Talk money to me

In my mind growing up, THE thing that established my concept of adulthood was financial independence. Other things – like marriage, kids, home ownership – I certainly had ideas about, but those became malleable over time. If I told my 16-year-old-self who thought that by 28 she would be married and having her first child, that actually at 28 she would be spending her free time lifting weights and doing seltzer reviews on her Instagram, I am unsure if she would be disappointed or proud (nonetheless, she would  not be surprised). Regardless of kids versus seltzer, living on my own and being able to financially support myself was always in the plan.

Post graduate school, I was finally making a real paycheck and paying my bills and I was like “Self-five! I made it!.” Paying off my first car felt great, and I felt super thankful to be debt free (praise the old gods and the new). The realities of adulting and living solo, however, had a few extra expenditures than student living in rural Ohio. Additional unexpected life events popped up- car repairs, medical bills, any time I dare enter a Target- that racked a few things up. AND people my age are getting married every hot minute and want me to be there AND I, too, want to be the twenty-something on a glamorous vacation abroad that leaves my friends wondering “how the hell did she afford that and regularly buy every flavor of La Croix?”

To keep every penny from flying out of my pocket, I have used some of the following strategies:

Savings Goals

My godmother is a financial advisor who I have been working with to plan for retirement. The first steps she gave me was to map out my budget and create short, mid-range, and long-term savings goals. This helped to both give purpose to how I was using my money and provide some timelines. Additionally,  looking at how you spend your money, and then channeling it towards savings tied to specific goals is super motivating and can change some not-so-great spending practices. When making a purchase decision, like going in on a 10 for 10 sale on Polar Seltzer, I refer back to my short-term goal of having 6 months of living expenses stored away, and often* make the choice towards savings (*I say “often” here, not “always’)

Separate Your Ish

Take those above goals, and set up separate savings accounts for them that you set regular deposits into based on your monthly budgets. I currently have a savings for my 6 month living expense goal, a car account for a future down payment, and a “large-scale” expense account for the future like adoption, house down payment etc. Having diversified accounts helps me progress on multiple goals, gives my money a specific purpose, and helps prevent savings paralysis – yes, this is a thing that happens when you have a savings money mountain and you don’t dare touch it as you worry what will happen if you do not maintain the same level of savings (tough problem, amirite? geez). It’s been motivating to make progress towards multiple goals at once and alleviates the worry of having to make large purchases in the future, like a new car, because I know I already have money going there.

Credit Card Rewards

Tread carefully here, but investigate and use credit card rewards, ESPECIALLY if you want to travel regularly. There are a lot of resources out there for best rewards cards for travel and cash back. I recommend Nerd Wallet as they outline basic pros and cons and a “this card is for you if…” section. Not all points are created equal and some cards offer point bonuses if you reach a certain spending threshold in the first few months, so it is good to look into where you can get the most bang for your buck. I say tread carefully, because many of these cards have higher interest rates and some have an annual fee so you need to be able to pay off your card every month to avoid The Debt Wall and reap the reward benefits. However, using the rewards is great! I paid for a flight to London last year with the first set of points I racked up.

Qapital

This app helped me save for Aaron’s and my trip to the UK and my best friend’s wedding festivities (this past weekend, what!) where I was the MOH. You link the app with your bank accounts and/or credit cards, set up special savings goals, and then choose rules that will be applied to your accounts to siphon money in the app towards your goals. The two I used were the Round-Up Rule, which rounded all the expenses coming out of my bank account to the nearest $2 and taking the extra to my Qapital account, and the Set It & Forget it rule, which pulled a set amount of money from my account every week into the app. They have a bunch of other rules, like the Guilty Pleasure Rule which pulls money into the app whenever you spend money at a place you are trying to avoid (for me: Starbucks, Target, etc) Setting aside money into a separate app was super helpful for these large events when the reservations needed to be made and expenses were adding up. I never blew my monthly budget as I had extra money I could transfer back into my account.

