28 November 2013

{Enter cliched Thanksgiving title here}


Can you believe December is TWO days away? I'm freaking out a bit.

Not because I have a huge Christmas list to shop for, but because 2013 seriously slipped away. Wasn't it just summer?? Can it be summer a few days after Christmas? That'd be fantastic. I'm cold and winter hasn't even really started.

Anyway, I worked a wonderful 12 hour shift today. Before you start throwing me a pity party, let me just say: I VOLUNTEERED because I like working holidays for three reasons:

1) I don't get to go home, since I live $500 away and -- obviously -- don't have money to travel right now.

2) I like having the satisfaction (or maybe illusion) that I helped others be able to celebrate Thanksgiving  or Christmas with their families instead of having to work.

3) Time and a half pay is a glorious, glorious thing.


Just a few things I'm thankful for:

I'm thankful for my job and the people I work with and for.

I'm thankful I have my health and for all that I have, since I know it could be much, much worse.

I'm thankful for the upbringing I had to give me the strength to endure and grow from the things I've had to go through.

I'm thankful I can lean on my mother, who is the strongest woman I know, when I am frustrated (which is more often than you think).

I'm thankful for the direction my life is taking me, since I can see success in the horizon.




This year, I want you to ask yourself do you have a grateful heart year round? Do your actions show your gratitude?

It's so easy to fall into the habit of consumerism and wanting what we don't have (I do it, we all do it, we're human). Having nice things is great, but as long as we go back to being thankful for what we have (materialistic and non-materialistic) and work towards bettering ourselves, that's what's important. 

I think gratitude is really accepting how things are now, and realizing that we don't need X Y or Z to be happy. Happiness isn't a destination, it's a state of mind. I think gratitude and happiness go hand in hand.


Happy Thanksgiving (or Thanksliving, as I heard someone call it today)

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22 November 2013

Budget: 20 November


Recap of the 5 November payperiod:


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I ended up $66 over budget on my vet bill, which was $20 less than I thought I was over. Corduroy is doing well and happily switched to wet food to prevent this problem from happening again. I saved the $20 by returning the cat food he didn't need and used the store credit to buy food he did need, which was on a buy one/get one special. SCORE. Good thing I didn't open the bag.

As announced, I have officially paid off my credit card. Yesterday, I got the statement with that glorious "Current balance: $0.00" that I've been waiting to see. Ah glorious freedom.

I did get a gift from a friend that refilled my Emergency Fund. Since it was taken out and refunded within a few days, I didn't feel it was right to track it as income and then expense it out. It would just be confusing. So I left it out.

20 November payperiod:

EXPENSES

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Well, paying off debt isn't easy. There's bound to be some payperiods where I barely squeak by. This is one of them. Luckily there was a little left over from my last check to pad this one, so no dipping into the Emergency Fund again. Whew. The second half of the month is always more scarce, due to my rent.


DEBT

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These student loans are really annoying. I just want them to go away. Yuck. I looked at my statement and I'm paying 40% interest every month, which makes it a very slow process of paying them off completely.

How do people do this for years? I don't understand it. I never want to be in debt again.

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18 November 2013

Is that light at the end of the tunnel a train?


As positive as I am most of the time, sometimes I get super overwhelmed with how far I have to go. On my budget sheet, I don't have my loans as part of the Debt Snowball (DS). I'm still paying minimum payments and I'm by no means planning on keeping them, so why not add them to the snowball??

If I had my student loans as part of the DS, I would be a lot less positive about this process.

To date, I've paid off about 1/3 of the non-student loan of the DS. It started around $2700 and it's down to $2075 within 4 months.

Lump my student loans into that and it's a lot less significant with an balance of $9700. Ew. Not as exciting and a little sad.

My biggest frustration is I feel it's not moving as fast as I'd like it to, so I can get to bigger and better things that will propel me forward in my life instead of hold me back looking at the things I want through a glass window.

