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The Get Moving Challenge

Sitting for long periods of time is very detrimental to our health, yet we all do it. Desk jobs are more prominent, desks for work and studying are designed for sitting down to use, classes and seminars are all sit-down, and many recreational activities such as writing, reading, play games of any kind, and watching tv all involve sitting down. ASAP Science even did a video on the effects of sitting called Are You Sitting Too Much? and a video about ways to stop sitting so much called 9 Tips To Save Your Life. Unfortunately, most companies don’t offer desks that will rise and lower to give you the option to stand or offer a yoga ball as an alternative to a desk chair, which burns a little more calories and forces you to work on balance and posture without even realizing it, which is good for your brain.

Sometimes you just don’t feel like getting up when you should. For me, it seems like the longer I sit, the less motivation I have to get up. Even knowing that if I stand up for 5 minutes every hour I would negate the negative effects of sitting for that hour, I can’t always (or often) force myself to do so.

I have also noticed that the opposite is true. If I stand up for longer periods of time and move around, I’m less likely to sit down for too long before I’m back up and moving. At work, I have a box on top of my desk that I put documents and such on when I’m doing work that’s not on the computer such as hand sketches, hand calculations, or proof reading. When things are slow at work and I don’t have anything to do, I’ll put one of my college text books up there and skim it and work some of the problems so I don’t loose that information or I’ll read Civil Engineering magazine or Water Environment & Technology magazine. Sometimes while doing so I’ll even stand on one leg to work on balance or bounce on my toes to work my calves a little or even do squats while I hold and read my magazine.

The hardest part of starting all this is getting motivated to actually stand up. I usually don’t start this until after lunch, which means I’m sitting for a few hours straight in the morning. Even when I’m standing, sometimes I wish I had more motivation to grab that heavy book and do some overhead extensions or squat against the wall while I read. So, I proposed a game to several of my friends, and my mom, who I know wish they could just force themselves to move more, and I’d like to share the idea with all of you.

Here’s how it goes: text one of your friends with something along the lines of, “Get moving! Do _______! You go! Let me know when you’re done.” In the blank put something that’s easy to do in a small room like an office such as 15 squats, run in place for 1 minute, 30 toe raises, 20 overhead extensions with a heavy book, 30 sec wall squat, 20 sec quad stretch each leg, go for a 5 minute walk, etc. Do the challenge as soon as it’s convenient then text back “Done!” and send a challenge to someone else to keep it going!

What do you think about this game idea? Would this be something that would help you get moving when you’d normally be sitting? What are some other exercises that you could do in a small space? I’d love to read any of your own thoughts, observations, ideas, personal stories, etc. that you want to share! 🙂

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Skin Color is a Physical Trait, Not a Personality Type

I’ll mostly be talking about “black people” and “white people” in this post, because that’s what I see the most of relative to the particular sort of racism, but I’m sure it applies to others as well.

This is going to be a rant about how black and white are COLORS, NOT personality types. One of the reasons racism is still alive in everyday life is because people have labeled black and white as personality types, coming up with terms such as “oreo” for people who are “black on the outside but white on the inside” and “wigger” for people who “are white on the outside but black on the inside.” Phrases like “he/she is so white” or “damn girl, you must be black on the inside with dance moves like that” do more to keep racism alive than people realize. And they hurt. It makes it so people with black skin don’t want to do well in school because then they would be “white” on the inside. White is a skin color, not a personality type. Black is a skin color, not a personality type. I can’t express that enough. Saying things like “that’s such a white thing to do” has become an insult to people with black or white skin, it seems.

Why can’t people with black skin be smart without getting called white? Why can’t people with white skin dance well without getting called black? Why the separation? It’s just another way to separate white people and black people instead of integrating and just calling everyone people. There are all kinds of personality types that go beyond race, skin color, and gender for that matter. We all feel the same emotions, we all have different skills and interests, so why is it that some are associated with “white” personality and some associated with “black” personality. How about just saying “hey, that guy makes good grades” instead of “hey, that guy is so white”?

Skin color is a PHYSICAL trait. It’s a way to PHYSICALLY describe someone. Just like eye color, hair color, and shirt color.

Smart, nice, mean, hard-ass, caring, determined, focused, spiteful, loving, etc are ways to describe someones personality. Notice that white, black, and brown are not in that list because they are NOT personality traits.

