Something New: June – Quit Your Job

I had dedicated myself to updating the blog more this month and then my life went a little crazy. That crazy is my something new for the month.  I do not recommend trying this one for fun, only out of necessity.

On June 5th, I turned in my two weeks at my job.

I did not have another job lined up, though I had been to interviews.  I did not have much of a plan except maybe going back to school.  I knew approximately how long I could survive on what I had saved and all of that, but I didn’t have a back up plan and I didn’t have a lot of money.  If a cat got sick, I could be screwed.  If I ended up with a serious medical problem, I don’t know what I would do.  If I didn’t find a job in the reasonably near future, I would be in a very bad situation.

So why did I quit like that? For some time, my work environment is not one that I have found to be very supportive or developmental, among a myriad of other problems. A few specific situations arose and that was enough.  I hit my end point.  There are obviously a lot more specifics, but dirty laundry needs washed, not aired out in public.

I was excited to be done, but mostly terrified at first.  I hadn’t told my friends, family, or boyfriend what I did before I did it.  Hell, I didn’t know for sure I was doing it until the words were out of my mouth. I was scared to tell people at first.  You don’t just go making rash, irresponsible decisions and expect people to congratulate you.  But that’s kind of what happened.  There has not been one person that I have told even a small bit of the story to that has not said, “good for you!” in some way or another.  No one freaked out.  I didn’t get any lectures.  No one seemed worried.

My last day of work was the 19th.  I was offered a job on the 18th.  I officially registered for fall classes on the 20th.

R probably said it best: “maybe you just have to get out in order to move forward.”  I think he was right.  I can tell you that I have not been this happy in a long time.  I have  two weeks off between jobs and I have filled this first week with friends, cleaning my apartment, cats, and the gym.  Will my new job be better?  The grass is always greener, so who knows?  But it seems like a good deal so far.  I know that school will be wonderful and once it’s all said and done, I will have a master’s in a few years.  That’s not something I would have imagined saying even six months ago.

It is amazing to me how things fell neatly into place after I took the leap. So I guess if you can’t just up and quit your job, you should at least do what this is really about: make good life choices based on what you need. I wish that I had made this choice earlier so that I could have been better off sooner instead of wasting time.  One of my favorite comedians, Duncan Trussell, sometimes talks about vampires in your life, whether it’s friends or a situation like mine.  You have to get rid of the vampires. You’ll be much better off.  I already know I am.

Something New: May

So in May, I have actually done several new things.  I’m kind of proud of myself actually.  The main thing I’m going to highlight, though, is my trip to the dietician.

I am the first to say that I don’t know very much about diet and nutrition.  I know basic things and I can read food labels, but I don’t know much in depth.  I don’t think I do too badly, but I do feel like diet is a hurdle for me in regards to any weight loss.  So when I saw a flier up in my doctor’s office about the new dietician on the staff, I jumped for it.

I’m glad that I did.  I learned things like how many calories I should eat when I’m running and how many when I’m not.  She also gave me the breakdown in grams of what I should be taking in with regards to carbs, fats, protein, etc.  It seemed to always be about a 10% increase in everything (calories included) when I am actually running. We also talked about recovery foods and when I need to eat before/after a run in relation to actual meals.

We went down my typical menu of sorts and she didn’t feel like anything needed to be cut out.  However, we did talk about my habit of eating after coming home late from work.  Instead of eating whatever it is I feel like, I need to stick to a certain calorie limit.  Of course, those calories should be made of good things and not potato chips. Talking this out was probably one of the best parts for me, just because this is one of the worst eating habits that I have.

So have I stuck to everything I’ve learned?  Well… I’ve tried.  I have fallen off the calorie tracking wagon as of late and I’ve gotten a little lazier with food choice.  Tomorrow, however is a new day and today I stocked up on lots of healthy goods from the grocery with no intention of straying from what I bought.

Hurrah!  The dietician visit was well worth it.  I will check back in with her in a couple of months to see how progress is.


Other new things for this month?