Last time I did this, I was working 60 hours a week at two jobs, making around $21k a year and, since I had less expenses and was making bigger payments, I had a lot of spending money (that in retrospect could've been saved but oh well).

Big difference from now where I'm working 40 hours a week (if I'm lucky) and give myself a strict fun money budget of $30 a month that goes FAST. I can't increase that, and I have expensive tastes when it comes to entertainment (I'm looking at you wine tours). I have some good friends that help me out, so I shouldn't complain, but sometimes it really sucks when you just want to pay for them for once. I get giddy when I pay, because I do like to treat people. I just can't right now. It kills me.

I never ever EVER want to go through this process again. I won't always make meager $18k a year, but I'll be damned if my future bigger salary is distributed to debt collectors each month (no matter how nice my dental offices have been). I want my money to be mine.

I have SO much I want to do, but cant because I'm broke. I still need to finish my undergrad, establish a teaching career, travel the world, get a dog, and -- most reluctantly -- buy a car. Being a kindergarten teacher won't exactly come with a huge salary, so being debt-free from the start is the only way I'll enjoy those things.

Maybe it's the winter blues and the Christmas shopping my friends are doing that I can't join in on. I know it's partially because I can't visit my family or have anyone visit me until after this is over.

It might also slightly be because I'm tired of knowing my potential and not being able to fully demonstrate it.

It'll be over before I know it and the world had better be ready for me unchained.



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16 November 2013

First 5k



I did it.

I ran a 5k.

I donned my AOII letters and dashed through Riverfront Park. Then I danced at the finish line.



Maybe it was the three days off work I had, or possibly the Christmas music pumping in my ear, or even my AOII sisters cheering my name on the sidelines that gave me that OOMPH I needed, but it was a really great run. I'd been "training" for it for about a month and since I usually run around 3 miles when I run, it was a lot less intimidating.



Even though I didn't run all week, I consistently ran 12 minute miles on 3:1 intervals, though there was a 6 minute non-stop stretch in there.

Jingle Bell is something I think I'll continue to do every year. Supporting Arthritis Research is my women's fraternity's designated philanthropy and I have a lot of friends and family -- young and old -- affected by this awful disease. I'm sure you do too, since it's the #1 cause of disability in the US, affecting 1/5 adults and over 300,000 children.



Next running goal is to run nonstop for a mile and build on the miles from there. 

How was your weekend?



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15 November 2013

Language intensive: ASL Week 2


This week I covered lessons 6-10 in ASL 1. Topics covered through vocabulary included numbers 101 to 1 billion+, cardinal and ordinal numbers, time and colors, food, clothing, animals.

I was surprised on how quickly I picked up the word order and grammar of ASL, since that is normally something I struggle with other languages. It is much easier for me to pick up ASL grammar for some reason! It is very different from English and reminds me a lot of German or Spanish grammar.

One way I know I'm picking up a language (instead of merely recognizing words/signs, etc) is I begin to divert from the "script" during a lesson and put together sentences on my own using what I know.

For example, Lesson 7 covers food and my work serves cookies for guests in the evenings. I learned the sign for cookie, different types of cookies, etc. Should I have a Deaf guest, using what I know, I can tell them that we will have chocolate chip cookies at a certain hour for them. That particular sentence is not something I learned as vocabulary from ASL U, but it is showing several things:

I am remembering vocabulary from past lessons

I am not only comprehending grammar, but able to accurately use it in sentences I create

I can apply the language to my life instead of sticking with topics only covered in lessons

Part of the lessons includes reading a story in ASL gloss and being able to sign it and understand it.

I don't believe grades directly translate to comprehension, but I do have 100% on every quiz and test, so I'm' at least retaining the material presented. The true test is when I can talk to someone more advanced in ASL than I am and be able to communicate with them.

I put together a little video so I can watch myself sign and see where I can improve.




What do you think?? Let me know if you see anything that I can improve, if you're familiar with ASL.



