you commented on this last summer when I considered going for the degree in humane education.  And believe me, I was aware of the numbers.  And I am now as well.  I wonder to myself, should I continue on past this semester?  I finally feel like I’ve met some members of my tribe, but at what financial cost?

My friend Dan says that instead of concentrating on changing the world, I should concentrate on changing my neighborhood.  That’s his way of being like my grandma when she used to counsel and calm me — trying to get me to not think of everything all at one time.

I think what he is saying is I need to remember the ripple effect.  When you make one small change, that has an effect on other things, and they in turn, have an effect on other things, and before long, the total effect is huge.

I need to work on one thing at a time.  Work through my day one hour at a time, much like I did when I was recovering from my divorce.

But what I really need to do is figure out what is my gift to this world.

If you’re wondering what I mean by “my gift,” you might want to watch this video below, by Sustainable Human.  He starts talking about your gift, or life energy around the halfway point.


Simply put, I NEED to figure out why I’m here on this earth.  And how to give it back.  Until then, I don’t think I will always feel comfortable in my own skin.

What do you think is your gift to this world?  Please share your comments in the thoughts below.   And if you’ve liked anything about this post, please share it with someone else.

As always, thanks for reading.





One of those days

Image from  It came up in a search for images related to “resignation.” 🙂

Last night, I came home from work with two six-packs of beer in my hands.  My roommate took one look at them and my face and said “One of those days, huh?” (For the record, I only had two.  He drank three.)

I try to be positive on this blog, I really do.  But sometimes, you just have one of those crappy ass days where you think to yourself, “WHY am i doing this?” Also, “that’s it, I’m GOING to change my life and my work.”

It is not abnormal for my hospital to get phone calls with questions such as:

  • “Is this something I should bring my pet in for?   It was in dog fight and now it’s eye is sticking out from its socket.”
  • “My dog has been vomiting and has had diarrhea for the past seven days.  Do you think I should be worried or bring it in?”

These are the calls that make me want to bang my head against a wall or go outside and do a (not) silent scream in frustration. I want to say to these people, “Well, gee, if you had your eyeball sticking out of its socket, would YOU want to seek medical attention?!  or If you had it coming out of both ends for a week, would YOU want to go to a doctor and get something for it??!!  Then why would you think it would be any different for your pet?!”

Usually with these calls, we then get the story of how they can’t afford to have their pet treated. We give out the phone numbers to the low-income clinics.  Or we get told that we are selfish money grubbers who only care about money, not if their pet lives or dies.  And sometimes they hang up on us.  One day, it happened to me three times.  Because, you know, it’s MY fault that they can’t afford to take care of their pet.

Nothing could be further from the truth and it pisses me off so much.  I want to say, “Trust me.  I make $12.50/hour so I’m certainly NOT making money off of your pet.”  But I can’t.  I have to try and be as nice as possible with them.

Public Service Announcement:  Please, please, please, people, if you can’t afford to take care of a  pet when it gets sick, DON’T adopt it.  Or find a way to save for its health needs. Or take out pet insurance.  Or hell, get a job at an animal clinic so you get a huge discount on their pet care.  Or call the low-income clinics and find out when or if they have special clinics for certain health needs like vaccination clinics or spay and neuter clinics.  I could go on and on.  The point is —  DO SOMETHING.

Don’t expect the person answering the phone at the animal hospital to be a miracle worker or the receptacle for all of your problems and frustrations.  Because WE are people too.  We really are.  We have feelings.  We are scraping to get by just as you are.  (In fact, many of us joke that we work there so that we can afford to take care of our pets or pay our vet bill.  Unfortunately, it’s also kind of true.)  And also, if you’re there with us in person, don’t treat us as if we are stupid because we are standing behind that desk.  I have advanced degrees.  I have CHOSEN to work with animals because I love them so much.

