Thoughts on a new job

I started a new job three weeks ago. I am helping people navigate the healthcare system and get the care they need.

I am bored to tears.

This is not the job I signed up for.

You see, animal welfare is HARD. It has a tendency to take the best of us and chew us up, then spit us out. Shells of our former selves. Tired and emotionally drained we look for a steady paycheck that won’t kill our souls. But I will wanted to help my community. That’s how I find myself on the third floor of a major healthcare company based here in Portland, surrounded by perfectly lovely people, bored to tears.

It’s one of those cool, fancy companies that has a fancy salad bar in the lobby, kombucha on tap, shuffle board on every floor, giant Jenga. It’s a beautiful building, clean working spaces, everyone seems to be friendly and kind. And yet, I feel like I don’t fit in. That I may never fit here.

When I get stressed out, I am used to going into the next room and curling up on the floor with a cat to calm my nerves. I am used to having an office dog. So, understandably, I feel a little out of sorts here. Not just because there aren’t critters running about the office, but that what we are doing has NOTHING to do with animals. And what I am doing is quite frankly dull. I am not cut out to be a concierge service (which is basically what we are doing).

See, I thought taking a job that I was simply ok with would be good for my mental state. I fear I was way off the mark. Not only is it not stimulating, but it’s boring! It isn’t something that I care about. And though I’m trying to find the joy, I just don’t know how I can continue to do this long-term.

Something I need to keep reminding myself, is that this is only temporary. It’s a 3 month contract. When that’s up we will discuss the potential for hiring me on full time with the company. Nothing is set in stone.

Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

I want to love my work. I have spent 15 years loving at least SOME part of my job. Loving my coworkers, our mission, the animals. The idea of doing a job simply for a paycheck is completely foreign to me. I am doing the job to the best of my ability, but I don’t necessarily feel like I’m moving any mountains. I’m stuck. I am struggling.

I want to make a difference and change the world. It doesn’t have to be big and loud or in your face. I honestly prefer to fly under the radar. But I still want to DO something.

So where does this leave me? I’m not entirely sure honestly. I will continue to show up on time, do my job to the best of my ability, and just TRY. I will try to do what I can do be a positive in my community. I will do what I can. And I will receive a paycheck. A paycheck that will pay my rent, and for my dog food and groceries. And I will keep an eye out for something that will truly fulfill me. Because not everything is meant to last forever, and not every job is going to be your dream job. Sometimes, you just gotta do it.

Vegan Fried Rice

Ya’ll, this is way easier than you think. And came together with ingredients I had on hand. I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner tonight, but I didn’t want to do anything fancy, and I had a few ingredients in my fridge I wanted to use up.

Here’s what you will need:

  • extra firm tofu
  • frozen veggies
  • rice (can be a few days old or fresh, I used two cups uncooked and made fresh rice as there was none in the fridge already cooked
  • soy sauce, turmeric, salt and pepper, sesame oil, garlic powder, vegan butter or oil

First you have to mash up the block of tofu. I used a fork to break it into pieces, then used a potato masher to really get the job done. Think little tiny pieces. I dusted it with turmeric, salt and pepper and garlic powder, and mixed it all up. This makes the tofu LOOK like egg (that matters to some people) but doesn’t do a whole lot in regards to the taste.

Next, add the vegan butter to the pan along side the tofu. You want to give the tofu a few minutes to brown up in some spots. Move the tofu to one side of the pan and add the rice. Toss in any frozen or fresh veggies you want.

Next I added a SMALL drizzle of sesame oil (it has a strong taste so you really don’t need much) and a hearty addition of soy sauce. Mix it all up and let it sit while cooking for a few minutes, stir up and let sit again. This will allow little bits to get browned and yummy.

That’s literally it. It was so easy. And so stinking tasty. It makes enough to have a few meals now and store some in the freezer for another night when I don’t feel cooking. (I kinda got lax about making freezer dinners this winter. Normally by now my chest freezer is full of soups and stews and other things so that I don’t have to make them during the warm summer months. This year it looks like I’ll need to keep batch cooking thorough the spring to fill my freezer to where I’d like it to be.)

Five Frugal Things

Borrowing from Katy Wolk-Stanley on this one! If you haven’t already, I highly recommend the blog The Non Consumer Advocate

Katy writes about five frugal things she did today, or yesterday, or any day really, all while providing for her family. I wanted to borrow her idea for today!