  • I started volunteering for roller derby.  I can’t skate, nor would I trust myself to do so and not break myself, so… volunteering it is! So far, great fun!
  • My first massage in years, in which I learned that my current hip problem is probably related to my back problem. Whee!
  • I discovered a “butter” that I can eat! Justin’s Honey Almond Butter.  You see, I can’t eat peanut butter without heading to Migraine City, so finding something good for toast or sandwiches was an awesome discovery.
  • I applied for college… Again. Ha! This time, however, we’re doing it a little differently in hopes of great success.  More on this later.
  • Found out that the boyfriend can make really great guacamole.  My heart melted.

Happy to say that I feel as if I may have done some good things this month. Yay!

Something New: April – Recap

So April’s something new started with this post about trying to live off of my income three years ago.  I posted another blog entry about halfway through the month. I was already struggling with it at that point.

I had the most problems with bills, doctor visits, and surprise expenses.  Because I have more bills, my rent is higher, etc, more money went to those things.  So when Thor had to go to the vet, it would have been impossible for me to pay for it if I kept within my 2009 budget. By the end of the month, I was really just trying to spend as a little as possible in an attempt to get in under the wire on my goal.  I didn’t make it.

I did, however, learn some things to stay better on track.

  • I can still use the budget I might have used back in 2009 for things that vary like groceries, care items, etc.  It can save a lot of money to put a tight cap on how much you’re going to use for those things.
  • Pay in cash.  I kept a card around in case I absolutely had to use it, but if you only take enough cash out to get you through x number of days or through specific errands, you really have to stay with what you have.  I guess that’s only if you have the willpower to do so.
  • Take your limits seriously.  If you are always telling yourself in the back of your mind that you have a safety net, you might never get serious about staying within a budget.  At least, that’s one of my problems. Doing this helped me to really stay focused on the goal even if I didn’t meet it.

So it wasn’t an entirely lost cause.  I got more comfortable with budgeting and YNAB in general.  I also learned that I can mostly live on a smaller income than I have currently, but it would take some real discipline. I am hoping to get better at that discipline.  More discipline = more money saved!

May Update!

Goal: Train for and run the quarter marathon at Cap City and the half-marathon at Nationwide.
Status: Cap City COMPLETE! Full race recap to come! I have already chosen at least two other races for the next couple of months as well.  I’ve got race fever!  I am still hoping to do the half in October, but I’d like to know that I can actually do it before I register.  Walking part of 6.55 is one thing, but 13.1 is another.

Goal: Strength train 3x a week.
Status: As of last week, I was told by my physical therapist I could slowly get back into some “gentle gym time.” I’m hoping to go either tomorrow or Wednesday.

Goal: Regularly donate to charity and start volunteering.
Status: Did my first volunteering activity at Planned Parenthood!

Goal: Write every day.
Status: Completely neglected except for what you see here. Ugh.

Goal: Read at least one book a month.
Status: Slowed down on the reading trend.  Happened across Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. So far, it is really good.  Now I just need to take more time to read it.

Goal: Save money/budget reboot!
Status: This tied into the April edition of Something New. I will be giving a follow-up on that shortly.

Goal: Try something new once a month.
Status:  For April, I tried to live like I did three years ago. This did not go as planned. It’s strange to think about how different things are in such a short period of time. May’s something new takes place on Thursday. You’ll have to check back for it. 🙂

Goal: Gratitude.
Status: This is my new goal for May. I am going to post at least twice a week in some form (Twitter, Facebook, or on the blog) something that I am grateful for. I have been thinking about this a lot lately.  Some days recently haven’t felt very inspiring (so to speak), so I think this will help put some things into perspective.

Happy May!

Something New: April – The Halfway Point

We’re officially about halfway through the month, so why not a little update? If you missed my initial post on this goal, please go here. The nutshell: live off of what I was making three years ago.

So how is it going? Not well. Since this is a public site, I don’t want to go too in detail about money and income. It takes away some of the impact, but it makes me feel a little more at ease. I haven’t talked to many people about this plan, but my boyfriend didn’t think it was going to work. He was right, as he so often is.

The problem so far? Things that are not 2009-friendly: Gas was cheaper, I didn’t have prescriptions to buy or specialists/physical therapists to see, etc. I didn’t even include some of my now-normal expenses into this budget.  I also have to admit that I got pretty discouraged part of the way through and probably didn’t include everything in my spending that I should have. This is where I need to get better at tracking things.