One thing my mom taught me, and I wish other people had learned as well – never assume that the person assisting you is beneath you or doesn’t deserve your respect.  You NEVER know who you are talking to.  And believe me, it’s true.  And you never  know if that person could be the one to help you out when you need it. I mean, truly need it. 

The point of all this is that yesterday was one of those days where I became even more resolved to change my life from its present circumstances.  Tonight, I will take a transcription test or a remote researcher test (another option for me to make extra cash) so I can start earning more side hustle income, and make one of my dreams more of a reality – being able to do freelance work to support myself.   I want to have multiple streams of income so that if my writing can’t support me or I just plain fail miserably at it, there are still options that I can rely upon.

Today is a new day.  I’m going to try to remind myself to not let my emotions get caught up in what is going on around me and which I cannot control.  Easier said than done, for sure.  I need to take a deep breath. Or three.  Or four.  Or ten, as the case may be. 

If you’ve ever felt this way about your job or your life, please share below or feel free to share this post with someone who has.  I’d love for us to be able to talk about it.

As always, thank you for reading, and thank you so much to those of you who have commented on or messaged me about my last couple of posts about being brutally honest or my talk about money, either here or on Facebook. They have really helped to keep me inspired.


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Writer’s Frustration


photo by congerdesign, via

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!


Student loans….student loans….student loans….remember those??!!

I believe this is called a "steeple" formation - over time, it erodes away into an "island."
I believe this is called a “steeple” formation – over time, it erodes away into an “island.”

Note – none of these photos relate to the title of the blog. That’s because student loans are ugly. And well, my surroundings are anything but. So, enjoy. 

Some of you long time readers (I hope you’re still out there and I haven’t lost you with my dearth of posts over the last two months) might remember a series of posts I wrote about getting out of debt. I think I had gotten up to “Post # umpteen + 1.”  Anyway. That was when I was going gangbusters on paying down one of my student loans. And then suddenly my focus shifted to saving. And saving. And saving. And saving.  It’s good that I saved, because moving was not cheap. I had to buy a car, and an RV to live in, due to the lack of rental units in my town, and also just general moving costs that come along with a cross country road trip. Even a gas-sipping kind of car like mine took about $350 in gas for the entire trip.

So, as you know if you read my most recent post other than this one, I finally found out what my pay will be after taxes, at my new job. This is a good thing, because I wasn’t sure at what tax rate I would find myself with the new salary. It turns out to be just under 14% so for planning purposes, I’m just rounding up to 14%. A dramatic change from the 28-29% rate I used to find myself in.

Yes, those are bison. Yes, that is a cute little baby bison! And yes, they were THAT close to my car!
Yes, those are bison. Yes, that is a cute little baby bison! And yes, they were THAT close to my car!

Of course I’m not yet eligible for health insurance benefits at my new job, so the amount will change, but I can figure out by how much and do the calculations. I think that if I live frugally, I can make this work, and still put some extra money down every month to be applied to either my RV or my car payment and get those taken care of in the next few years. Or, the pesky LAL loan that I was annihilating there for about a year. That LAL loan, as some of you may remember, comes with a variable interest rate. Right now the rate is low, so I would like to take advantage of that and get as much of my payments applied to the principal as I can.  If the LIBOR rate starts to go up, then I need to watch out, because then the rate of my loan can go up, up to as high as 9%. I don’t foresee that happening with this economy, but you never know.

And oh yes, the Big Daddy Loan. How can I forget that rat bastard? The one that totals up to something like $97K and which I have easily paid at least that much back over the years, yet the balance never seems to go down by any noticeable measure. Well, here’s the thing.

The Big Daddy Loan is actually two consolidated federal loans. With federal loans, there is a repayment plan that can be based on your income, and it’s called (yes, very originally), Income Based Repayment Plan (or IBR, for short.) With this plan, you have to keep reapplying for it every year. As your income goes up (or down), your payment can adjust accordingly. After 25 years, whatever the amount of your unpaid balance is, is forgiven. I believe it gets counted as income to you for that year, but have to double check on that. So, by switching to this payment plan, yes, I am signing up for another 25 years of payments, but at a HEAVILY reduced amount from what I had been paying with my job back east.

