Meal Planning for Two

I’ve started posting on Instagram what I eat each day. I’m learning a lot about myself through this process and I intend to write a post about it soon, because I think it will help me a lot in my quest for balance and understanding.

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I’ve spent a lot of time leaning about how people meal plan for their families, written by parents who work (usually their work is blogging) and raise their kids who are heavily involved in their schools and sports, etc. Two people who work full-time and don’t raise children and don’t play sports have a meal plan that looks really different and so I thought it might help people to see what that looks like.

Why meal plan?

Yeah, I get this question a lot. Especially because there’s just two of us.

What was happening is that I was making our plan for the week on Saturday morning before I went grocery shopping. This resulted in us eating the same 4 meals every week, getting bored, eating out and throwing away what was in the fridge. It was like we were wasting double money because of the cost of eating out and the cost of what we were throwing out.

How I got started

So, I sat down one day and made a google doc of all our meals and sorted them in a way that made sense to me. I didn’t get crazy detailed, I just tried to write down as many thing as I know we like, not including things like Hamburger Helper or frozen lasagna (two of D’s favorites – I promise I’ll tell you why I’m just a second). Then, I grabbed a paper calendar and added five meals for each week.

The reason I only did five is because our life is probably differently spontaneous than the people I was learning to meal plan from. So if our friends called us to go swimming 15 minutes before work let out, then we didn’t end up throwing away a day of planned food by the end of the week. Having two days of wiggle room worked really well for us, and in the summer months I usually only plan four days, rather than five, because we tend to wander to friends houses more or eat a salad or sometimes just have ice cream for dinner.

What do you save?

It’s almost 100% about emotional labor for me. By the end of the work day, I’m so riddled with decision fatigue that I’m like, let’s just eat popsicles because they’re what’s in front of my face. So in addition to not planning well, I didn’t have a ton of mental ability to switch it up when it came time to cook. This way, I make a ton of decisions once a month and only ever take things away – if dinner at a friends gets scheduled, then I take a meal away. That’s it. Sometimes I even make my grocery list while I make the meal plan. When I’m super on my game, I buy all the meat and dry goods in bulk at the start of the month and just buy produce as we go because, again, less thinking.

There’s definitely money being saved. Partly because of the bulk shopping but mostly because we were throwing away about $20 in produce and spending an extra (assuming we’d eat out once a week, pre-COVID) $60 a week. That’s a monthly savings of $320, which is an annual savings of $3,840.

Y’all. That’s so much money.

I also think we eat more vegetables this way (not so much fruit, but I’ve always been a pretty good fruit eater). I feel like I’m more willing to spend money on organic, delicious veggies because I spend a bunch at the start of the month on stuff that isn’t that.

So emotional energy, money & health.

I think it’s true that we don’t need to overthink it. My mom has talked a lot with me about enjoying this age without children and embracing not needing to be hyper organized. I’m 100% with her in that. I think doing this helps me stay calmer because I know what’s coming. So that tense need to fix something means I can just fix dinner.

Do you meal plan? What works for you?

A. Rose (1)

 

 

Life in a Time of Unrest

When we last left off, I had every intention of sharing with you my 30-day gym update. I had started the year talking about my intentions; then my meeting with a personal trainer through my work; followed by my first full week at the gym. And then COVID-19 hit America. I started working and going to school from home. I was a month behind on my masters project, due to my mothers illness at the start of the year, and honestly, not having a commute gave me an extra hour each day that made it easier to complete. It was not easier to try to finish without meeting with my advisor, or to not get to graduate (yet!), or to go from working on a bustling college campus to being alone all day with two cats.

I continued a modified workout routine that includes a lot of walking on the trails by my house, wrapped up my last semester of graduate school and was excited to take a rest but then Ahmaud Arbery was murdered. If you don’t want to think about politics or the state of the word, I recommend skipping down to the first heading. I hope that my transparency will be a source of comfort, not conflict.

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I have been working in public education for over a decade, not counting my work while in college. And I have been committed to being an educator in public education since high school. My work is intricately tied to eradicating systems of oppression – my focus is on untying the mental knots that keep us thinking through the dominant lens by changing the way we talk. I try really hard to embody compassion, understanding and joy.

Lately, I’ve been outwardly angry. And disappointed in myself for that.

More than anything, I feel blindsided by my white friends, who simply don’t know that their line of thinking is rooted in white supremacy. I don’t feel blindsided by white supremacy, but rather that they don’t know. That’s confusing to me and it is a good reminder that I carry my own ignorances:  I live in education, where every day people see the impact (good and bad) of systems, where we are nationally criticized all the time and respond by saying “we’ll do better,” and where people critically analyze sources before assuming they’re accurate.

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That’s my real world. But it isn’t the majority. Folx don’t know the ways that they fight against or give in to the system, turn their noses up at national criticism, and assume that something with a percentage is a fact. And that’s fine. It’s actually fine. I hope that I can make waves in education so that individuals moving forward will examine and assess things differently, but we’re all allowed to be different, and hold to different ideals. That is actually the beauty of America.

The shame of America is that its system reflects ideals that injure entire populations – ideals that are held and defended by its people. It’s hard to jive with freedom of thought (which is usually totally my jam!) when the ideals include people being murdered or children starving or one group being privileged over another.

And so I’m worn out. I’m worn out from 100 conversations a day in my personal and professional world that require me to think about what will happen if we X instead of Y. What population is impacted by Z and will that impact be negative? I am finding myself spouting off in small moments because my every day is so wrought with a lack of closure. But the truth is: that’s how it’s been since I picked education and my white burnout doesn’t help anything. And, at the end of the day, I picked it and I’m not going to leave it, so I have to take educations lead and say, “I’ll do better.”

