2018-01-19 On Balancing Budgets and Traveling

Well.. I did it. I asked for more work. So now if I get too much, I only have myself to blame. I’d like to target 25 hours a week. I’ve seriously been number crunching daily and looking at all my bills and accounts. I’m spending less than I have for years and for the first time ever, I’m on a budget.

I actually opened a second account that I have a debit card for and that’s what I’m carrying instead of my credit card. My visa still has $$$ On it from Hawaii and Christmas and I’m now only using it for emergencies. My target is to have that paid off by April and then I’ll be in a better spot.

I’m not yet making enough to cover my monthly expenses, but IF I put in 25 hours a week, I should be able to do that. That, of course, does not include medicine for my travel itch.

That’s the one variable that’s tough to factor in. Vacations and road trips are an expense that typically is a larger bundle all at once. It’s plane tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, and more on food all in a short timeframe. I have not gone through the trouble of adding all that up and averaging it out over 12 months.

That would be a waste of time anyhow, as last year was so atypical. I travelled more than any other year of my life which included two “Dream” destinations.. Hawaii AND touring the Pacific North West. I won’t be doing that again, at least for a while.

Even with that being said, I’m already itching to plan something for this year. I just need to keep it small and do more road trips and visits to friends where it’s free for me to stay.

I’ve already told Princess KK I would come visit her this winter, but once I got my job I decided to try and wrap that into my first company trip. If they are going to pay for me to go to San Fran, San Diego is a short hop from there and a beautiful costal drive. I just hope they decide to do that sooner rather than later. I’d love to get the F out of the Midwest when the weather is still gross and not when things start to get better.

I’m also jones-ing for an Austin trip and currently holding my breath waiting to hear if the typical crew is all converging there at the end of March or not. Of course I’ve got Summer Residency in July, but I’m not exactly counting that in my list of travels.

For one, it’s Nebraska City and 40 minutes from my house. And secondly, the last one didn’t exactly feel like a vacation. It was lots of work and not a lot of play. The good news on that is the cost is added onto what I owe for tuition for the semester, so the expense is not draining my bank account.

In any case, I’m a planner and I always have the future in mind and I need that “something” to look forward to. I think that’s part of the reason I can’t help but evaluate every relationship early on and continuously question whether or not it has a viable future. That whole “Futuristic” thing is one of my top five “strengths” according to the Gallup Strengths-finder quiz. When I first got my results (in 2012 when I took the test), I wondered what the heck that meant and how it could possibly be a strength, but as time passes, I’m more and more aware that someone who is mindful of the future, typically has a pretty good definition of a path to get there. It goes hand in hand with one of my other top five strengths, “Strategic”.

Wow. Somehow I got from asking for more work to finances to traveling and now personality profiling. That’s quite a meandering. In truth, I could really go on and see where else that leads, but that’s not gonna pay my bills or for that next big trip I want to take. 😜 I should probably get to work.

One more digression sparked by observation before I call it quits… the Man in Black is wearing white today. How bizarre.

Happy FriYay!
~Miss SugarCookie


2017-11-30 The Last Day Of November

When I decided I was going to quit my job I had a very general idea about the timeline I would adhere to for the remainder of the year. In review..

July – Adjust to not working, reconnect with important people in my life, meet new people, and travel the Pacific North West. Check ✅

August – Focus on myself and health. I set goals, worked on gardening and exercising and started cooking more. I

Dipped my toe in the dating scene and that left me somewhat sour, but I tried it. ✅

September – Originally this month was supposed to be dedicated to figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I did do a little of this but almost none of it was related to how to obtain income like I intended. Instead it turned into a second August where I was very self-centered in just doing whatever I wanted. In the end my grand life epiphany led me to submit an application for the MFA program. So I’m a way, I sort of accomplished what I set out to do. ✅

October – Presumably I would have my life figured out by this point so this month was earmarked for actually looking for a job. Instead what I did was have my third August. Ummm.. ok. I don’t think I can even pretend I was on track by this point. However, I still felt great about EVERYTHING.

November – Doing analysis for my financials led me to really determine what my needs are. By this point I should have been deep in job search land but was not. I procrastinated that daily as I looked forward to my escape to Hawaii. Oh yeah, Maui! My savings were dwindling daily and for the rest of my life I will never regret going. Add that Mantra to my list “No Regrets”.

Today is the last day of November and In my grand master plan I would be zeroing in on a new job. A source of income to sustain my family is a top priority at this point. It’s time to get serious. I think I’ve successfully separated what I want for my life from what I need. I can now look at jobs more objectively.