08 November 2013

Another one bites the dust: Budget 5 Nov


I really understand why Dave Ramsey recommends the Debt Snowball method. I just paid off "Personal CC" and it feels EXTREMELY good to cross another debt off my list. Two in less than a month. I am on fire.

Recap of the 20 October payperiod:

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I completely eliminated my birth control expense because I am eligible for the Planned Parenthood of Washington's Take Charge program. This program gives eligible persons access to healthcare and contraceptives if they don't have insurance or if their insurance doesn't cover it. This program saves me over $250 a year just in birth control (not to mention annual exams, which can run around $300 without insurance).

That's a huge chunk of change.

So I transferred the birth control costs to "miscellaneous" since I needed some household items.

5 November payperiod:

EXPENSES 

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What's line #7? INTERNET. Whoa buddy. Of course, my bill will certainly not be $100 a month. I needed a wireless router ($50) and the connection cost (plus my first month's bill) is the reason it's such a large expense. But I did it. I HAVE INTERNET, PEOPLE.

I haven't announced it (until now), but I did end up with a cat (check out my Instagram to see him). One who got crystalluria and a UTI -- common problems in cats, especially males. I thought ahead, was misinformed by the clerk on costs, and ended up about $80 over budget in vet bills. I only had to pull a small amount of cash ($50) from my Emergency Fund to cover the overage, but it was quite unpleasant. No such thing as a free pet hahaha.


DEBT

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As I stated, I can now cross off "Personal CC" from my list, thanks to the debt snowball cumulative minimum payment of $100 and an extra fluff of $12.14.

Next up is paying off Dentist 1: current balance $270.75 with a (cumulative) minimum payment of $125, however I will have to go back and fill up my Emergency Fund to $500.

Two debts down, three to go.






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06 November 2013

Language intensive: ASL Week 1


American Sign Language is one of the most unique and fun languages to learn. As a visual and gestural language, it definitely catches more attention when mentioned in conversation that you sign (or are learning sign).

Why we need to learn american sign language


I started learning sign as a kid. I don't remember where I learned the ASL alphabet, but wherever I did definitely planted the ASL seed in my brain to love this language and its community. I took an ASL class when I was a kid, but the teacher was Korean and I couldn't understand him, so I asked my mom to stop taking me. In high school, I started learning on my own again, stopped practicing, and then had to pick it up again shortly after I left college.

Which leads me to where I am today.

Currently, I can introduce myself, check a guest into the hotel, and handle most hotel related issues completely in ASL if they sign slowly.

So that's cool. But I want complete fluency. So I'm taking an online course through ASL University by Dr. Bill Vicars to review/gain vocabulary and increase comprehension . I also watch Switched at Birth on ABC Family and watch Deaf vlogs on YouTube and DeafVideoTV to help with comprehension and maybe pick up some new signs.

I've been at it for about a week and I've gotta say, I'm proud of how much I've actually remembered from the past. I've just gotten through Unit 1 (out of 3), which contains Lessons 1-5. Lessons 1-3 were a lot of review and 4-5 has been a lot of new material for me.

I finally got internet this week so less trips to the library and more time at home will allow me to schedule language exchanges hopefully with Deaf people (read here about the "d/Deaf" thing). There's a sweet community on Google+ for language learners. All of my languages are on there, but ASL is one of the least frequent with Hangout practices.

For now, the videos Dr. Bill puts out on every lesson help somewhat, since he holds a conversation with another student, but I firmly believe there is no substitute for real time conversation when learning a language.



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03 November 2013

Language intensive project introduction


I've mentioned in several posts about the languages I'm acquainted with. I say "acquainted", because at one time, I was either fluent and/or conversational in American Sign Language, French, German, and Spanish. But currently, I am not.

Lack of maintenance meant I forgot a lot of what I had learned (read: use it or lose it), which is frustrating, but at least I still know how I learn and how to build my way back up to the level I want to be. Kind of like when you used to run around all day and then that XBOX you got for Christmas took away all of your endurance and only reminded you how out of shape you were when you got to your high school gym class.

