How to really chill out, if you’re an overachiever like me (can it really be done?) ((and why it’s important))

First and foremost, I am an overachiever. I set goals and like time-tables. I have charts, projections, and I’m always working towards something. It may be slow and steady at times, but it is always moving.

As a woman, I am a natural multi-tasker. I do laundry while cleaning the bathroom. I vacuum the couch while the dishwasher is running, all the while listening to an audio-book and keeping an eye on the dogs. More likely than not, if I’m watching a movie/tv show I’m also checking emails/blogs/reading the New York Times. Point being, I have a hard time sitting still and doing nothing.

So when work slowed down recently (after being out of the country for a few weeks) I literally found myself with time on my hands that I didn’t know what to do with. I haven’t been to work since mid-April. That was 2 months ago. Leading up to my trip I had all things packing, organizing, and preparing to take up my time. Upon return I had a friend in town visiting for a week, plus unpacking, cleaning, laundering, and getting back into the swing of things. That was two weeks ago. So for two weeks (and another ten days) I have no scheduled work to do. I have scrubbed, washed, laundered, vacuumed, sprayed, dusted, swept and mopped every square inch of this house. Multiple times. I have sorted my mail, my email, and all the random papers I could find around the house. I have organized my kitchen. I have read books, articles, blogs (in their entirety, no small feat!). I have watched movies, tv shows (hoarders for one, thus all the cleaning) and every documentary I could get my hands on.

Why am I telling you this? Because in the midst of all my running around, I realized something, I didn’t NEED to be doing any of it. In fact, it would probably be good for me to not do any of those things.

We have three dogs, (one is a golden retriever) so I could vacuum every day from here til eternity, and there would still be dog hair that needs to be picked up. The laundry will always be there, the dishes will always be there. I realized that I was filling my time, just for the sake of filling my time.

So I decided to do something for myself, and only myself. I decided to try to focus some attention on myself. I started in the mornings by making my favorite coffee. Instead of watching the morning news while putting away dishes and sipping coffee, I watched out the window while my water boiled. I poured water over my coffee grounds and listened to a record that I love. I enjoyed the moment. Was my morning so different? No. But I was present. I was in the moment and it really made a difference!

I tried watching a movie with my phone plugged in in another room. I sat out on my deck and read a new book while enjoying a glass of wine. Nothing major, nothing earth shattering. But it was those little moments that left me feeling calmer, more at ease.

Being home for an extended period of time can make me feel like I’m stalled, like I’m being lazy. But try to see those moments as a chance to take care of yourself. Go for a run, reconnect with an old friend, volunteer for an organization you care about. I can’t tell you what is going to be meaningful for you, each person will have their own thing.

Just don’t feel bad about taking care of yourself. Don’t feel bad about not working. We have all grown so accustomed to the “work hard, play hard” mentality, that any downtime is considered laziness. When I work constantly, without any sort of break, my work deteriorates. I miss things, the work absolutely suffers. When I take time to relax and enjoy my time off, I find myself ready and excited to get back to work. I put that much more into my job because I don’t feel bogged down.

So, once again with feeling, to all the other overachievers out there, take care of yourselves. Chill out a bit, whatever that means to you.

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Mommy and I in Amsterdam. Enjoying some much needed downtime together!

Frugality is a privilege

I took a little bit of a blogging break to benefit my health. I needed a break from some things. I needed a chance to grieve. But I’m starting to break out of my funk, and blogging really is something I enjoy.

So today I want to talk about frugality as a privilege versus out of necessity. What’s the difference and why does it matter? I’m getting there!

There is a difference between clipping coupons because you want to save a few dollars here and there to add to your vacation fun, and using coupons because you only have $18 to your name and you need to feed your family. It’s glaringly different. I don’t point this out to make anyone feel bad about being frugal, but I think people need to recognize that they experience some amount of privilege if they are being frugal by choice.

I am incredibly lucky in that I was raised in a comfortable home, physically and financially. My family always had enough money, and never wanted for anything. That meant my mom never had to clip coupons, and could pick up whatever she wanted at the store. There was no worry that she couldn’t afford the items in her cart. This allows me to recognize that when I choose to be frugal, it’s not born out of necessity. If I am ever really truly struggling financially, I always have the option of reaching out to family for support. Do I want to do this? Of course not! But they will never let me fall all the way down.

There are many people however, who are not nearly as lucky. Many people really only have $30 in their bank account, and so they are frugal because they have no choice. Why do I point this out? Not to judge or shame anyone. But to bring it to light that we shouldn’t judge anyone for being frugal or not. Each person has the right to choose how they want to spend or save their money. We can be helpful and offer advice, but it’s really not our place to judge.