 

Just a few tips and tricks! I’m not always a savings master, but consistently reviewing my budget and making contributions to savings in these multiple ways builds up over time and assists with all adulthood expenses, big and small.

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Me, living my best life in front of a seltzer rainbow after my bff’s wedding which I saved for through Qapital. Please note: I only purchased one case.

*Note: This post is not sponsored by any seltzer brands mentioned. However, I am open and available for future partnerships (wink)

 

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I did a Whole30 in the middle of a life shit storm and here is what happened:

The last half of summer and into the beginning of fall, I was riding the waves of stress and excitement of a new job while also dealing  with some deep personal loss. The constant up and down and never-ending emotional charge had me on the couch night-after-night, with bowl of Halo Top and occasional wine glass in hand to dive deep into some mind-numbing television (thank you Quantico Season 3 for filling this role). It put the pause button in effect for the moment, but left me feeling more blah – physically and emotionally- each morning.

I had heard through social media and the books all the magical wonders of doing a Whole30 – your skin turns into sparkles, you’ll ride unicorns of endless energy, and you’ll never want to eat a cookie again! I had been wary given all those food feels and how restrictive the Whole30 is, but upon finding a pretty open October calendar, decided to give it a try to flip my very blah and numbing ice cream couch script. Here is what happened:

My feelings broke up with food and alcohol. I did not realize all the ways I was feeling through food and alcohol until I could not have it. Hard day at work? Wine time. Bad phone call with a family member? Where is that chocolate at. Big win? Time to go out to celebrate. Uh, wait a minute… no can do. I realized why I was wanting certain things for comfort, reward, or stress-relief and then acknowledged those feelings and thought about other ways to self-soothe, like a face mask or tea (though, I still insist herbal tea is not a cookie).

I realized Whole30 is a business. It’s like if you say “Whole30” into the mirror three times, 5 million White women will pop up in your Instagram and Pinterest feeds with new recipes, their Whole30 approved product favs, and all the Whole30 books that you must read. I already get kinda sucked into this stuff (we have a pantry area for “Amy’s Special Snacks”), and so I tried to be a critical consumer of knowledge when looking for info and ideas. The general intent for the Whole30 brand is fundamentally good, but it is hard to ignore the money-making power behind all of the Whole30 approved books, products, gear etc. I tried to tune most of it out and ask myself the hard questions like “Do you really need this coconut coffee creamer? Are you really going to eat this drinkable soup?” (as seen on Instagram stories, drinkable soup is not worth it. These are also not really hard questions, but things could quickly get out of hand whenever I went to the food co-op)

All the digestion magic. I won’t get into the semi-gross details here, but all my bloating, gas, uncomfortable digestion was gone by week 2 and my digestion system was running in a “regular” fashion for the month. This was great and I would do another Whole30 for this result alone. Afterwards, the goal is to introduce foods back in bit by bit to figure out what specifically may bother your digestion. I was following this until my friend’s bachelorette weekend (yes, I had a sampling of every donut at brunch and they were GREAT), but have found in general that gluten and dairy are no buneo.

I gained weight. Upfront, Whole30 is very clear that it is not a weight loss program, it’s about changing your lifestyle and relationship with food. You are not supposed to weigh yourself for the 30 days, and they capitalize and feature the non-scale victories over weight loss. If you lose weight, cool! If not, also cool! I was not good about the scale rule, and noticed in the 30 days that I gained and held onto about 4-5lbs. While initially confused and mildly disappointed, I quickly let this go. 1. I didn’t really need to lose weight 2. My usual diet is pretty similar to Whole30, so this was not a huge diet change for me as it is for some. 3. I was eating more fats to fill the hunger gaps. Fats are not bad,  but I may have overdid it time to time. 4. I remained active with CrossFit 5x a week and did not quite figure out the best way to fuel – probably too many snacks, not the right snacks etc. Since ending, my body has balanced itself back to the start. By gaining weight, I was able to focus on the non-scale victories more, which was the whole point from the get-go!