I’m unwilling to agree to disagree (why do we love this phrase so much?) because that’s what got us here in the first place and, honestly, it feels really anti-American when you read our founding fathers. Instead, I’ll do better. And part of how I want to do that is by revising my 2020 intentions.

Let’s talk about doing better

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When I first wrote them, I broke my 2020 intentions up into three categories: physical, mental, emotional/spiritual health. Then, from there I did a breakdown of what practical steps I could take towards those things. I’m going to put them here with some notes about the steps I’ve taken or hope to take:

Physical Health
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Eating more plants and lean protein – Yo, I’ve got this really great lunch I’m going to share with you that’s almost 100% plant-based (the dressing isn’t…and no, it’s not a salad). I’m also opting for vegetarian whenever possible. Meat is nauseating to me lately. 
Walking for entire lunch break – Pretty much every day, unless it rains. If it’s raining during lunchtime, then I walk in the evening.
Gym three times a week – In Michigan, gyms have been closed since March (or April?). I think maybe I’ll do like an exercise week in the life kind of thing to share what I’ve been doing to stay sane while working from home.
Track progress here – totally haven’t been doing that, but get ready, folx! It’s coming!

Mental Health
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Keeping school organized – keeping school organized by being DONE!! I have some steps I’d like to take in my professional career that I’m not sure I’ll share here, but I think I could share how I organize and stay on top of them… We’ll see. This is a tricky spot. What would you like to see?
Managing Expectations – At the start of the COVID changes, D and I decided to do things 3-5 days at a time. We just couldn’t plan for things because we didn’t know what was going to happen and we were both up to our eyeballs in stress (when you’re the operations person and all of your operations go remote…). That’s been the best move for us. 
More-than-a-month meal plan – This is probably a post all in its own. We’ve had so many changes to food since I started working at home. I’ll do that. I’ll write a post on that.
Weekly routine – We’re starting this! D and I finally started talking through our week. We haven’t really been because what even is a week anymore? But, not having the structure was stressing us both out more than we realized, so we’re moving past three days at a time.

Emotional/Spiritual Health
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Embrace the weekly plan – ready for it!
Use the free counseling at work – Telehealth for the win!
Go to church more than twice a year – Y’all. I’m super on the fence about church. I’ve been a long time non-believer who loves to go to church and the general attitudes of Jesus (per the gospels), but man. The more I see people in abusive relationships defending their abusers and then yelling at me (or friends in general yelling at me) for not being more Christian the more I’m like, “effing patriarchy” because Jesus wasn’t about any of that. Do others have this problem?
Meditate – On it. I’d like to share a little about this too, if folx are interested.
Write for fun, not just for school – That’s actually why I’m back here. I hope it will help and keep me from being so angry.

I also have a little mental list going of some projects I’d like to take on around the house. I have really been thinking about where our money goes and who benefits from it and how to change that, but I think that’s probably going to be a different post since this one was VERY long.

Thanks for sticking with it. I appreciate feedback, thoughts and intentional criticism if you have some.

It’s going to get better. Or at least, we can figure out how to be better. That’s something within our realm of control.A. Rose (1)

 

How to Budget When Your Income Fluctuates

There’s nothing like trying to find ways to save money when you don’t make money. These budget series posts were created out of the desire to share what I have learned about alleviating some of the soul-crushing stress of living paycheck to paycheck – and the things I’ve learned that have helped me move away from that life. Please note that I am not, in any way, a licensed financial professional. None of these tips are guaranteed to make you money or save you money; they’re simply different ways of thinking about and using money that one person who doesn’t make much has learned over time. 

Like this topic or just want to know more? You can find the full series here


I’ve been thinking lately about the fitness / wellness posting that I’ve been doing and how it’s easy to think that’s my main priority if you don’t know me. I recently told a friend that one of my primary motivating feelings is safety: I do certain things because I want to feel safe – particularly, because I want to feel financially safe. Even exercising and eating healthy is, in some ways, about that: healthy people spend less money on doctors, etc. As I was explaining this to him, I found myself saying that is the topic that I really want to focus on here.

Changing Income

So, a little background about me: I currently am in, essentially, a salaried job. I get paid hourly, but I have enough and accrue enough PTO throughout the year that I haven’t had to go without full pay since I started working here three and a half years ago. I also work Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm. This is really dreamy, but wasn’t always the case.

For the majority of my adult life I was either worked a shift job as my full-time job, or I was working two jobs and one of them was a shift job. So, for nine of the last 12 years, my income has changed week-to-week. When I wrote this post about budgeting when you don’t make a lot, I think that what I really wanted to talk about was how to budget when your income changes. So, let’s get started.

*Quick note: I am using whole numbers because it’s easier. You’ll want to look at your pay stubs to figure out how much gets taken out for taxes. I typically assume that about 10% is being taken out for taxes and that helps me to always come in under budget.

Figure Out Your Minimum

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Let’s say that I make $10/hour.

Usually, I work eight hours a day, five days a week. So that’s 8 x 5 = 40 hours a week. 40 x $10 = $400.

The key word there is “usually.”

Sometimes, I work as few as 5 hours a day, four days a week. Sometimes, I work as much as 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Track back through the last six months and figure out the week you worked the least amount of hours because that was what you were scheduled for. If you worked zero hours because you were on vacation or sick, that doesn’t count.