The next couple of weeks will be the real test. As rent is the biggest bill and that will have been paid, the second two weeks of the month will have slightly more money. If I was living this budget month to month, this extra cash could be used in the first two weeks of the next month to balance out spending. I’m going to see if I can spend less to make up for the more already spent, if that makes sense.  So maybe overall for the month, I can come down to even.  Let’s hope!

I’m hoping I have also figured out a way to simplify things. I was actually working off of two separate budgets in YNAB, but I have since transferred it all to one budget and just adjusted things around so that my 2009 allowances are factored into the appropriate categories. I know, I know. I really made it way more difficult than I needed it to be.  And, of course, I am kind of geeking out about my budget since I just took one of the YNAB classes and found it really helpful.  I have actually completely revamped how I was doing things and feel like I’m on a better path overall.

Next two weeks, here I come!

April Update!

I think of all the months so far, March was probably one of my most productive. Despite my herniated disc acting up again, I got a lot of things accomplished. I would say about half of my goals were attended to in a satisfactory (or approaching it) manner.

Let’s check in…

Goal: Train for and run the quarter marathon at Cap City and the half-marathon at Nationwide.
Status: About halfway through March, I actually bailed on my 10k training program and started a half-marathon training program. The pace seemed overall better for me and I would end up running the required distance to complete the quarter marathon before May.  Unfortunately, with my back being in the state it’s in, we are looking at maybe only getting to walk at Cap City. Fingers crossed that my doctor’s appointment this week brings good news for my running efforts.

Goal: Strength train 3x a week.
Status:  In March, I said I wanted to do some sort of physical activity every day of the week except for one rest day.  I didn’t quite keep up with that, but I got pretty close.  I held pretty steady to approximately 3 days a week at the gym.  I even started to really track my strength training, which I have been horrible at doing previously.  We’ll wait to revise this goal until after my doctor’s appointment since I am not supposed to be lifting things as of right now.

Goal: Regularly donate to charity and start volunteering.
Status: I am not “regularly” donating, but I am trying to keep up with giving donations as birthday gifts for people.  We’ll revisit this one at another time.

Goal: Write every day.
Status: Getting sooooo much closer! I definitely picked up the blogging pace and I even started looking at the story I’ve been working on a little bit more.  Still need more consistency.

Goal: Read at least one book a month.
Status: Big win on this one.  I finished four books: A Clash of Kings, the three books in the The Hunger Games trilogy
(barely counts as it was my third time through), and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I have anxiously started another book already: The Portable Door by Tom Holt. I will be happy to keep this reading trend up in April.

Goal: Save money/budget reboot!
Status: Sort of sluggish for March overall on the money front. For April, this goal and the next goal are both tied in together. I think it will be a really good way of getting myself on track with budgeting in general.

Goal: Try something new once a month.
Status:  March’s something new meant going to a running clinic.  For April, please see my “In the Works” post. I am really excited about this one!

Goal: Catch up on intended blog entries.
Status: COMPLETE! Yay!

Something New: In the Works – April

So I’ve decided already what April’s something new is and I’m so excited about it that I have to share it now.

I have struggled with money for a lot of my adult life.  I have found myself in a lot of problematic scenarios and in a lot of financial holes.  I’ve never been very good at budgeting and I can’t say I’m awesome at conservative spending.  I have only just recently landed in an income position that has allowed me to live life in a generally comfortable sort of way and I am very thankful for that.  My comfortable and your comfortable might be different. My comfortable is still having a little money in the bank and being able to put some aside in savings every paycheck.  I don’t buy extravagant things very often, but I do have the problem of buying a lot of little things.