  1. Some friends invited me out for happy hour on Friday to a new Cuban restaurant. I tried an aperol spritz for the first time (it definitely lived up to the hype!) and indulged in the Cuban Chicken Noodle Soup. And let me tell you, SO GOOD! I knew I could recreate it easily at home. (I realize going out with friends isn’t frugal necessarily. But we ordered from the happy hour menu, and the chance to visit with a close friend before she leaves for Africa for a month was well worth the minimal expense) ANYWAY, I picked up a whole chicken at Costco for a mere $5 to make the soup. I had all the other ingredients at home. And I easily made enough soup for 8 individual dinners. So I’d call that a win!
  2. I filled up my gas tank from Fred Meyer Gas, using points from grocery shopping. This saved me about 40 cents a gallon.
  3. I took my dogs to the vet. Now, I realize that this doesn’t sound cheap (and really, it isn’t) however, I make sure they get their annual vaccines as well as a yearly checkup just to be safe. I would much rather have them seen on a regular basis so we don’t miss anything major. My one dog got his regular shots, and the other got medication for his skin allergies. This saves me in the long run because keeping up on health is important for our furry friends too!
  4. I stayed over at my nephew’s house Saturday night. It was his dad’s birthday, and my gift to him was a night out with his best friends. It cost me nothing to stay in with the little one for the night, and he got to celebrate his birthday without a 4 year old in tow. Win/Win
  5. I made a grocery list for the week so that I could cook all my own lunches and dinners, saving me oodles of cash. It would be so easy in rainy Portland Oregon to order in soup for every meal. That’s why I plan out all my lunches and dinners in order to save money. I plan on cooking a full mean twice this week (soup and enchiladas) and each will produce 3 lunches and 3 dinners. This will save me so much in the long run and I really love cooking!

So you tell me, what are five frugal things you did this week?

I can’t, I’m busy.

I can’t, I’m busy.

How many times have you said that very statement? Being busy, the hustle, have become so romanticized in our culture that it’s pretty much expected that everyone should be busy, all the time. If you have one job you are somehow seen as less than someone who works a regular 9-5 while maintaining a side hustle, has a hobby, volunteers, and spends time with their family and friends (occasionally). 

No longer is it acceptable to simply have a “regular” job. Millennials get a lot of flak of being lazy, entitled, and ruining chain restaurants. But most millennials I know are in fact kicking ass at not one, but often two or even three jobs. They are up at the crack of dawn to squeeze in a couple hours of their side gig before heading into their full-time job at 9am. Then after work they race to the gym to get in an hour of cardio, before heading back home to walk the dogs, inhale a plate of food, and get back to their side hustle for a few hours before bed. Just reading that is exhausting!

One of my best friends is a structural engineer. After work she spends hours a day in her home office working on commissioned art pieces. The deadlines never stop. And you know what? She is the norm these days!

If you aren’t trying to eek productivity out of every second of the day, does that mean you are lazy? Absolutely not! But that is the culture we currently live in. If you don’t have an Etsy shop, write a blog (hello!), or do wedding photo shoots on the weekends you are considered somehow less! But why!!?? Why have we come to glorify being busy? Why can’t we learn to appreciate the down time? 

I know personally, if I don’t get enough down time my anxiety acts up. I start to worry about all the things I have no control over. Whereas when I do take time for myself, I get more rest, feel comfortable with my work hours, and have the time and energy to make healthy yummy food to keep my body functioning! My dogs love snuggling up with me each evening to watch an episode of Parks and Rec. I live for those moments. 

So what happened? When did it become the norm to be so busy? I honestly don’t know. I remember being in elementary school and I had an activity, or two, every single day after school. Piano on Monday, Karate Tuesdays and Thursdays, volunteering Wednesdays, and swim on Fridays. I was expected to be busy as a kid! This is not something new, this is something we were taught from a very young age. 

But I do believe that it’s a trend we need to stop. Our health is more important. Our lives are more important. Take the time to prepare a meal with your family, then share stories from your day while eating. Don’t book that extra shift. Sleep in a little! Go to happy hour with your colleagues and DON’T TALK SHOP. Call your mother. The ‘stuff’ will never go away. There is always the possibility to be busy. But maybe, don’t be. Slow down a little bit and savor your life without filling it to the brim. You might just enjoy it. 