In this example, the least I worked was 5 hours a day for 4 days a week. 5 x 4 = 20, so 20 hours a week. I make $10/hour, so 20 x $10 = $200. $200 a week for four weeks, $200 x 4 = $800.

That $800 is what I need to base my budget on.

Fixed rates

From there, I figure out what’s a fixed rate. Usually, rent is a fixed rate, or has a “base rate” if you look at your monthly statement. Some common “fixed” rates are:

  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Cable
  • Credit Card payment
  • Insurance(s)

For this example, I’m going to use even numbers because it’s easier to do math that way. Let’s say that your fixed rates look like this:

  • Rent/Mortgage: $200
  • Cable: $50
  • Credit Card payment: $20
  • Car insurance: $60
  • Renters/homeowners insurance: $40

If we add those things together, we get $370. So then, we subtract $370 from $800.

$800 – $370 = $430

Variable Rates

With the remaining $430, we want to overestimate the remaining categories of the budget. Those categories might be things like:

  • Gas
  • Food
  • Fun Money
  • Miscellaneous
  • Savings

For two people, we would divide that up to look something like this:

  • Gas: $150
  • Food: $250
  • Fun Money: $15
  • Miscellaneous: $5
  • Savings: $10

$150 + $250 + $15 + $5 + $10 = $430

Every single dollar is accounted for. That’s really important. When we don’t have things categories, we spend it on stuff we don’t need. I’m sure there’s psychology behind why we do that – and if you know why, I would love to know! I just know that when I don’t have money in a bucket, I spend it, instead of saving it.

I was told that you should pay yourself first, meaning that you should put into savings before you do anything else. I think that’s a great goal to strive toward. I also think  it isn’t always realistic. There have been many times in my life where after gas and food, I had $11 that got swept into savings. I think the important thing is to always put something – even if it’s 50 cents – into savings. This helps create the habit so that when you do have a surplus, it gets put away.

What about when I make more?

Yep. I know. The burning question.

First, it’s important to talk about why it was based on the least amount you made: You have to have a game-plan for those weeks. If you go into a week where you’re working half what you usually work with no game plan, you’re just going to be panicked the whole entire time. But if you’ve got a game plan, you can more forward just a little bit freaked, rather than full-blown panicking. Ya feel?

So, in the example, we said usually, I work eight hours a day, five days a week. So that’s 8 x 5 = 40 hours a week. 40 x $10 = $400. $400 per week for four weeks… $400 x 4 = $1600.

That’s literally double.

What I did that saved my tail is that I doubled up on the things with variable rates (and actually sometimes quadruple the miscellaneous category) and instead of doubling the fixed rate items, I tossed that into savings. Let me show you what the original budget looked like and then I’ll show you what it looks like with double the income.

Original, based on making $800 per month:

  • Rent/Mortgage: $200
  • Cable: $50
  • Credit Card payment: $20
  • Car insurance: $60
  • Renters/homeowners insurance: $40
  • Gas: $150
  • Food: $250
  • Fun Money: $15
  • Miscellaneous: $5
  • Savings: $10

All those things together, $200 + $50 + $20 + $60 + $40 + $150 + $250 + $20 + $15 + $5 = $800.

Doubled, based on making $800 per month:

  • Rent/Mortgage: $200
  • Cable: $50
  • Credit Card payment: $20 + $20 = $40 (I’m assuming $20 is a minimum payment)
  • Car insurance: $60
  • Renters/homeowners insurance: $40
  • Gas: $150
  • Food: $250 + $250 = $500
  • Fun Money: $15 + $15 = $30
  • Miscellaneous: $5 + $15 = $20
  • Savings: $25 + 485 = $510

All those things together, $200 + $50 + $40 + $60 + $40 + $150 + $500 + $30 + $20 + $485= $1600.

So, those may not be super realistic numbers because probably your car insurance is more than $60 per month. And, maybe there’s a month you have three kids birthdays in a row so you need to put less in fun / savings and more into miscellaneous. Also, if you have debt hanging out on your credit score, you may opt to throw money there rather than into savings. Whatever, you do, make sure that money is assigned a name.

Also, I understand that things are not going always be as clean as it just doubling. I recommend adding more money to food first and then adding to the other categories because food lasts the longest (longer than a fun night out, for example).

The trick is to not add too much (so that extra is going into savings) and to spend to your limit.

I know it feels weird to put money into savings when you have a hole in your shoe and haven’t gone out to eat in three months. Your savings account is what keeps you from literally becoming homeless if you get sick, lose your job or your car dies. Your savings account handles the big picture while the rest of your budget is about the day-to-day details.

Hopefully, this process, done enough months in a row will make it so that you don’t have to borrow against the future.

How Can You Possibly Spend that Much on Food?

The answer is: not eating out.

You totally could spend double your budget by eating out, but then when your income suddenly plummets, you and your family will be very hungry.

So, if you all of a sudden have double the amount to spend on food, buy extra of things that go in the freezer – meats and frozen fruits and veggies, not pizza rolls. I also highly recommend that you purchase things like cough syrup and stomach aids when you have extra – those things sneak up on us when we’re sick and so it’s wise to have them in the house. Especially if being sick means you’re not working!

Take stock of your life and figure out what you use often – or what you don’t use often that is a quarter full. Things like salt and spices keep for a really long time, so buy an extra.

Spend ahead as best you can and when you’re maxed out on kitchen space, I also recommend buying for holidays way ahead of time, especially for adults. If you have space, I also encourage you to buy extra shampoo, soap (of all kinds – body, dish, laundry), socks, underwear and even shoes if you have a kind you love. My father buys shirts on sale and saves them until one he’s already wearing has a hole in it. Things like reusable travel containers also help cut down on disposable sandwich bags, etc. The same with washcloths instead of paper towels.