A couple of things have added to my problem:

  • Taking up running and working out in general has really put a damper on my cash since I had nothing for those activities when I started. Now I pay a gym membership and worry about appropriate clothing, etc.  Over the winter I was purchasing a base of winter gear and now I am trying to have appropriate hot weather gear.  Seems silly, really, when it’s an activity that you could do barefoot in any clothing.  Now I have compression sleeves and hydration belts. What?
  • I stopped buying cheap food. Seems like a silly thing also, but once my income started increasing, so did the amount I was spending on food.  I think it probably has something to do with age also: I don’t buy pizza rolls or hot pockets like I used to. I switched to buying more organic and overall better for you kinds of things.  While I do try to stay on the cheaper side, I can’t say I am not a sucker when I go to the grocery on an empty stomach.
  • The acquiring of an iPhone and iPad has meant buying more iThings. I have tapered off a lot, but it’s still just far too easy to pull up iTunes and buy an album or think “I need an app for that” and then purchase one that’s “only $1!” That stuff adds up.  I also buy more books now since that’s one of the main reasons for owning the iPad, not a bad thing really, but not nice on the wallet either.

There are other factors, of course.  I have a student loan payment that I didn’t used to have.  I’ve spent money on a personal trainer on and off over the year.  I’ve had a lot of medical bills in the past year from MRIs, physical therapy, surgery, etc. I am really thankful that I’ve been able to keep up on all of this and not fall into my old spending holes.

However, I think there are problems with what I’ve been doing and I want to fix them.  Sometimes I’m really good about my budget and sometimes I just let a little too loose.  I don’t find myself in trouble necessarily, but I don’t like what I’m doing either.  I really enjoy using YNAB for money purposes, but I am not using their method very well (and it’s a good one, so I really should!). So, my something new for April is going to be spending on the income I had three years ago. If I was good at math, I’d tell you the percentages, but I’m not. Let’s just say that if I was living on the same income now as I did three years ago and with the same bills, I would have less than half of what I do now in “disposable” income.

What am I including in disposable income? For the purposes of this exercise, it’s anything that isn’t a set bill.  For bills, I am not including my gym membership or savings, but I am including my student loan, car insurance, phone, electric, etc. So disposable is going to have to cover groceries, gas, eating out, care products, and miscellaneous. There are going to be some exceptions to this because of some of the things happening in April, like my boyfriend’s birthday and my trip to Kansas City to see my stepbrother. Those things are going to come out of my usual income, not the income I’m using for April’s Live Like It’s 2009 Budget.  I will take “emergencies” as they come (and hopefully there won’t be any). Seems fair enough, really.

I am actually really excited about this despite the fact that it’s going to be a little tough. Between now and the 1st, I’m going to spend some time in YNAB trying to create something that will work for my new limits.  I also think that if I can successfully do this, I will probably reward myself somehow.  Almost all the “excess” money is going to go into savings, which will be it’s own reward.  But maybe I’ll use some of it to donate to a charity, or maybe I’ll put some away in an IRA. I’ll see what happens. A reward that will keep rewarding is a nice idea.

So come on, April 1st!

Side note: While we’re speaking of money, have I mentioned how much I love Get Rich Slowly?  The post from today was pretty awesome: This I Believe: 43 Lessons from 43 years. Nice little motivator.

Something New: Form Check!

A couple Saturdays ago, I attended a Good Form Running clinic at a local running store.  I decided it was my big “something new” for my March goals. I’ve read plenty of things about running form, watched videos, etc, but it’s awfully hard to find a place to stare at yourself in action.  So I signed up for the running clinic.

I didn’t know what exactly to expect going in.  I knew we would be doing drills, so I dressed appropriately.  The group of people attending the clinic were friendly, of all ages, and with all sorts of running backgrounds. One guy was just starting up again, a few others had barely begun, etc.  It was nice that it was a diverse crowd.  The instructor started off talking about the 4 basic principles of GFR: posture, mid-foot strike, cadence, and lean.  We did a couple of drills and then we were videotaped running through the store (which was apparently supposed to be done first), which we would see later after we had gone through everything and knew the “proper” way.

I was sort of familiar with a lot of this going in. Mid-foot strike is the part of my running form that I have tried to get the most right, especially since the shoes I run in almost demand you land properly. My posture is not so great any way, so I knew that probably wasn’t right.  As far as cadence goes, I had tried to run with a metronome app before, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Lean was something new to me as well and not something that I naturally do, I don’t think.  We talked about and did drills for each principle.