I don’t need to find something that will repel me up a ladder and also check boxes for life fulfillment. I’m getting that from the other aspects of my life. Im getting it from my children and relationships and writing and experiences. I’m checking the box for continued personal growth with the MFA and the Master Gardner program.

The job I’m looking for needs to satisfy a slim but probably still tough to find set of requirements.

1. A minimum income to sustain my lifestyle. Thank goodness I’ve always lived well inside my means.

2. Flexibility to allow me to spend a necessary amount of time on those items listed in the previous paragraph.

3. A good company with a good mission, vision, and culture.

The end result might be contract work utilizing my current skills and expertise or it could be a full time gig helping me cross over into different industries. I’m open to either. What I can’t have is something that is a copy of what I’ve done in the past.. stress, poor work life balance, and a lack of growth.

Today I’ve set a goal for myself to update my resume for a few very specific job descriptions and also my LI profile. I’m also intending to reach out to three contacts to start spreading the word that I’m available. I’m going to do three a day until I’ve exhausted my list. Yes, December is going to be the month I get everything rolling. I expect that will take me straight into the holidays when the whole world pauses and nothing gets done.

My residency for the MFA is scheduled for Dec. 28 through Jan. 6 so I won’t want to actually start a new gig until then. It’s going to work out perfectly… I’m confident!!

It’s Go Time!

~Miss SugarCookie

2017-10-19 What About Right Now?

Yesterday I met with a finacial advisor. It was just an initial discussion so he could explain to me what he and his team and company are all about. He described their philosophy for investing and the different options available for utilizing their services. We also took a peek at what I have in my portfolio already which is great because in my history of working and saving, I’ve not had a lot of advice or input from an expert. Despite that, I’ve done ok.

The main questions or concerns for retirement revolve around what your goals are and if you will have enough to live how you want to live when you are no longer getting an annual salary. After not working for 3+ months and seeing how great it is, the retirement thing is really appealing. Planning for it is great, but what about today? What about RIGHT NOW??!

Each month I have been out of work I have done a deeper analysis of my spending and my budget than I have ever done before in my entire life. I’ve been so fortunate to have had a good job for 20 years and not had to worry about money. I’ve always had enough. I’ve never really been on a budget where I had to limit myself on ‘x’ so I could afford ‘y’. I don’t think many people can say that.

I’ve also always pushed the envelope when it comes to salary. I’ve asked for raises and recognized when the market demand for my job was at a premium and took advantage of those times.

When I started working in a professional capacity in 1995 my annual salary was 28K. I advanced quickly at that employer and moved onto the business/dev team in 1997. In those days we were called programmers and I did work in COBOL and CICS on a DB2 database. I capitalized on the jump in pay ranges during the Y2K “crisis” and when I found what increases other people were getting, I always asked for more.

In 2000 I moved over to supporting clinical applications and in 2001 made the leap to HL7 interfaces. This very specialized field meant that the skills I was learning would be shared by only a few people in the industry. People with experience in this area are sort of rare. This meant that when I switched employers, I could basically ask for what I wanted and get it. I did exactly that.

After seventeen years in my field and I was earning six figures. and that was without constant employer jumps for increases. I’ve only worked at two places. All of that is the reason I’ve never really been on a budget and also had no problem maxing out my 401K. So my retirement portfolio looks pretty good. But, again… what about RIGHT NOW?

Whether it’s retirement or tomorrow the questions are the same. What do you need to live comfortably and what are your goals?

The answers for me become more and more clear every month that goes by, I need about 4K a month to cover my bills and spending. I know I have the capacity to reduce this by about 1000 a month but that would be sacrificing money I spend on experiences and vacations which starts to cut into my preferred lifestyle. I recognize I can live more conservatively and make better choices and I’ve started making changes in that direction, but traveling is one of my joys in life and I’m not wanting to compromise on that one.

When I crunch the numbers, it is easy to figure out how much I need to make. I’ve only just started to look for a new job but am already acutely aware that money is typically the #1 thing people focus on. Knowing what my requirements are makes it easier to narrow the field and consider on the other things that could quite possibly give money a run for it’s .. ah.. money in priority order. Those things are flexibility and culture.

I ranted a couple of days ago about employers and the common practice of taking advantage of employees and over-working them and not paying enough attention to engagement, growth, and satisfaction so I won’t repeat myself on that. Bottom line is that in my book, this is more important than salary. At this point, I would rather take a job with less pay where the employees are really satisfied. I’m becoming less and less afraid to go on record with that statement.