If, at the end of the month, you’ve spent $450 instead of $500, go out to eat if you want. Or put it into savings. Either one is fine – I’m not going to judge you and you shouldn’t either.

This Post Left Me with 1,000 Question

I feel you. I tried to keep this as simple as possible, but I know it’s not easy. I would love to hear questions, feedback and corrections!

You can comment down below, email me at intricatelyimperfect@gmail.com or DM me on Instagram.

I would absolutely LOVE to do an entire post of just your questions about money!

Happy saving, my friends!A. Rose (1)

Week One at the Gym

I shared in this post that I wanted to challenge myself to go to the gym 30 times between February 26 and April 8. I met with a personal trainer in mid-February who drew up a plan for me – 5 workouts a week: 2 upper body, 2 lower body, and 1 full body. The upper and lower body workouts are a little over an hour; the full body is a 2-mile run and time will vary.

I had originally planned to do a big post after 30 days, but by the third day, I needed something more than a lengthy goal, so I thought it would be good to check in after the first week and sum up what the first five days (does anyone remember that song The First Five Times?) were like.

February 26 – Day 1

Day 1

Day 1 was upper body. It started with a 20-minute run/walk and then moved on to mostly free weights. I felt energized and excited when I was done, but by 2pm I was basically toast. It was really hard to fight the urge for an additional cup of coffee.

I did not allow enough time for everything that was included, so there was a circuit of three things that I was supposed to do three times that I only did one time.

Summary: I need more time than I think because not feeling rushed is important to me when I’m learning something. 

February 27 – Day 2

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Day 2 was lower body, which still involved a lot of free weights. I’m really grateful that this plan doesn’t have me tied to a million machines. That morning, I noticed that I was, again, the only woman in the gym that early. Maybe because where I go is small? I was feeling a little achy from the day before, and I need to get better about allowing time to stretch both before and after.

The last exercise was dumbbell lunges and y’all… I barely made it through the first 10. I did a second rep of 10 and stopped, and didn’t do the third rep. I felt terrible for not completing it – when it was about not having enough time that made sense to me, but when it’s because my body can’t? That’s not something I’m used to. I felt kind of crumby for most of day two.

Summary: New disappointments are harder to navigate than ones I’m accustomed to.

February 28 – Day 3

Day 3

By day 3, I wasn’t entirely sure why I was still going. It’s been freezing cold here (in Michigan) and my car doesn’t heat up quickly so I leave for the gym freezing cold. I had class the night before so I didn’t get home until 9pm, which means I wasn’t even relaxed (let alone asleep) until around 10:30pm. That 5am wake up was basically impossible. I was grumpy and decided I was just going to do the full-body workout – the run.

Over the summer, I was running a little over a 5K (3.8 miles – the distance to my parents house) in 43 minutes. When I was at 15 minutes for 1 mile, I was ready to just throw the towel in.

Y’all this is the real – I’m giving it to you straight. Wouldn’t it be boring to hear another “exercising is the greatest thing ever! I love every minute of it!” I’m not going to lie. Working out does make me feel better but the process this day was crap.

Until I hit 1.5 miles. I told myself, “1.5 miles is 75%. If you got a 75% in your class, you would be doing all the extra credit in the world.” So, I kept going because I don’t actually like to do things half-assed. And it was a shitty half a mile, but the music was great and I felt better all day knowing that I had kept going.

Summary: When everything sucks, make sure you have good music because then it will suck less. Also, sleep is really important.

February 29 – Rest Day 1

Rest Day 1

Y’all, I couldn’t do Day 4 after what Day 3 was like. And I don’t mean that to be that I was giving up. I knew I wanted to keep going, but also that my mind wasn’t in the right spot for it. So, I decided on Day 3 to commit to at least one day of rest.

It was less rest-y than probably most days: my parents hired me to put in new flooring in their office. So, I pulled up carpet. And tack strip. And 10,000 staples. It was a workout all its’ own. I got home late (around 7pm) and tried to take some quiet moments for myself. My body was grateful for a long shower and some time in a big, comfy chair.

Summary: Rest is far more important than I usually allow it to be in my life. 

March 1 – Rest Day 2

Rest Day 2

On Day 3, I had committed to going back on Sunday (March 1), but the floors took longer than expected. It was cool to think about my body a little differently on that day. I could lift boxes and get up and down. I tried really hard on this rest day to think about my body as capable, rather than limited.

It was nice to do that on a day not in the gym because I think it set me up well for Day 4 – I highly recommend giving that a shot!

Summary: If I make it less about this idea of going to the gym and more about the idea of learning about my body, I have a better attitude.

March 2 – Day 4

Day 4 (1)

Day 4 felt like Day 1 in terms of my attitude. How crazy that I so seriously needed those rest days?? It was more mental than anything. I was doubting my abilities and feeling overwhelmed without realizing that was what I was feeling. Does that ever happen to you with things like this?

This was the second upper body workout and it also started with 20 minutes of running. I felt like I had better endurance on this day than I did on Day 1, which propelled me forward in a great way. The rest of the time was spent mostly with free weights and a handful of machines.

The only struggle I found myself having was that I wore leggings with no pockets, so I didn’t have a spot for my phone and headphones, so I carried them from spot to spot. Which was just annoying, not like, a serious problem.