I think we need to be a more inclusive community. No one is perfect, so let’s not judge others for not doing something “right”. What’s right for you might not be right for me. I try to be frugal with my money because I have 3 rather expensive pets, that require frequent expensive vet visits. So I clip coupons and try to buy the brand name products whenever possible. I don’t eat out often. I don’t buy things I don’t need. I use the library. But all of this, is also born from privilege. It’s a privilege to have these three animals in my life. Not everyone would be able to afford them on a regular basis.

I recognize this is a sensitive subject for many people. So let’s just be kind to one another. Let’s just listen and help one another. You never know what someone is going through.

Lizzi

I don’t even know where to begin. How to I describe losing my best friend? How do I even begin to fathom a life without her?

Yesterday afternoon, my best friend passed away, after fighting cancer for the second time. She was 34 years old. She was too young. I don’t really know where to begin, how to describe to you the ache in my heart. The hole that she left.

I’m going to step away for a bit. I need to take care of myself. My heart is broken. She didn’t deserve this.

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“Snow” day

Today Portland Public Schools, and other nearby school districts, called it a snow-day and the kids were released early. Portland weather can be so finicky. In the morning it seems like it’s going to be nasty but by noon it’s mostly melted, turned to slush. And that’s exactly what happened today. But the schools have to err on the side of caution after the disasters of previous years.

So what did I do for my snow day?

I stayed home, and watched X-Files with my dogs. We had leftovers for breakfast, and generally putzed around. I cleaned (a lot) and it was nice. It was quiet and peaceful and lovely. And the best part? It was free.

Sometimes the best things in life are free, the song said so right? And today was exactly that. I rested, and feel refreshed.

What do you do to enjoy a snow day?

What do you eat?

Let me first say that I’m not going to tell you what to eat. I firmly believe that different individuals eat different diets, and most people know what is the right diet for them. That being said, I think things change. I think people change and sometimes their diets change too.

I have tried many different diets over the years. Not for weight loss, but because of my Crohn’s Disease.I have typically stayed with the low residue diet. Meaning, I mostly eat rice, bread, potatoes, and other foods that are easily digestible. It makes getting the proper nutrients a bit of a challenge, but I am doing what I need to keep my guts happy.

For many years I was a vegetarian, though never have I eaten much meat at all, and I was vegan for a period of time. I have also tried cutting out types of foods (gluten for example) with little to no success.

I always follow my Doctor’s instructions, and will do whatever I need to take care of my health.

Recently, my roommate and I watched the documentary What The Health on Netflix. It was so eye opening and interesting. One of the doctors interviewed was a leading Gastroenterologist. He said that a number of his patients had seen a positive outcome from switching to a plant based (vegan) diet. Cutting out animal products all together (which lead to inflammation) was very helpful to the individuals. I figured, it couldn’t hurt to try, right?

I would have to be very careful, as raw fruits and vegetables are very difficult for me to digest. But I am willing to try. I am willing to see how it goes.

So Rachel and I are each taking baby steps each week to cup out animal products, so that will soon be entirely vegan. We are very excited about our journey and I will keep you updated on our progress.

I will not tell anyone they have to try this diet for themselves. I firmly believe that if I or anyone tells someone they HAVE to do it, they definitely will not. I know that’s how I am. But I do recommend watching the documentary. Educate yourself. It’s very interesting.

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(It may be very boring to some, but this was my  first attempt at a few dishes for us this weekend. On the right is vegan chili which was a big hit! And on the left we have Aloo Matar, an Indian dish of potatoes and peas in a tomato curry sauce. Also very yummy!)

On top of my health reasons, many people go vegan for the cost saving benefits. I will dive into the savings aspect in an upcoming post. So I ask you again, what do you eat?

Far from perfect

I’m not perfect, no one is. But sometimes that’s easy to forget. We get so caught up in what the world tells us is perfect, and we all strive so hard to reach the unattainable goal.

I bring this up because, sometimes, people will make choices and decisions that may not make sense to you. But who are we to judge? I’m not talking about someone choosing to wear purple suspenders or cut their hair off. I’m talking major life decisions. You don’t need to understand them. Maybe they have a reason, maybe they don’t.  But it’s not up to us to make that call.

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This is my best friend and her little  boy. She has metastatic cancer, and she is amazing. She is smart and funny and compassionate and brilliant. She is a fantastic mom. She is an amazing wife. And Wayne adores his mom, not because she’s perfect, but because she’s HIS Mom.