Polar Vortex

I am in the midwest this week for work (shocking I know!) But what is shocking is HOW BLOODY COLD it is! Have you heard of the Polar Vortex yet? If you haven’t, I honestly envy you. You must not live/work in a place where it is currently more than zero degrees Fahrenheit. Kill me. Seriously. It’s too effing cold.

Some of my friends in Wisconsin can’t even let their pups out to potty because it’s too cold. Schools have been cancelled. Bars are closed. Let that sink in for just a minute. I am not, nor will I ever be, considered to be “hearty stock”. But those folks in Wisconsin certainly are! It really must be cold.

I grew up in San Diego. Have you ever been there? It’s a balmy 75 pretty much year round. Moving to Oregon has been a shock to my system. But almost 9 years in and I’m finally getting used to it. This business though, hells now. I travel frequently for work and I often find myself in the midwest for long periods of time. So of course it only seems fitting that I find myself here the coldest week this part of the country has seen in decades. Fun fact: 8 minutes outside can result in frostbite…….let that sink in. That’s crazy pants!! I am not built for this!

Any who, why do I bring this up? Because other than going to work I have been doing exactly nothing else during this cold situation. I hole up in my hotel room and watch tv. But you know what else I’m tempted to do? Order in food. Order in any and all the things. Because I’m cold, hungry and bored. And I know myself. It’s a slippery slope once I order groceries to hopping over to Amazon too see what’s on sale today.

So I don’t risk temptation. I sit in the hotel lobby with my friends and we talk about our dogs. We talk about what Netflix shows we are all currently binging at home. Who do we want to want the Super Bowl? It would be so easy for me to twiddle away the night on my laptop but boy would it cost me. I would so easily scoop up 2 pairs of socks, a bottle of wine, and maybe some tiramisu. But really, do I need those things? Maybe, probably not. And the $30 it would cost me, would certainly be best served in other ways.

But what’s the point of me telling you this? My point, dear readers, is to say that any kind of unpredictable situation can cause us to spend money unnecessarily. Running late? Spend money. Get snowed in? Spend money. Forgot your coffee/raincoat/workbook/galoshes at home? You see where I’m going with this? Preparation is key. Was I prepared for this weather? Eh. Kinda. I have warm winter clothing. But really, we don’t live in the North Pole, so none of us are actually prepared for how bitterly cold it is. How we deal with it, that’s another story.

Resolutions?

Do you set resolutions for yourself in the new year? I read something that said resolutions has the tone of needing to change something that is wrong about yourself. Like you resolve to be more active, because your current lifestyle is somehow wrong. Maybe I’m just reading too much into it, but I don’t really like that.

I personally like setting goals for myself. Goals are always engaging and changing, and they allow us to make slow progress while still celebrating accomplishments.

Each year I make a daily planner for myself, and I finally finished it yesterday. I included all the important birthdays of friends and family, highlighted important doctor’s visits etc. And on the first page of each month, I wrote “GOALS” so as to encourage myself to keep working towards those goals. Now, I have some big goals that I have at the very beginning. These are goals that I intend to work towards all year (pay off my credit cards, be more gentle with myself, etc). I also give myself some wiggle room. If I don’t tackle a specific goal this month, I realize I can always slide it to next month. nothing is set in stone.

January Goals

  • NO EATING OUT!! (there is some wiggle room here, for example going out with family to celebrate Mom’s birthday)
  • Get back into the swing of meal prepping/planning my meals for the week (I tend to go off script if I don’t have it written down. So though I may not have a specific meal for a specific day, I definitely have 4 meals plus leftovers planned for a given week.)
  • Finish cleaning out D’s house (I started helping a friend go through their house Marie Kondo style. We will finish this month I hope!)
  • Find a home for everything in our home (similar to the previous goal, I really want to make our home less cluttered. It’s not bad to begin with but I’m a crazy person what can I say?)
  • Get Holden’s lumpy bumps checked (this is a holiday gift from my parents as I can’t afford this right now. He has some masses that need to be biopsied asap)

So those are my January goals. Are they perfect? No. Many of them are a moving target. Organizing my house for example will always be on the list as it is a never ending project.