I’m doing a no-spend week, but I think I might purchase one of those earbud cases that hooks to your keys when I have the chance to spend again. Or I might just actually purchase a second pair of leggings that have a pocket. I should update y’all on the status of my closet because there have been some major changes since the last time I posted about it.

Summary: I really like upper body workouts and never knew that before.

March 3 – Day 5

Day 5

Day 5 was a leg day and the day of my biggest revelation. I don’t hate leg day (I feel like that’s a thing that people talk about). I actually enjoy the sore feeling after. What I hate, and what I think probably caught up with me in that weird Day 2 & 3 space is that I need the run to get my brain moving.

I like the calculation of running for a length of time vs walking for a length of time. I like how lost in the music I get. Running is something that I know intimately and have done for most of my life. I  think I need it to boost my confidence because I’m doing so many things I don’t know. So, I’m going to add in 10-15 minutes of it on leg day because that’s what I need.

I discovered that my gym doesn’t have kettlebells so there were two exercises I couldn’t do but y’all – I killed those dumbbell lunges that I struggled with on day two. And by killed I mean I actually did all of them. I didn’t necessarily do them well, but I did them.

Summary: Add in something familiar when you’re doing something new or else your confidence will be shot.

What else?

The number one thing I took away from this week is that I can’t frame it in terms of “good” and “bad.” I went to the gym. I went. That’s actually enough. If I had gone and walked on the treadmill for 10 minutes, that’s 10 minutes more than what I was doing before.

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Ernest Hemingway

That’s it. There are 100 things in a day that I come across that I’m “not good” at. If I spent all my time thinking about them I would never leave my house. And if I told you each day about the 100 things I came across that I am “good” at, I would be the most annoying person ever.

So instead, I went. I went to the gym and I did these things that matter to me because they keep my heart healthy and help me manage stress.

Keeping it on those terms makes it easier to go and to keep going.

I did lose 1.6 lbs and I actually do think it’s important to talk about the number because the number connects to heart and whole-body health. But I don’t think I’ll weigh myself again until April 8 (the 30-day mark) because I have a history of caring too much about that number. You’ve got to know your limits, not just in the gym but out of it as well. 

Oh! AND! I’m making this little playlist of the songs that are resonating with me the most each day if you want to follow along. It’s definitely made it more fun to have music to lean in to.A. Rose (1)

2020 Intentions

One of my dearest friends referred to her plans for the near year as “Intentions” rather than “Resolutions” and I find that phrasing much more appealing. I actually “resolve” to do many things throughout the course of the year and, as a result, I’ve always had a hard time setting any “New Years Resolutions.” This feels much more accurate.

Physical Health

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The first bit surrounds the idea of physical health. In the last few years, you may remember, I had my gallbladder removed, experimented with an elimination diet and sought peace surrounding the idea of eating in new and different ways. I’ve had an easier process than many individuals, but I am still learning – always learning!

Last summer I ran from my apartment (3.28 miles) to my parents in 42 minutes. My goal for the start of summer is to be able to get there in 32 minutes. I need to take some weight off in order to do that, so I’ve switched up my meal plan, have been trying to walk for my entire lunch break, and go to the gym three times a week. I met with a personal trainer through a really cool program at the university I work with and she’s creating a plan for me. I think I’ll try to keep a record of it here or on Instagram.

Summary:
Eating more plants and lean protein
Walking for entire lunch break
Gym three times a week
Track progress here

Mental Health

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If you’ve been here for a while, you know that some of how I keep myself from having a total breakdown from overload is by being really super organized. You might also know that I think being organized doesn’t save you from the crap life throws at you. This semester, I’ve come up with a couple strategies that I think I’ll detail once I’ve used them for longer. I’m sticking with the class management technique that I talked about here. I’ve also started meal planning for more than a month at a time and I’m working on creating a weekly routine.

Summary:
Keeping school organized
Managing Expectations
More-than-a-month meal plan
Weekly routine

Emotional / Spiritual Health

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I really wish this wasn’t my most challenging category, but it is.
I could have lumped this in with mental health, but I like things in threes, so here we are.
What I’ve come to figure out is that none of it is separate. That hour-long lunch break walk is as much about physical health as it mental and spiritual. Creating a weekly routine is what will help me take a sabbath day. I want to challenge myself to meditate and do yoga more. There are so many things that are about the spirit that I put to the bottom of the list. And so my real intention is to stop doing that. Here’s my little plan for that:

Summary
Embrace the weekly plan
Use the free counseling at work
Go to church more than twice a year
Meditate
Write for fun, not just for school

Summary of the summaries

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I’m working my way back to blogging regularly and I hope I can use it as a way to hold myself accountable through the last stages of my graduate program. There’s this myth that your education needs to be this insufferably hard, unkind dragon that you have to slay. I don’t think that needs to be the case, and so I’m going to make sure it isn’t.

A. Rose (1)

Quiet Spaces | A Year in Review

It’s been over a year since I posted. 13 months.

I couldn’t tell you the all of what has happened in the last 13 months, but I can make a vague attempt.

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The 2018 holidays came and went. My father was sick and my second oldest sister, M, came to visit. Time moved faster than I could keep up with. I started a new job a week into a new school year.

January 2019 (1)

Hat Pattern (crochet)| Similar coat | Coveralls | Boots

The Polar Vortex swept through the part of Michigan I live in and the second week of my new job was spent snow blowing my parents’ driveway after clearing their roof. The lowest this area reach was a windchill of -20. The combo of a new job and two classes meant that I spent a lot of January exhausted and sleeping a lot.