My project is to go through each of my acquainted languages individually for at least a month (maybe longer if I'm struggling at the end of the month) and then continue to maintain the language after the intensive.

"But Zoë, you have no money. How are you learning languages?"

Well, dear reader, I personally think traditional language learning is bullshit. Depending on the teacher and the program, it's a great introduction to the language, but it's expensive, overly time consuming, and usually a waste of time.

My biggest language learning influence is Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months.  Every 3 months or so, Benny takes a language and learns it on his own, mostly to meet other people, learn about other cultures, and prove to the world whatever reason you think you can't learn a language is wrong.

His blog name is a challenge not a promise. He's successfully learned and maintained over 11 languages during the course of 10 years. As of this writing, he's learning Japanese -- in Spain.

Benny's biggest piece of advice (which I agree with) is to speak from day one. As in, do not wait until you feel comfortable enough with vocabulary and grammar to reach out and speak to someone who knows the language you are learning. Visit his blog and have your life changed.

Throughout this project, I'll be blogging about what resources I'm using for the language I'm focusing on, the progress I'm making, and, of course, in true blog style, anything else I find relevant to share.

I'll be studying in the order of ASL first, then French, German, and, finally, Spanish. Because everything is better when alphabetical.


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A note on Reformed Perfectionism & unrealistic goals


It's kind of amazing what happens when you stop planning things and let life happen.

As a Reformed Perfectionist, planning for the far future is something I am highly familiar with. I used to make lists of Where I Will Be In 6 Months, 1 year, 5 years, etc. Which isn't a bad thing at all, but when you have highly time consuming things on that list and like to sleep until noon everyday.......well, it's a little unrealistic.

Have you seen P.S. I Love You? Holly is a Planner and when her husband dies, her plan for life -- not surprisingly -- goes down the toilet.

PS I Love You Quote  Haha! So me and Matthew, I love my Irish/English/German boy. :P
I thought this more than a few times while I was dating Riley.

So of course, she's worried about what she's going to do. "I don't have a plan, Gerry." His response (post mortem): "That's okay baby, your plans don't ever  work out anyway"

The Gerard Butler man is right. You can't really plan out life. You can follow a plan, say, to get out of debt, lose weight, eat healthier, learn a new language, save for X, Y, or Z, etc etc.

But here's a Perfectionist Problem: we tend to get so much emotional momentum from working on achieving one goal, we begin to take on the next on the list before we're ready. And then when that great thing called Life gets in the way, we freak out because it's not Part of the Plan.

So, a couple weeks ago I decided that while I am working on getting out of debt, training for a 5k/exercising regularly, and reviewing the multiple languages I am acquainted with, I have held off on obtaining furniture (as announced here). It's too much pressure, and I can devote my attention, focus, and energy to a few specific things, get a routine going on them and THEN I can add new goals to achieve.

And call it what you want, but Something (charity, luck, God, the Universe), smiled down on me and I now have a THIRD piece of furniture to call my own -- a wonderful chair my friend Bryn wanted to get rid of.

How's that for awesome? It may be just one chair, but considering my living room only had two storage trunks and a bookshelf before today, it's a big deal to be able to read or eat somewhere other than my bed or the floor.

As for running, I ran 2.5 miles while doing 5:1 intervals today (meaning I ran for 5 minutes straight, took a 1 min walking break, and then repeated until I had reached 2.5 mile distance).

It was the longest I had ran non-stop so far and it surprised me that I could do it. I was breathing hard and I was so warm, I took my headband and mittens off, but I wasn't uncomfortable like on some of my runs. Every time I run, I surprise myself with my capabilities.

Bring on Jingle Bell.

P.S. If you can, please donate to our team. Even a dollar helps. If you're in the Spokane area, come cheer us on. The race is 16 November at Riverfront Park. Race info here.

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