The bad shit didn’t stop happening. Funny enough, eating kale is not going to magically make all your problems go away. Yes, I was disappointed about this fact too. In the month of October, I still got stressed and I still grieved. And just like how I couldn’t cover up my feelings with some wine and ice cream, I couldn’t cover them up with vegetables and organic chicken (it is actually impossible to do this because chicken and vegetables do not pair well with feelings). My ability to handle and cope with these feelings, however, very much changed for the positive. I generally slept better and had improved mood day-to-day. I was able to take myself off an over-the-counter sleep aid that I had been on for years and cut my anxiety med usage in half -WHOA. Who knows if this was diet related, or just some Whole30 mindset good juju, but this was a major win! In general, I felt less like I was flailing around and pinging back and forth between all the stressors in my environment and way more clearer headed and in control about how I could effectively respond and feel in different situations.

 

 

 

 

Onto the next moment

 

I have spent the last few months trying to dodge pain; cutting corners, changing lanes, speeding up and slowing down so it won’t catch me. I’ve hid in my busyness and the exciting challenges of a new job. I’ve covered it up with face masks, a nose ring, and new clothes retail therapy. I’ve numbed it with red wine, ice cream, and TV dramas. I’ve pushed it away with shoulder shrugs, “Meh, it is what it is” and “I’m fine”s  when I tell people what’s going on. Just keep push, push, pushing it away and it won’t get you, I say.

But in the running away, it has still found me. On a plane from Chicago to Albany, hearing a three-year-old have an hour long meltdown and wishing twenty-eight year olds could have tantrums too. In counseling every few weeks when I let a little bit of it out of the box, quietly putting it away with silent tears on the drive home. And then when the full loss hits me one night and I fill my pillow with sobs, feeling the outlines of this new hole that seems much too large, I know pain has caught up to me. I have no idea how I am supposed to hold this seemingly endless stream of sadness and anger. It’s too much. In all the evading, I have done nothing to prepare.

And so I go to operating in moments. I can hold this pain for this one second, and then I will hold it for another second longer. I will feel though this tonight and then wake tomorrow with the goal to simply be. I breathe with it. If I cry, I cry; on my yoga mat as I clear my mind, in my office when I can close my door for an hour, on my partner’s chest when it catches up to me again. I have the tantrum in my therapist’s office. I share my pain with others and vulnerably accept their care. I show up to my life as I am – with baggy eyes, a dirty apartment, and unanswered texts – and give myself a high five, because damnit I still showed up today.

The moments stretch longer, and I see the hole and think “This is ok right now. I can be in this, sit with this, feel this. It is not too much. I can do this” And then onto the next moment.

*I wrote this, once again, mostly for myself and then was reminded that yesterday was World Mental Health Day. I share as a reminder that I have pain, you might have pain, the person next to you probably has some kind of pain – and it’s ok. Get to the next moment, call a friend, keep showing up.

 

 

 

 

Food Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

**I wrote this blog post a whole YEAR ago last spring and let it sit in drafts, mostly because I felt I needed it more for myself than to share with others. I did a lot of the things I list below through the summer and fall, but then this March  I gained some weight that I was feeling uncomfortable with and fell right back into my old patterns. And then I thought, “Damn Ame, if you’re in this food feels thought spiral AGAIN, get it out there!”

I also in the last week had separate conversations with my mom and best friend about all these food feels, and it became abundantly clear that I am not alone in this “it’s complicated” relationship status. My BFF said something to the likes of “Cooking and eating no longer bring me joy. I just microwave sweet potatoes and spend a lot of time stressing about numbers.”  I was jumping up and down telling her “This isn’t the way it should be! Food is fuel! Cooking is joyful!” and then realized I needed to look in the mirror and listen to my own advice.

Sharing this is a mixture of accountability and vulnerability, and a way to work towards a positive relationship with food. Below is the original post, with some notes of the things I have been able to do this year.