Posture was the first thing we talked about. This was the driver behind getting me into the clinic.  After overhearing another GFR class talking about what your shoulders do during a run, I realized that things were not so hot there.  I went out the next day, tried to keep my shoulders down and relaxed and had a much happier run because of it.  The importance of staying straight and aligned properly from top to bottom hadn’t really sunk in until we went over it in class.  This is one of the toughest parts for me, but I’m hoping that with practice, my normal posture will also improve.

The mid-foot strike drill was similar to the 100-Up that Chris McDougall talks about here, so I was familiar with that.  The instructor for the clinic repeated several times that you can get the proper foot strike in any shoe.  Minimalist shoes and a few others in that range are made with the intention of helping you to have the proper foot placement.  Heel-striking is very bad for you and seems to be the cause of a lot of injury, so I think doing things to help promote proper strike is important.  Personally, I can’t imagine heel-striking in my Merrells and I think that has been really helpful.

Our cadence drill consisted of running in place and then running around the store at different paces.  180 steps/minute really isn’t difficult, but if you’re over-striding (and therefore taking fewer strides), it can be much harder.  Lean was literally just feeling the proper lean of the body.  You don’t want to fall over, but you need to lean forward sort of until your toes “catch.” This one was hard for me to really feel and I need more practice there.

After the drills, we watched the video of ourselves running in slow motion.  The instructor said I do something pretty common with minimalist shoe wearers: a slight forefoot strike with a roll back to the middle.  Apparently this is not a problem as long as I am not running on my tiptoes (something I think I was doing for awhile early on).  I still end mid-foot, I just start a little forward.  The foot strike was not actually the most enlightening part.  My shoulders were the real problem. They kept doing this strange shrug motion as I went.  It’s hard to say whether it was just the close quarters we were running in or what, but I have put a lot more emphasis on posture, relaxing my shoulders, etc since seeing myself.  I think I am making improvements on that front at least.  I am still working on cadence and lean  also, but I will be happy for now if I can get half of it down pretty well.

The GFR site has videos about all of these things and will probably explain things much better than I can.  It’s good to note that GFR is only one of several methods that all teach essentially the same thing. Good Form Running just happens to be the name that New Balance uses for it. When I decided to go with a barefoot/minimalist shoe, I came across links you can find under the “minimalist running” tag pretty helpful.

March Update!

Well, February was full of a little bit of progress for some things, a goal achieved, and other goals not. Let’s review..

Goal: Run a 5k! And then run in at least the Cap City and Nationwide races as well.
Status: 5k COMPLETE!! If you missed my celebratory post, go read it here.  As of Saturday, I officially registered for the quarter marathon at Cap City.  What’s the difference between a quarter marathon and a 10k? About .35 miles.  The 10k is 6.2 and the quarter is 6.55.  I am looking at a few 5ks between now and Cap City, but I’m not sure yet whether I will sign up for those as well.

Goal: Strength train 3x a week.
Status:  I have been in twice a week at least most weeks with my trainer.  My commitment for March is to do something every day except for Sunday.  So for instance, today I had a sesson with my trainer and then in a little while, I’m going to go out and run.  Tomorrow, I will probably end up in the gym and/or doing a short run.  I am planning to alternate running and gym days except for my days off from work where I plan to do both because I can space out the two.

Goal: Regularly donate to charity and start volunteering.
Status: I had my volunteer orientation for Planned Parenthood in February.  I have yet to actually do any volunteering, but there are a few opportunities coming up.

Goal: Write every day.
Status: I have started work again on a story that I was messing around with, though it requires some research that I have yet to do.  Still working toward this goal.

Goal: Read at least one book a month.
Status: I am almost done with A Clash of Kings (finally). I started to re-read The Hunger Games in anticipation of the movie at the end of the month and that book really flies by, so no worries on that.  If I’m lucky, I’ll finish three books in March to make it even for the year so far. Ha!