I did find that being outside – even though it was below freezing! – did make the winter more bearable. And I mentally committed to being outside as much as possible, regardless of the weather.

February 2019

In addition to committing to being outside more, D and I also committed to spend more time together laughing. With both of us working full time, me in school part time and him working part time, our time together often turns into what feels like managing business – schedules and bills and list of tasks. While we’re together because we handle those together well, we’re also together because we really like each other. Once a month we spend more than the typically dinner-date-night might cost and ride Go Karts or take a drive up north – something a little different than the usual.march-2019-1.png

Similar Faux Deer Fur Blanket |Light Blue Blanket | Similar Cream Colored Blanket| Tennis Shoes  | Favorite Socks

In March, the snow lifted and the weather warmed up enough to be able to be outside more. I began to realize that I wasn’t sleeping well and focused my energy on making my bedroom as comfortable as possible. I bought some faux fur on sale at JoAnn Fabrics and sewed it around a $4 pillow I got a Walmart. It’s amazing how quick and easy this was – and much cheaper than it would have cost to buy it.

I also decided – for the first time ever – to purchase tennis shoes / sneakers that were actually specific to my feet, rather than $20 grocery store ones. Y’all. I’m never going back again. These are the most amazing shoes ever.

April 2019 (1)

The shoes took me through the trails by my apartment, and then the trails that lead to my parents house a few miles away, down bike trails, to new cities. At the end of the school year I told D I wanted to spend the summer getting my money’s worth out of the shoes, so we started the process of seeing all the lighthouses in Michigan. By the end of summer, we had only seen six, but everything else we saw made it completely worth it.

May 2019

Spice Rack | Pitcher| Earring Holder | Best Price Earring Pack

I tried to spend the summer both playing as much as possible and organizing as much as possible before the school year came again. My best friend and her kids spent a good amount of the summer exploring woods and having picnics – basically heaven.

I got this spice rack so that I could move the spices off the bakers rack in the pantry to create more space. Holy smokes has it made a difference! I’ve also noticed that I’m more likely to throw away expired spices because I actually look at what I have, rather than just letting things I don’t use often get pushed to the back and buried.

I’ve also become completely hooked on tassel earrings so I bought this little earring rack and it quickly helped clear off my end table. Both this earring rack and the spice rack were under $15 and super quick ways to clear away clutter.

June 2019

One of the hardest parts of being not in Florida is being way from the Ocean. D’s way of managing that is to put me near water as often as possible. This summer, we spent a lot of time in his hometown, about an hour away from where we live. It’s a small lake community surrounded by farms and where he actually lived backed up to a national park. We went there to go swimming, hiking, mudding and picnicking. We’ve been talking about going camping there this summer – I’m totally open to any recommendations for tents! We’d love to get one this winter, rather than waiting until the summertime.

July 2019

We followed in the same vein all summer and learned how to kayak. Folks, let me tell you if you need to work through communication issues in your relationship, just get in a double kayak with your partner. I think D and I learned more in a four-hour ride than we have in four years of being together. It was amazing. We took six trips this summer, but the first was the most memorable.

D got super into bike riding this summer too. I like to ride bikes, but I would rather walk / run. So, he spent a lot of time riding and took me with him only for particularly spectacular trips. The trail pictured above isn’t far from our apartment.

August 2019 (1)

Both D and I have birthdays in August and so we decided that we would take a trip up north. In Michigan, “up north” refers to anywhere that’s more than an hour and a half from the big city of Grand Rapids. We stayed at a delightful place called Caberfe and our only real goal was to get to Traverse City. We hiked around the Pine River, kayaked the Crystal River, climbed Sleeping Bear Dunes and crossed the Mackinac Bridge. It was an amazing three days, packed full of more adventure than either of could have anticipated and I am itching for this summers’ trip!

September 2019 (1)

The week school started, my sister, M, came to visit, which overlapped with my college best friend coming to visit. I worked while they were both here, but managed to get out on the river with both of them more than once. It was a beautiful end to the summer but playtime overlapping with school was much was a major challenge. Just before my sister arrived, my mother broke her shoulder. It was a jumble of things and I’m only just now feeling like I’ve caught up. I think much of the jumbled feeling had to do with resisting winter.

Last year, I did a better job of embracing it. This year, I still don’t believe it’s happening to me because I just want to be on the river.

October 2019 (1)

I got sick in October – just your standard cold that knocks you on your ass for a week and lingers for another two. Ugh. So I spent a lot of it in bed, with Javier and my homework. At the start of the school year, D and I planned to take a Friday off at the mid-point of each semester. We rented a car and just drove up to Glen Arbor, MI for lunch. We ate at the Western Avenue Grill, in front of a fireplace. We stopped in a town called Arcadia just for the view. It was a gloomy Friday, but neither of us cared. It was nice to get a little time together where my head wasn’t wrapped up in school.

November 2019 (1)

There were many amazing November things but none really hold a candle to registering for graduation. That’s right folks, assuming all goes well when I submit my problem statement for review this Sunday – and barring any emergencies – I will be graduating April 25, 2020.

December 2019

I came down with the flu after Thanksgiving and missed a week of work and added in a hospital visit (for fluids) the first week of December. While I was sick, my father started to get confused. My mother thought he was having a stroke, so she took him in. It ended up being that he had major blockage in his Cortaid artery, which has since been cleared. It was scary and the surgery was two Mondays before Christmas. The holiday was a little off and we actually still have Christmas presents to give out and the tree is still up. All things in time.

It’s good to review the year. I haven’t had as many spaces for reflection as I might have hoped.