Continue reading “Food Relationship Status: It’s Complicated”

The Wants

The majority of young adulthood has been spent checking the necessary boxes. Completing education and then doing some more education, taking on professional experiences to build a career path, establishing financial independence, meeting the guy (and then moving hundreds of miles away from the guy, finally finding our way to the same place again) building community,  developing interests and passions that fuel my soul and contribute pieces of Amy.

I’ve done the “need-tos.” I’ve checked all my boxes. I’ve got it good (really, really good).

Now, the question that keeps cropping up – what do I want?

Wait a minute-I get to have wants? I have my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed, so now you’re saying I can do and be whatever I want? (ok, not exclusively WHATEVER I want, because then I would eat peanut butter all day and watch my shows, and we need to have some limits here) First thought: “This is awesome” quickly followed by “This is terrifying”

When you’re living life moving through the procedural boxes, thinking about wants is like stepping off the side of the world. Where is my map? Is there a plan for wants? Could I take my wants and make them check boxes? The security blanket of a Plan with a capital P  is  missing, leaving the Planner feeling aimless (and alive and free).

In thinking about what I want, I have found a few things to be true

Your wants are truly yours. You’re not going to find them in someone else’s blog post or Instagram feed of a filter-worthy life. They aren’t coulds or should or woulds from the outside world. They come from the low rumble in your tummy (the one you have been ignoring as you jump from box to box) that reaches into your heart and center and points you in the direction of “Yeah, that is me.” They come out of the doodles on the meeting agenda, the day dreams prompted by “if I could do anything,” the way you choose to spend time on completely free afternoons. Listen to that internal rumble and collect your day dreams to piece together what you truly want.

They aren’t always about achievement. Wants aren’t about looking good, they are about feeling good. Less flashy, more fulfilling. Last spring, doors simultaneously opened on two different volunteer opportunities; one with the my sorority and another with a small start-up I had been engaged with. The go-getter, yes-lady in me wanted to do both, and yet I knew I needed to choose one to have enough time and capacity to dedicate to the role. While the sorority role provided organizational name recognition and an opportunity to regionally and nationally grow my network,  I found myself much more motivated by the start-up’s mission and the opportunity to be a part of a new venture with their team. I said yes to being a part of their conference planning group and have found a great match.

In a backwards way, choosing the initially less flashy option has actually led me to personally achieve more. More skills, more connections, more confidence. I am extending my comfort zone by working in new areas, and I am excited everyday by our team’s shared accomplishments and hustle.

They can be selfish. The wants can truly just be for you and your benefit, and that’s ok. As a giver and a people pleaser in a helping profession, this has been a bit slow to come around to. Many a guilt party of one when not putting others before myself. I have acknowledged, however, that I am in a time of life where I only need to worry about me, and thanks to checking some of those boxes, I have the freedom and security to do so. It’s ok to take advantage of these circumstances to explore new layers of myself and give myself rest. Many of my wants have revolved around having more time for me to be still, and I have given myself permission to make more time to just be.

They might scare you.  If you thought straying away from The Plan was terrifying, wait until you start to listen to that low rumble and see where it points you. Uf, it  can knock you off your socks. But could I really do that? Can I actually go there? How the hell am I going to make that happen?

Take a beat to calm the shame & guilt monsters, the coulda/woulda/shouldas, and consider some small tangible steps. Small pieces with patience and persistence can add up to big things! Aaron and I wanted to travel  together this year, and our big goal was to do an international trip. After having a lot of ugly love towards other jet-setting twenty somethings, I took the time to crunch budget numbers and we both set up a savings app (Qapital check it out!) to slowly build up a trip fund over six months. I write this a handful of days after our return from a week in the UK! We are continuing to make those small steps so we can travel at least once a year.

 

There will still always be things I need to do – go to work, do the laundry, make a Target run (though, some days that is more of a want than a need…). The time and space that has been opening up to explore wants has turned from a scary blank slate to a rich addition to this season of life. I am aware it is a privilege and it is temporary, so I am excited to see how the small pieces lead to big things in 2017.