And how does this relate to frugality you might ask? Well, I find that if I am keeping myself accountable I am much more likely to stick to my goals. Two of my goals this month relate specifically to saving money. I spend WAY more money eating out than I need to, and it’s usually just a matter of convenience. If I had snacks on hand or meals to eat at home I wouldn’t be spending that money. I intend to get back on the horse this month and get back into my normal routine. I like cooking at home! So this won’t actually be too hard I hope. And because it’s the middle of winter I’m hoping most of my friends will also just want to stay home !

So that’s all I have for now, an update on my January Goals. Another one of my big goals for the year is to be better about blogging and keep up with it more regularly. I think I say that every few months, but I keep getting derailed. I will not be stopped! So check back soon for my January budgeting plan if you are so inclined. Happy New Year everyone!

An uneventful death

Ok don’t panic anyone, but I really think it’s wise to plan your own death. I’m not saying you have to start now if you are a healthy 20 something year old, but it certainly couldn’t hurt!

Do you have a will? Have you spoken to a lawyer? Does your family know your wishes? Did you know that in certain cultures it’s expected that individuals will have a hand in planning their deaths? Some write their own obituaries, clean out their closets, cancel mailings and credit cards, the list goes on. And really, I think it’s incredible.

Imagine giving your family the gift of not worrying. Not having to figure it all out and go into debt in the process. I think that’s an incredible thing to give anyone.

So where do you start? I think it’s important to discuss this situation with close family and friends. Not everyone is going to understand, that’s ok. Not everyone needs to get it. But explain that you are trying to be helpful and you’d like a say in the end of your life when you may not be in any position to have a say.

I think it just goes such a long way to talk to the people you love. They want the best for you, even at the end of life. And a little planning can go a long way to wards less pain, frustration, and cost less money. Which is the ultimate frugal choice, isn’t it?

When owning too much stuff, encourages you to own more stuff

Do you have “that pile” of paperwork, mail, and other miscellaneous things near your front door? Maybe on your kitchen counter, in the mud room, or on top of the microwave? Ours is on our bar counter (at the top of our stairs when you enter the house). It’s an easy place to drop the main, the receipts from my purse, the magazine I keep meaning to read.

……And there it all sits for an indefinite amount of time. Until weeks later, it gets tall enough that I go through it, throw most of it away, and always inevitably tell myself “I should really get a basket here to catch this stuff”.  So the question is: should be buy more stuff to organize our stuff? I have also heard this argument regarding storage totes and fancy boxes. Should we get pretty boxes to store our stuff? Or should we maybe get rid of some of the stuff? I vote for the latter.

Maybe, instead of organizing all the random crap in the closet, pull it all out and see what you really, actually need. Do I need that tennis racket from when I swore I was going to take up tennis lessons? (the answer is clearly no, I never took a single lesson!) Do I need 3 sets of sheets? When one set is “just the back up because I never really liked the pattern and they’re scratchy”? GET RID OF THE SHEETS!! We have too much crap!

I am not saying go full minimalist on me if that’s not your jam. But be mindful. Pick one area of your house, I recommend the junk drawer, and go through it. Decide what you really need. And get rid of what you don’t. You can donate it, trash it, re-home it, repurpose it. So many people would love to make good use of your excess stuff.

I recommend trying apps like Next Door or Rooster for these things. That way they can find their way into the hands of your neighbors who will actually use them! I love it! Then, when I actually need a wine opener one day, I will go on Next Door and see if someone might be offering one up. I just love the idea. cleaning out my house and helping others. It’s a community event! How cool! It’s about keeping what you need, not buying more to organize the stuff you don’t.

So, now I think I’ll go tackle that pile of stuff on my counter. Wish me luck!

What I learned from my social media hiatus

So as mentioned in my previous post, I took a break from social media. It wasn’t THAT difficult, I don’t have most of the apps on my phone that many people do. No Snapchat, no Twitter, no Tumblr. But I did have Facebook and Instagram. How hard could it be, right?

Well, hard at first! I sat down to watch the morning news, coffee in hand, and immediately opened up my phone. Oops. Ok so I put it down and watched the news. And then opened the phone again. Drat. OK, harder than I thought.