Why do I tell you this? Because in October of last year I left my fairly cushy government job (granted its as only 16 hours a week) to pursue my other job full time, because it allowed me the flexibility to spend my days with them.

We all make decisions in our life that other people aren’t going to understand. That’s ok. She is one of the people I love most in this world, and I am privileged to get to spend this time with her. I realize that not everyone can make a career change like this. Not everyone is able to leave job to spend time with their lived ones. But I did the math and I knew it would be possible. Scary, close, a little risky, but possible. I have to be extra careful to save my pennies and to watch my bank account. But it allows me to spend my days with my best friend. It allows me to pick up my nephew from school and go on adventures.  It allows me to be there. Today we napped (ok she napped and I watched TV), and some days we do even less.

I would not trade this experience for anything. And there is no job in the world that is worth more than what I have right now. They are my world. And I am so lucky to have this opportunity.

Please, hug the ones you love. Tell them often. Do what you need to do to make the right decision for YOU. No one has the right to judge you for those choices.

Shopping Habits

Let me just start by saying that I love shopping. Grocery shopping, shoe shopping, pet supply shopping, all of it.  I love comparing prices and item quality. I 100% get this from my mom. When I was little, most Saturday mornings were spent at Nordstrom with Debbie, my mom’s personal shopper. She would have racks and racks of clothes for my mom to try on. I would sit on the little pedestal, coloring book in hand, and watch my mom come out in outfit after outfit. Deciding what she loved and what she didn’t.

It was my favorite thing to do with my mom. I got all her attention, and the clothes were beautiful. Not to mention the sweet ladies at Nordstrom would always bring me some kind of yummy treat to enjoy.

I realize of course that this is not a normal childhood experience. I know how fortunate my family was financially, and how incredibly lucky I was to have such a secure childhood. Regardless, this is one of my favorite memories of my mom. I didn’t get to spend lots of time with her during the week (she was and will always be a #girlboss) so weekend mornings were treasured.

ALL THAT being said, I realize that shopping is something I associate with wonderful Mom time. Even going to Trader Joe’s for cucumbers makes me think about that quality time. So now, when I’m lonely or bored, I want to shop.

It’s not even a conscious thing. I get distracted at work and look on Madewell’s website. Or I pull up Amazon on my phone while I’m waiting in line somewhere. The stuff doesn’t bring me joy, the shopping for it does. I know I am not the only one who feels this way. I asked my friends, and more than a couple of them also buy things not because they really need (or even want) the things, but because the act of looking and comparing and purchasing brings them joy.

Why am I telling you this? Because I am all about accountability. I am way more likely to stick to something if I have someone that is keeping an eye on me. I tell my roommate EVERYTHING so that she can keep me set on my goals. I am way better if someone is looking out for me too.

What about you? are you more into the shopping itself, or the stuff?  (there are btw, MANY articles on the subject, I’ll do a post on that soon)

Since when is Millennial a bad word?

I see articles every day along the lines of “why millennials struggle to survive the current job market” or “I don’t envy millennial today” or “why millennials ruined x, y, or z”. WTF? What did we ever do to you?

I recently turned 30, so I still technically fall into the millennial category (ages 23-37ish currently) and it seems like it has turned into a dirty word! People reference this generation of people like we are the worst thing to happen to society. Millennial ruined everything. Millennial are always on their phones. Millennials don’t know the meaning of hard work. On and on and on. And quite frankly, it kind of sucks!

First and foremost, I don’t think it’s fair to blame one generation of people for any particular issue. There will always be outliers and those that conform to the stereotype, but let’s not clump everyone together. There will always be someone who doesn’t want to work hard, who rests on the money Daddy gave them and doesn’t feel the need to contribute to society. There are however, an equal number of millennials who work their asses off trying to better this world. The night shift nurses, the non-profit managers who aspire to save the world, the computer techies who build apps to check on family members in a disaster. They care, more than the world gives them credit for. And instead of getting stuck at a job they hate, they are turning to their passions to feed them. They are building, creating, changing. They are digging deep, often making little money to start with, to actually DO something. They are the ones out there fighting for what they believe in.

You taught us that we can be anything we want, right? President, pilot, scientist, artist, musician, Olympian. Don’t tell little girls they can achieve greatness and then ignore them! Support them! Build them up and set them up to succeed. That’s where I think society finds complaints with my generation. You told us we can do anything, and that you expect a lot from us. We don’t want it handed to us, but we may get there a different way.