This blog is very anonymous but I’ve already stated as much to two recruiters I’ve talked to. I’ve decided that once I really start to look and apply, part of that process will have to include talking to other staff members and not just management. If that can’t be arranged it’s probably a red flag.

These factors for any type of job I decide to do also fall into the category of “right now”. Life is too short to do something you don’t want to do or are unhappy doing for the sake of tomorrow. But a person shouldn’t sacrifice tomorrow for today either. I guess like everything, it had to be a balance. Plan for tomorrow but live for right now.

On that note, it’s time for me to go live for today! 😊

Carpe Diem!
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-08-12 Looking Forward

It’s good to have a plan. It’s good to have things to look forward to. An event or a meet up or a vacation in the future that you can think about and be excited about. I’m a planner by nature and I love having things to look forward to. That’s probably why I am always planning to meet people for lunches or daydreaming and scheming about my next road trip or vacation. From the moment Hawaii was a done deal, it has been a topic of discussion with people and a wonderful thing to be excited about. That happens in November and I bought those tickets last spring, so I will have enjoyed looking forward to that for like 6 months.

One thing that was great about my job was that it paid enough to support my travel habit. There are so many places I want to see and so many things that I want to do that as soon as I get back from one, I’m almost immediately thinking about what is next. The downside to the job thing is, well, only three weeks of paid vacation a year. Bummer. I’m also a fan of the long weekend, you know take a Friday and maybe even Monday too and take off for a road trip. I think my PTO balance at work was often hovering around zero. Whatever job I elect to have next, I would like more time off. Four weeks is not unheard of but five would be the bomb. That’s probably stretching it some.

I originally planned to take three months off of work. Well, three months where I was just going to get some serious R and R and not think about work at all and then potentially another three months looking for the “right” job. For the most part being off work has been great, but now that I am almost halfway through my first three and about a month past my big Pacific Northwest adventure, I am really starting to want to plan some more things with the time I have left.

I’m supposed to do a quick trip with my friend Denise to Beatrice to witness the Solar Eclipse on the 21st, but that will likely be a one day trip. The one day trip I took to that crappy water park in Grand Island was more of a spur of the moment thing and not super awesome. I need something more substantial. Yesterday I had texts with both my friend Rebecca in Austin and my Mom about potential trips.

It looks like we (my mom, the kids, and I) will be going to visit my brother in Colorado in October over the four day Columbus day weekend. That’s so far away still. I may be going to Austin mid September too. That will probably be decided here in the next couple of days. Rebecca also wants to plan a girls trip sometime in October or November so that will likely be awesome too. Then we are leading right into that first week of November when I will be on the island of Maui. So that’s all very excellent.

I’ve also been thinking I would like to get back to the Badlands this year. I love that place so much. That is one of the benefits of being in a relationship .. you have someone to experience things with. I don’t much mind traveling solo, but when you get to where you are going, eating all your meals and seeing cool things by yourself is just not the same. You see the most amazing sunrise and you look to your left and your right and don’t have anyone to say “wow, how cool is that” to. That’s a bummer. Still, it would be nice to get back there before my time runs out.

For the next few weeks I need to focus on getting the kids back to school and potentially doing a little soul searching about my future. That’s another kind of “looking forward” that I’ve intended for this time in my life. I should capitalize on that opportunity while I’m at home and waking up each and every wonderful day with the luxury of doing whatever it is I feel like.

I guess it’s time to do that now. I wonder what this day will bring.

Always Looking,
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-07-08 Little Bits of Lots of Stuff

It’s Saturday in a life where everyday feels like Saturday now. I made myself a to-do list at the beginning of the week and as soon as I am done writing today I am going to go down to the kitchen to check it and see how I did. There are no “rights and wrongs” in this game I’m playing now. Whatever happens happens.

I can say that I have been procrastinating a little trip planning though. I have plane tickets and a rental car booked for next week but not much beyond that. I want to play this one slow and loose and not get too hung up on schedules. I’m taking the kids on our first real adventure this year and we are going to go explore the Pacific NorthWest, starting in Portland.

I visited Portland last year with Matt and we did a lot of stuff and the one thing I found really noteworthy was an old school building that had been turned into a hotel/restaurant/bar. It was McMenamins Kennedy School, but not really a destination for kids really, if I am remembering correctly (lots of bars). I also really dug the rose garden we went to, but the kids would also not have a lot of interest in that. I should probably start my planning by looking up stuff for families to do in Portland. I should, but again, procrastinating for some reason.