The view from my walk the other day. Absolutely amazing!!!
The view from my walk the other day. Absolutely amazing!!!

Remember how I used to pay $538/month and that was just interest? That was just to keep it from growing?? Well, now I will start to pay $91.31/month. Quite the difference. Yes, the loan will continue to grow. No, I don’t think I will ever make nearly the kind of money I used to make as a reference librarian back east. And yes, I am totally fine with that. I plan to treat it as a utility bill, in my mind, i.e. something that always sticks with you, no matter where you go. For the next 25 years, anyway.

This is not to say that it hasn’t been frustrating to get the payment amount adjusted. To apply for the new repayment plan, I had to send proof of my new salary, but they also asked for my AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) from last year. I knew that this would cause problems, because as some of you may remember, last year, I worked like a crazy person. On top of my full time job, I also worked at the gym part time, and then had the 1099 work doing research for that book. So all together, I actually made more money than I had ever made in my life. I had a feeling that the folks at Navient would not look at all the paperwork together, and “get” the whole situation, even though I had checked off the box saying that my financial circumstances had majorly changed.  Yep, as you can imagine, they didn’t disappoint. They sent me paperwork saying “congratulations, your new payment plan will have you paying a total of $1,038/month!! YAY!!!!! (This is where I started to bang my head against the RV table, at least figuratively.)

The view from my town's city park - can you believe it??
The view from my town’s city park – can you believe it??

So, the other night I found myself on the phone, talking to someone who was clearly not a native English speaker, and I was losing my patience. I was told that had looked at my AGI from last year and that’s how they arrived at the new number. He said the paperwork I had sent from my new employer was not sufficient to tell them the salary I would be making. (The letter gave them my hourly rate and told them how many hours per week I would work and I had been told previously it was enough.) I finally said to the guy, “I want to talk to a supervisor and I want to talk to someone based in the US. I am not sending paperwork a third time because someone can’t take the time to multiply my hourly rate times 40 hours times 52 weeks to get my gross salary.”   I was then placed on hold for a long time, but everytime he would come back and apologize, saying they were manually processing my application, I just said, in a resigned voice, “I want it taken care of, I’ll hold.” And finally it was. Sigh…..

“Why, and how, Terri, would you do this to yourself?” is what you are probably thinking. I know. To many people, my choices sound insane. But to many others, they look at me, and go “wow. I can’t believe you’re doing this.” Well, I am. It’s a choice you make. Either stay in a city where you don’t want to be (although I have some awesome friends back there that I want to come visit me NOW!!!) and work at a job that pays well, but doesn’t lift your spirit the same way it used to. Or move to someplace where you can make a positive change in the world of animals, and the days go by quickly, and you get to meet new people every day and have an impact on their experience. You just don’t get paid as well. But, as a coworker of mine and I said to some visitors yesterday, you go into a line of work dealing with animals because you love it, not because you want to get rich. And that’s what I have decided to do.

Life is short, people, really short. You never know what tomorrow will bring. For all I know, I could get hit by a tractor trailer tomorrow and then I would have lived my life and not lived out my dreams. If you have even the slightest inkling that you are not where you want to be in life, then start working with that inkling. Take baby steps, every day, to work with it and not against it. Trust me, your gut and heart will both thank you.

So, here are my three big debts I want to concentrate on, in no special order.

LAL Loan = $12,802.84 (2.665% interest rate)
Car Loan = roughly $7000
RV loan = roughly $7300

Both the car loan and RV loan have very low interest rates- the exact numbers just escape me at the moment. I’ll write a post on my budget later.

Grand Canyon, North Rim. I love taking pics with trees in the foreground for scale. The clouds were gorgeous.
Grand Canyon, North Rim. I love taking pics with trees in the foreground for scale. The clouds were gorgeous.