Many of my friends’ parents often talk about how they worked menial jobs to support their families, and that we know nothing about working simply because we have to. Here’s the thing, my mom told me, from day one, that I could be anything I dreamed of .She never told me “you’ll go to college, then be a secretary until you get married. Then you can quit.” Uh, no. My mom is the most bad ass woman I know. She has been a CEO, CFO, president of companies. She works her ass off. And she loves her job! She is changing the world by working hard. And people take notice of that. I think if I told her I wanted to spend my life twiddling my thumbs waiting for a husband or doing “just something” she would have lost it. She told me to aim for the moon. So that’s what I’m doing.

My point is, just because you don’t understand everything about our career choices, doesn’t mean we are wrong. We are a group of highly motivated, creative, driven individuals. We are solving problems that no one has been able to touch until now. Give us a chance to prove ourselves!

Some people call millennials lazy, apathetic. Hardly. We want a work/life balance, what’s wrong with that?! So we want to make money AND spend time with our families, gasp! What a novel concept. It really amazes me that so many people are so quick to point at this group of young people and judge. We are going to change the world, in amazing ways. Just you watch.

Money Diary: What I learned

So I spent an entire week tracking every cent that I spent. What did I learn? Quite a lot actually!

I don’t realize how many times I go to the store for just one thing, and come out with three or more. As much as I try to do just one big trip per week, there are always going to be a few things that I want to get fresh the day of. Think, fresh baked bread, salmon fillets etc. Well, each time I go in I end up coming out with more than just the one item. Ok not ALWAYS, but usually. Oh I forgot I need cheese, or bandaids, or chocolate. So instead of $2 it ends up being $11 or more. And if I do this three time a week, that’s $30 that I wasn’t planning on spending! I am going to try to be better about doing one shopping trip a week, and staying within that budget. I think that’ll really help trim a few bucks.

I never really think about bill paying. Let me explain. I pay my $300 vet bill (for example) but then when I look at my bank account I don’t know where the money went. Yes I’m paying down a bill, but it doesn’t feel the same for some reason.

Eating out adds up. I mean I know we all know this. But I never think about it because I really don’t eat out that often. But even two times in one week was over $20. And ya sometimes things come up, and we all go out. Ok, not the end of the world.

Keeping track helps. When I was writing down each penny I spent, I was a lot more aware. I didn’t want the internet to know that I spent money on X, Y, or Z so I didn’t spend it. And that helped! It goes back to accountability for me I think.

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All in all I would definitely say this was a great experience. I recommend everyone try it for some period of time. That being said, I also learned that a total spending freeze isn’t always practical for everyone. I do however think small blocks of time are good. A day? A  week? Try small. A month was almost feasible for me, and I have successfully done it before. But a few small things tripped me up. And I let it go. I didn’t want to feel like I had failed. And that’s okay!

Have you ever tried tracking your every penny? I recommend you try it some time. You might actually learn something about yourself!

Money Diary: Day Seven

6:50 AM – Up and exhausted. I never sleep well and so early mornings are not my favorite thing. I walk the dogs, feed them, and put on some coffee. I stumble back upstairs and snuggle with the cat for an hour, forgetting the coffee. Balls.

8:15 AM – Remember the coffee so head back downstairs. I enjoy a cup while doing some minor adulating (laundry and finishing dishes). Then I hop in the shower.

10:30 AM – Head out the door for some errands. Get gas at Costco $15.51. I pick up a prescription and run a few other boring errands. I am supposed to meet a guy for tea at 1pm so I want to get my stuff done before then.

1:00 PM – I get to the tea shop for my date. $2.50 for a cup of peppermint tea. The date is a bit of a dud but no harm no foul.

3:00 PM – I arrive at my friend’s house to check on her. I snag her car keys so I can go pick up her son from daycare. I try to pick him up a couple times a week and I love my afternoons with him. He is such a sweet little man! He will be three next month and the light of my life. When I walk into his classroom he says gasps “MoMo!” melt my heart! In the car he tells me “I love your beautiful nails MoMo!” I can’t make this up! He is such a love! We go to get frozen yogurt, or as he calls it Candy Ice Cream. $5.40 (I may have gotten him way more than he can eat.)

5:00 PM – We head back to his house to check on Mom and Dad. I drop him off and head back home, heart full of love.

6:00 PM – I get home and have some bread and cheese for dinner.

7:00 PM – I talk to one of my closest friends from college who is getting married this summer. I need to start looking at flights and places to stay. It’s not going to be a cheap trip (they are getting married in Lake Tahoe in July) so I need to start planning now.

9:00 PM – Dogs out for one last walk and off to bed!

Total Spent: $22.41