 

 

Finding it

I remember being in second grade and telling the class I wanted to be a stand-up comedian when I grew up. And then in sixth grade, my dream job I listed in the yearbook was “someone famous in the arts.” Growing up overweight and frustrated with shopping experiences, I wanted to become a fashion designer for fat kids and make trendy clothing for teens in all the sizes. I was both performing onstage and working behind the scenes in musicals, and have a decade of tap classes under my belt

All sounds like a strong creative streak, right? I would think so too. And yet, as I grew up, even while still doing a lot of this kind of stuff, it never seemed enough. I was never the kid who had it – the visible talent, the ease for an art, the gifts of artistic expression. It didn’t phase me, and I was happy working towards means in areas where my identifiable strengths thrived. Somewhere along the way, however, I learned that creativity was not for me; that my identity did not include being creative.

In my wrestling with improving quality of life, through rest and owning it, there has been a low rumbling to step out of bounds and take risks around creating things. I have some strong desires to make things of my own production; to work for myself; to have a domain where I can create work that has greater meaning and affects others.

But what are these things? And how could do this? Hasn’t anyone told you yet that I am not creative? I do not have the magical it! Please, leave me with my coffee and allow me to chug along on my productivity train through to-do list town.

The low rumble has not quieted, however, and in some cases it has driven me nuts ( I refer you to the sevenish blog post drafts I currently have the in queue that, for whatever reason, I have deemed are not enough) To get a handle on the rumble and to begin to organize my thoughts, I have turned to podcasts and readings from creatives to try to learn what they do and how they do it. I urge you all to listen to The Imposters and Liz Gilbert’s Magic Lessons, both of which have been good company on this journey.

The starting block that I have taken away from this fine group is that creativity is for everyone and that we all have it, even if it has been shamed and tucked away somewhere. Even if the things remain amorphous, I now worry less about having the it. Creativity does not work within the scale of enough. Showing up for myself is enough; taking a risk to try something new is enough; exploring the creative piece of myself is enough.

My ears have been ringing with multiple Magic Lessons sounds bites and “ah ha” moments, and I continue my creative journey with these two in mind:

“I am not sure I even believe in talent, but I do believe in persistence.” – Michael Ian Black

“You are a born maker. And we need what you can bring to us because you are the only once who can bring it. I think it’s that simple.” – Brene Brown

#makersgonnamake Or, at least, I will try to.

 

 

 

Ditch the Band

Because I have written about it multiple times (here & here), I wanted to be sure to let everyone know that last week I got the damn pull-up! This was a moment two years in the making, and there were self-fives, high-fives, and an unbeatable badass feeling.

It was after a CrossFit class, and I was working on pull-up skill work with some friends in an effort to turn some ugly love upside down and DO the thing. No big workout, no expectations, not trying to PR Fran or anything. Just (literally) hanging around with some friends having fun. I did a few rounds of the skill sets with the smallest band assisting me, and then one round I thought “Hey, let’s ditch the band and try this”

In a very Amy, quiet jazz hands way, I made no announcements to the group, just moved the band to the side. “Alright, swing! Big hips! DAMN AME YOUR CHIN IS OVER THE BAR”

Then I started shouting “I did it! I did a pull-up!!” while still hanging from the bar, and got in a few more while I was up there. I forgot about the band for the rest of the sets and did real, live pull-ups to close out the night.

Big things are sometimes little things, and sometimes they happen in the quiet corners. Regardless, I have been thinking more about owning it (hi, yes, I did tell everyone and their mother I got the damn pull-up) and now I am thinking about striving for it. Where else in life can I ditch the band and give something a shot? Are there places I am holding myself back with “I can’ts” or “I won’t make its”?  What’s the worst the would happen? I could be left hanging (ha), or I could realize I had the strength to do it all along.

Ditch the band. If you fall, you can always pull yourself back up.

 

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