A friend of mine recommended creating an “After Graduation List,” to keep me going through my final project. On that list is developing this blog into something meaningful and helpful. So, I’ll be back again in a month, and another month and then April. And then after that, I’ll be back with much greater frequency.

A. Rose (1)

Class Schedule Management

It’s that wonderful time of year again, when the weather starts to turn and every now and then you see a leaf that’s a vibrant orange or red. I love the beginnings of fall. My absolute favorite part? Back to school!

I’m not even being sarcastic – I really love everything about school and learning and school supplies and assignments and readings. #hardcorenerd #lifelonglearner

The toughest part of school, to me, is managing the schedule alongside a full-time job and a new part-time job. I shared a little while ago about how I figure it all out, through a process I’ve been using since I started undergrad (12 years ago!) but I wanted to show you all some extra steps I learned over the Spring/Winter Semester!

 

I’m trying to stop using so much paper. I will probably always be a paper planner person, but I thought I’d try my hand at doing this in Excel. I pulled up both syllabi and reviewed them, looking for common themes. I realized there were four categories the work could be split into:

  1. Readings
  2. Major Assignments
  3. Minor Assignments
  4. Discussion Boards

So I made a spreadsheet and key that looks like this:

Step 1 of Organizing School

I have a hard time keeping the “EDH” and “EDF”‘s separate, so I gave myself a little reminder of what each class was. Then, I started plugging things in, based on the syllabus. But, I did it one week ahead of what the syllabus said. So if something is listed there for the week of October 14, I listed it under the week of October 7, because that’s the week I’ll actually be doing that work in. Does that make sense?

It looked something like this:

Step 2 of Organizing School

You can see how the color coding on the side went. I also made one class blue and the other purple. Last year, I did everything in the same color and wrote the name of the class next to the assignment. I much prefer this way in Excel. Here’s what it started to look like towards the time I was done:

Step 3 of Organizing School

So then, I created a new category called “Working Ahead.” For the items in yellow, I looked at them and what the syllabus says is involved and assumed what that means I’ll need to do. So for example, the week of September 2, we’re picking an issue we care about and we’ll be part of a group that writes and presents on that topic. So, that means, the week of August 26, I had to review the Topics:

Step 4 of Organizing School

I continued that process until the end of the semester for both classes, then I printed it out. I only printed it because I knew I had some times the day I made this when I could put some of these into my planner, otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have.

I put the items for each week on long Post Its just like I did last time:

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BUT, I looked at my calendar as I did this: when are Birthdays? other work stuff? evening events? For those weeks, I printed out some of these great sheets (link is at the bottom of the post; I just wanted to be sure to give you the chance to read her whole post) made by Megan at Honey We’re Home (who, btw, is amazing, y’all). For my really crazy weeks, I just went ahead and filled these out and stuck them in my planner for that week, so I don’t have to use my mental energy to figure it out at that point! #BAM

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And, for two weeks a head of time, rather than working off a sticky note, I just went ahead and broke the assignments up in to how much I thought I could get done on each day:

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My hope is that this pre-planning keeps me from feeling the crushing weight of all the things I’m juggling. I keep trying to remind myself that this is a choice I’ve made; these are all things that make me happy, and that it’s okay if I can’t always manage it all.

What kinds of things help you survive hectic times? What do you think is the most useful piece of going to (any level of) school that you carry with you now?

A. Rose (1)

Quick Fix: Towel Hooks

This post is part of my Quick Fix Friday Series. The Quick Fix Friday Series is comprised of cheap and simple tricks to make your life easier. I started this series because I often feel like I have no time to make a change in my apartment, and I wanted to remind myself that it’s true. I also have realized that while there is a plethora of information about quick fixes when you own a house, that isn’t necessarily true when you live in an apartment. Each of these tasks takes under five minutes.

You can see the others in the series by following these links:
Couch Cover
Space Swap
Reusable bags storage solution
Shower Shelf


With the first week of school underway, I am craving all projects that take a really limited amount of time – Ha! Anyone else in that same boat?

That’s why I’m excited to share with you a simple tiny-apartment change that I made this week. I talked in this post about my dreams for my little apartment. One of the little things I talked about was needing to find space for my towel to hang dry because of this situation:

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Super classy…

So, there was this spot on the other side of the closet, similar to where my robes are hung (to the right of the doors in the image above). It was perfect. But it has been home to a bed frame I borrowed from my mom that had been there for like, a year, because even though I see her most weekends, getting a bed frame to my mom in my little Chevy Malibu is…complicated and easy to forget about.

I wrote it down a thousand different places, and finally asked if I could put it in her car one day when she picked me up to go to the Farmers Market. Brilliant!

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Now, I have the perfect little spot for two towel hooks – one for my body and one for my hair!

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I hung these Command Hooks adjacent to each other, since that provided more space than placing them next to each other.

When I take my morning shower, I usually leave my body towel to hang over the door until I’m just about ready to leave, then I hang it on the hook. That way, it isn’t super moist and doesn’t get all mucky quickly.

I have to tell you, even though I wrote this super positive post about why it’s okay to chill out and take your time with things, it feels SO good to have gotten this done!