So I decided to implement a filler. Anytime I went to open my phone, I would instead read a page (minimum) of whatever book I so choose. I love reading and don’t always have time to sit and really enjoy it, so maybe this addition would allow me to get more pages in! And let me tell you, this really helped. I opened my phone a third time, and thus remembered to pick up my book and go sit on the porch. I enjoyed my morning coffee and read a few pages.

It was calming and enjoyable. And how rarely do I sit outside at 7am reading my book? Almost never until this experiment! It was so nice to take that extra time and enjoy something that I love.

I always carry a book in my bag just in case, and this allowed me to really utilize it. Waiting for my tires to get changed? Read the book. Doctor’s appointment waiting room? Book. It turned the standard boring wait times into enjoyable blips in my day. Maybe I only read a page, but it was still better than staring at my screen.

So let’s look big picture. For one thing, I read WAY more on any given day than I might otherwise. Additionally, I felt happier. I wasn’t on Facebook seeing all the shit going on in the world. Yes I still read the New York Times daily, but it was quality writing and I read only what I chose to. I also didn’t make nearly as many impulse purchases as I normally would. I have instagram to blame for that. I am such a sucker for “omg those cute shoes!” Did I need the shoes? I think you know the answer. So it really helped keep my spending in check. If you can’t see the things other people are spending money on, you are not likely to spend that money yourself.

All in all, it was a great experiment for me. So where do I stand now? I deleted the Facebook app and don’t intend to put it back on my phone. If I want to see how friends or family are doing I can go on a computer and look it up. I won’t delete my account as I like to keep in touch with some people that way. But I won’t have it on my phone. I put instagram back on my phone, but made it harder to get to. I have to deliberately go looking for it in order to open the app. That way I think about it before actually looking at it. This seems to be a good balance for me, and I’m happy with it for the time being. I also unfollowed all unnecessary accounts.

Generally I’d say I feel better about things in general since this little experiment. And I definitely am making more structured time to read each day. So what about you? What habits are you working on and has anyone else cut out social media?

I’m taking a temporary break from social media

Today is Day One of my social media break. I am initially planning a week, to test the waters. Why am I doing this? I’m glad you asked!

First of all I want to make one thing clear, I think social media can be fantastic and has it’s place in society. It allows us to find long lost friends and relatives, track down items we might otherwise struggle to find, see the far corners of the world, and so many other things. Through social media I can watch my friends’ kids grow up across the country. I can have an authentic Moroccan tagine sent to my house. I can order out of print records from the UK in the 70s. It would be far more difficult to do those things without social media. (I realize the internet is a big part of all those things, but I tend to go in Instagram or Facebook for things before searching Google.)

But there is also a side of social media that I don’t love. It puts a microscope lens on the lives of strangers. We see carefully curated images designed to sell us products, lifestyles and more. Even minimalist instagram accounts make me want to buy things. It makes me think my house is too cluttered, my kitchen too messy, my wardrobe outdated. It makes me feel like I don’t travel enough, I don’t read enough, I don’t know enough about anything. And are those things true? No! I like my life, and though I can certainly take inspiration from the images I see, I don’t need to adapt my life to fit those ideals.

The main thing I want to work on is spending associated with social media. Between videos of Pudge the Pit and pictures of foster kittens, I always manage to see products that I’d love to have in my home. Streamlined kitchen cabinets. Rose wine for the picnic in the park. Plaid shirts and overalls. Even sweaters for my dog! I see these beautiful images and can’t help but think how those products would benefit me in some way. And am I guilty of giving into that temptation? Of course! Jethro has 2 winter sweaters if that is any indicator.

Do I need the pretty things I see on social media? Probably not. But they are beautiful and perfect and curated to make me want to buy them. It’s called being an Influencer (yep, it’s a real job!) And because of this (ok it’s one of the reasons, but not the only reason) I have decided to take a break from social media. I’m going to take a week off. Anytime I am bored and find myself trying to scroll through pretty pictures, I will read some of my book. I have a book on me at all times anyway! Might as well read more. If nothing else I will make a dent in my reading list. I am already starting to realize what a time suck it is!

So for now I have uninstalled Facebook and Instagram on my phone. I am halfway through a book today alone! And I am VERY self aware as to how much time I spend on my phone. I am going to actually connect with people. I’ll call, text, email, get together with people. I may not be getting rid of technology all together, but a baby step is a start! And I’m sure it will be enlightening.

I will keep you updated this week as to how it’s going!