I have not written in a couple of days and have had a few meet ups, you know, in the interest of trying to fortify some relationships. I had lunch with my sister on Thursday. I had a drink with Kevin and Chris Thursday night. I had a second date with Mr. Fireworks (who shall henceforth be named “the dud” instead) on Wednesday. Then yesterday, Friday, I had lunch with a former co-worker, a wedding reception for my Friend Geri in the evening, followed by dinner and a movie with Josh. So, I guess I have been busy.

Most of it was pretty good, save maybe the second date on Wednesday. I don’t think I will be seeing that guy again. My feelings are not really hurt about that at all. I think i learned a little bit about myself and what I am looking for and how this online dating stuff works in the process. No harm, no foul. I tend to get caught up in my own head about stuff rather quickly and I think I just need to just adjust that dial a little bit and not get too wound up too fast.

I’ve re-written my bio for the Bumble app like three or four times now but I think I finally have it right. It is tough to convey what you want to convey about who you are and what you are looking for in 300 words or less. Especially for a writer.

Josh and I have talked pretty openly about the online dating and the process and what its flaws are. He’s on OK Cupid and does not have any faith that he will find his match through that. He’s also a firm believer that if you do the things you already like doing in your life everyday, that is how you will meet that right person. I agree with this to some extent, but this too has it’s flaws. I could probably do a whole blog post about each of these methods. Maybe I will.

My focus for any one topic today seems off and I’m low on sleep and battery power for my laptop so I’m going to cut here and try and ease my way into this Saturday. Perhaps there will be more later.

Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps,
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-06-02 T-Minus 3 Weeks

In three short weeks, I will be done working. In three short weeks I will be waking up on a Friday, for the longest weekend of my life. In three weeks, I’m gonna have to figure out what to do with my time. That’s both awesome and scary at the same time.

People have asked me if I am going to travel. “Of course”, I say “It is what I do”. Where to, I am not sure.

People have asked me what my plans are and I just brush it off and say that I will figure it out. People have said not to waste the time, to do something meaningful. Other people have said not to worry about it and just relax and enjoy not having to do anything. The truth is, I’m not sure how this will play out.

I have a few short term things, and of course, I’m always mindful of being healthy and exercising and eating well. I’ll probably put more energy into that and more of a focus on doing some activities with the kids while they are out of school. Beyond that, I just don’t know.

I guess I am still in the groove of trying to finish things out right and my mind is not yet transitioning into “summer” mode. I’m also still living day by day, doing things in “just in time” mode, and until I truly have those extra 40 hours a week, that will probably continue.

In any case, it’s time to get up now and start my daily Friday grind. I’ve got lots of work, lunch with my Mom, Jazzercise, and then meeting a co-worker tonight to share a bottle of wine. It should be a good day.

Counting Down the Days,
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-05-23 Looking Ahead

A week ago I was heading back from Austin and super pumped about the future, and today I just feel very blah. I decided to ask for sabbatical instead of just quitting and have heard nothing on that. I don’t know what I expected to hear and how soon, but waiting is not my cup of tea. I give it until Thursday when I am back in the office. One week should have been plenty of time for them to figure out what they can and can’t do with my request.

A week ago I was heading back from Austin and determined to cut ties with Matt and let him know I did not want to see him. I did that, via email, but my heart is hurting still and I still want to see him. We exchanged emails and that’s made me feel even worse and it’s like it does not matter at all that I declared we should not meet and talk. I’m checking my email in-box in hopes that there will be something else and I can’t help it. I know the best thing would be no contact, but nothing is ever easy.

A week ago I was heading back from Austin and felt happy and energized and there was a spring in my step. I was relaxed and refreshed and ready to face the world again, but one week back in my normal day-to-day routine and I’m waking up feeling tired, unmotivated, and defeated. It is truly time for those changes. I need to take my life back. I need to be able to look to the future with positivity and excitement. I need to make plans to do the things I love and I need to do them. Why am I waiting?

I think the rest of this week should be dedicated to getting the rest of my garden in order. I’ve still got herbs and flowers I want to plant and a few more veggies too. Things I was not able to find the first time around. I should start by making a list so that I can be as efficient as possible and not waste time running to stores to find what I need. Yes, I think that should be the plan for this week and then I will also start looking ahead to next week and the week after that.

The kids will be out of school soon and we will want to go to the pool and and to go on road trips and to make the most out of the Summer. I need to start planning for those things and hopefully that will be the spark I need to get out of feeling the way I feel about today.

To the Future,
~Miss SugarCookie