Goal: Save money/budget reboot!
Status: Getting things on track here! It would be helpful if one of the cats hadn’t required 3 trips to the vet in 3 weeks.  He seems to be doing better now, so I will forgive him putting a cramp in my plans here… 😉

Goal: Try something new once a month.
Status:  Well… I am sort of having a hard time coming up with ideas for this.  We are going to cheat for February and say my 5k was the big thing.  It was a big thing, so I guess it isn’t cheating, but still… Any ideas on things to try?  I am considering anti-social media days where I don’t go on Twitter or Facebook for the whole day. I don’t feel like it’s such a hard thing to give up, so maybe it would be more like doing it for a week.  Still playing with that one.

Goal: Catch up on intended blog entries.
Status: I have drafts, oh believe me, I have drafts. Ha! My new March goal is this one.

Something New: Yoga

So like I said the other day: I am going to try one new thing a month.  This month’s new thing happened to be yoga.

I was asked by a friend of mine to attend a free yoga class yesterday, but my work schedule didn’t allow for it.  The idea sounded good though, so I opted to sign up for one of the free yoga classes at my gym.  This is actually the first class that I’ve ever taken (and they offer several free ones) after being at this gym for a year now.  The person who signed me up for it said, “Way to go, trying something new in the new year!”

So tonight was my first yoga class.  I was very nervous going into it since I didn’t know what to expect.  I haven’t really done a lot of yoga.  I know a couple of poses simply because of their benefits to different areas of the body that I’ve had trouble with. I’ve read a little bit on different running websites about poses that are supposed to help runners as well.  I’ve never really tried many poses though, so I was going in pretty blind.

I arrived for the class about 15 minutes early and introduced myself to the instructor and told her that I was new and had never really done yoga before.  She advised me not to sit at the front of the class (where I was incidentally placing my mat at that very moment) and also told me a few other things like how she uses a lot of contemporary music, that it’s pretty cardiovascular, that I would want a towel, etc.  The most important thing she said to me though was that she wanted me to focus on my breath, despite whether I could keep up with the class.  That little lesson didn’t really kick in until about halfway through.

After talking to the instructor, I laid out my mat at the back of the class and followed suit with others who were taking off their shoes, stretching, etc.  I got a towel, drank some water, and waited anxiously.  Once everyone was settled, it was right into the poses.  We started with a sun salutation (much like you can see here).  I realized quickly that it was going to be a lot harder than I expected.  Things moved a lot faster and I found myself pretty distracted with trying to keep up and not focusing on what I was actually doing.  The other distraction was the sweat. Ha! I had not expected to sweat so very badly. My feet and hands felt like they were going to slip off the mat, especially when the instructor came by and tried to move my legs into a better form. Again, something I had not anticipated.  Isn’t yoga about relaxing and stretching or something like that?

As things progressed, I recognized more poses and got more comfortable with making modifications so that I could do some of them.  SO MANY DOWNWARD DOGS! I also started to get focused on my breath at some point and started to actually understand what the instructor had been getting at and how I could do it without getting so distracted with keeping up.  By the time that we were winding down, I was feeling pretty awesome and almost like I was getting the hang of some of it.

The class ended in corpse pose, the lights turned out, and the instructor coming around to each of us with a lavendar lotion that she massaged into the backs of our neck, shoulders and then did some crazy thing around our eyes and head.  I have no idea if that’s a normal practice in yoga classes, but it was probably one of my favorite parts.

(Another favorite part?  The music.  She wasn’t kidding about contemporary. I wasn’t always paying a lot of attention, but when I did there was some Florence + and the Machine, Fleetwood Mac, etc.  So good!)

After the class, I felt awesome.  I talked again to the instructor who asked how I liked it.  I said I would definitely be back.  She advised that I do some work at home and definitely get down the sun salutation.  Good advice, as I think if I could get into it and focused by doing things I knew, I would be in the right mindset from the start and not so worried most of the way through.

So, my first attempt at something new was decidedly awesome.  I think yoga is going to become a regular thing if it has me feeling this good afterwards. I am already planning to sign up for next week’s class and I’ve invested in some handy yoga socks so maybe I won’t feel like I’m going to slip and fall off the mat when I start to sweat next time.  If you have any other handy yoga tips or advice, I would love to hear them, especially about how best to incorporate it into an already pretty full exercise routine.

Post Yoga.

Post Yoga Deep-Breathe-a-Thon.