Here’s a little update of where I’m at on this list as of today:

  1. Talk to sisters about coffee table
  2. D – wtf is with this bean bag chair??
  3. Find home for reusable bags
  4. Bed frame to moms house
  5. Hang towel hooks in bedroom
  6. Find new home for donations
  7. COUCH
  8. Arrange bedside table
  9. Lower super high shower shelf
  10. Revamp system for online selling
  11. Get a rug – $45
  12. Refinish coffee table – $20
  13. Get Bedroom Art – in process
  14. Replace the truck with a dresser that can hold DVDs – in process
  15. Make desk a workable space
  16. Move off kitchen table
  17. Window treatment for sliding glass doors
  18. Reorganize Bathroom closet
  19. Upgrade the trunk
  20. Reupholster dining room chairs

Phew! Truthfully, this list has actually gotten longer over the last few months. Once  I have it mentally sorted out, I’ll put it all down on electronic paper for you!

What kinds of little, inexpensive projects have you done recently? I would love to hear or see what has made your life easier.

A. Rose (1)

How to Budget When You’re (Close to) Broke

Ahhhh… Money. Everyone’s favorite topic, right?

Ugh.

It’s one of my least favorite things to talk about. But as I’ve been writing these posts, I’ve realized how much of my behavior is dictated by trying to save money in these little ways. So I thought it might be helpful to write these things down. Maybe make a little series of it.

Here’s the thing though: I’m not a financial adviser or banker or accountant. I’m just a young person who has mostly worked in education and has only managed to make over $11 / hour in the last two year years. If you need serious financial counsel, I highly recommend you consult a professional. But if you just want to learn how to not be freaked out about money all the time, these tips might help.

Copy of Christmas in September

There’s a lot out there on how to make a little side money, and things that people will tell you (like turning off lights in the room you’re not in) to pinch pennies and legit – those things are great and I definitely recommend that you do them.

But there’s this other piece that people don’t know about, I think: how to not feel afraid when it’s time to pay the rent; how to purchase groceries in a way to make sense; and how to still be able to go out with your friends everyone once in a while.

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I’ll be real honest: its taken me almost six months to write this because the topic of money stresses me out so much. So we’re in this fear together. Let’s start with the real game-changer: actually making a budget.

What’s a budget?

A budget is a detailed list of expected income / expenses. Your income and expenses should match. Start by listing every expense you can think of. For me this looks something like this:

Rent
Utilities
Cable & Internet
Credit Card
Medical
Gas
Food
Fun
Fun food
School Book Money
Misc.

Note: You always want to have a “misc” category – that’s where things like birthday presents come from.

Then, add in the “fixed” rates. So let’s say we have $1000 to work with (because that’s easier). Fill-in what you know isn’t going to change:

Rent: $400
Utilities
Cable & Internet: $80
Credit Card: $25
Medical
Gas
Food
Fun
Fun food
School Book Money: $10 (I know I’ll need X amount of money each semester, so I set a small amount aside each month)
Misc.

That’s $515, so you have $485 left over. Next, overestimate each of your monthly bills.

Rent: $400
Utilities: $50
Cable & Internet: $80
Credit Card: $25 (minimum payment)
Medical: $50
Gas
Food
Fun
Fun food
School Book Money: $10
Misc.

Notice the things that aren’t bills. Those are the things you can flex and challenge yourself to bring down.

So now, we’re at $615, meaning we have $385 leftover. I typically do gas before food, because gas gets me to the job that lets me buy the food. I also have a lengthy commute. If you don’t, or if you have a family to feed, you might need to do food first. Estimate how much you think you spend each month on those things:

Rent: $400
Utilities: $50
Cable & Internet: $80
Credit Card: $25 (minimum payment)
Medical: $50
Gas: $60
Food: $100
Fun
Fun food
School Book Money: $10
Misc.

So now we’re at $775, meaning we have $225 leftover. So, that looks like a lot of money to have fun with. Except we’ve only listed expenses. We haven’t listed savings. Month-to-month, my Fun, Fun food, and Misc category change.

There are seven birthdays in the first two weeks of August, so July has a pretty big Misc. section, but Fun as like, $10 in it because I spend so much time just being outside (which is free).

You can do this two ways: you can decide you’re going to save a specific amount and the remainder goes to fun, or you can decide you’re going to spend a specific amount and the remainder goes to savings.

Giving you the option is really counter to what literally everyone says about money, including my dad who taught me how to make a budget.

What I’ve learned over the years, though, is that you will never stick to a budget that isn’t honest. For most of my life, my Fun Food category was four times the size of my actual Food category because I hated cooking. It didn’t feel “grown up” to have things arranged that way, but it did keep me in check.

Those are the basics. What do you think? What about this is scary or feels good or is both at the same time?

A. Rose (1)

What’s with All the Questions?

You may have noticed that I end nearly every post with series of questions, asking you what you would do/ what you think/ how you do things.

I have a love/hate relationship with this concept – sometimes when I read a blog, it feels like someone scraping from comments; and sometimes I need someone to push me to that next step with a concept and the question does it for me.

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I started this blog back up because I want to share with the world; but sharing doesn’t just go one way.

I don’t know if you’re this way, too, but I have a hard time being vulnerable. No matter how many Berne Brown TEDTalks I watch or books I read, there is still this part of me that struggles to ask for help, admit my faults, and listen to the wisdom of others.

I don’t mean to need to be right. Maybe it’s just youngest child syndrome. Maybe it’s insecurity.

Family

Those tiniest of feet are mine

So as I’ve been thinking about the kinds of intentions I want to put into this incredibly public space, I’ve decided to use it as practice for the rest of life. I try to think through the process of each post and ask the questions that I don’t have the answer to right now, so that I can lean on the world to find them.

It’s helping. In case you were wondering. And I really would like to know if this is hard for you too, and what kinds of things you do to practice being vulnerable.

A. Rose (1)