I’m calling for a stop to using skin color as a personality type. It’s not. Someone who is smart and focused could be white skinned, black skinned, or brown skinned. Someone who is a mean hard-ass could be white skinned, black skinned, or brown skinned. Personality types come in all color skin. That’s why they are two separate things. Calling someone white or black for any reason other than the color of their skin just adds to the discrimination and separation of the two races. If we’re going to grow and become stronger as a community, we need to stop viewing things this way. We need to see skin color as skin color and not judge a personality based on that or label a personality as a color. Please, stop.

Please share any of your own thoughts, observations, ideas, personal stories, etc. because I love reading them. Do you agree or disagree with my point? Why? What similar phrases have you heard that you think are harmful?

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A Thorough, Yet Simple Budget

So, I’ve shared my meal habits and now I want to share my budget. This is something that I made after reading Dave Ramsey and being raised by my parents who instilled money management skills in me.

What I’m going to do is share my actual budget with the actual figures with you so it’s more realistic (I am NOT trying to show off the amount I make, I just wanted to keep it real) and then I’ll break each category down. It’s going to look completed at first glance, but I promise it’s really simple. The reason that I am sharing this is because I have created something that works really well for me, so if you are struggling with making a budget, or have a desire to make a budget, or just want new ideas for your current budget, then buckle in and pay attention. You could also go to everydollar.com and make a budget that you can manage from your phone. It’s even based on Dave Ramsey’s teachings. I considered using it, but my income fluxuates and I didn’t want to have to keep adjusting the figures. Plus, I already created mine. Also, if you would like for me to make you an excel template similar to mine, please let me know and I’ll be happy to do it!

First, let me explain why the numbers are not the same for each pay check. I started the beginning of the year full time then dropped down to part time because there is simply not enough work for me and I felt guilty that I was take more money than I was doing work. I fluctuated my hours for a few weeks until I finally settled on 25 hours a week. In addition, I tutor on the side for extra money, so my bi-weekly income changes based on how many hours of tutoring I was able to do. In the future, I may switch to the everydollar budget since I could manage it from my phone, but for now, this works best for me.

Overview

Like I said, it looks complicated, but it’s not. Every two weeks I add my income (salary from job + tutoring money) into the appropriate spot, and the excel formulas do the rest: everything is automatically calculated (I do have to pull over certain items) and distributed to the proper category sections.

Income

You can also see that some of my budget items are percentages while some of them are fixed. I like to put everything that isn’t a fixed item (such as rent and bills) as a percentage because my income changes so much from month to month.

Now to break the whole thing down. First, the “Emergency Fund.” Dave Ramsey suggest having at least as much money as you would need to live off of for 6 months. This is in case you get laid off. Okay, he said 3 to 6 months, still. Obviously I have way more than this. A good chuck of it came from inheritance from my grandparents on both sides dying (Yes, sad. I’d much rather have them than the money). The rest came from money my parents made me put away as part of my allowance as a kid and summer jobs I had in high school and college. If you’d like to know more, see my first post about budgeting when I was first starting it here. The reason I have kept is so high is this is money to sustain me if I’m between jobs, cover any major medical expenses, car repairs, vet bills, and even a new car if mine were to get totaled in a terrible accident. Basically, if life tries to through me some shit, I’ve got this.

Emergency Fund

The title shows that $25,000 is my goal. It’s just a nice round number. You can also see that my cat almost died and my boyfriend had to have some major repairs on his truck (which he will pay me back for, there’s just some legal stuff going on because they people that “fixed” his truck did a lot of unnecessary work and didn’t fix it, so we had to take it somewhere else – long story). I put all the money I got back from taxes (I got so much back because I was a student for half the year last year) all went into filling that fund back up. The “leftover” is money that I had left over after all budget items were accounted for.

Now I’m going to show you a break down of each category. The “subtotal” automatically comes from the sum of all the amounts in that category going across. It automatically increases every time I enter in my bi-weekly salary. Then I just hit -## for whatever I spend money on, and it totals what I have left at the bottom. There are formulas in all these spaces so I don’t have to do a think but enter what I make and enter what I spend. I’ll usually spend 5-10 minutes each evening entering in any purchases.

Invest

I invest money in a Vanguard mutual fund account. About once a month I’ll go on and buy stock in VTSMX based on my Aunt’s recommendation (who is really good with money and has been doing this for YEARS). I like to enter in when I invest, so I know that I have done it. Otherwise, I’m likely to forget and either not do it or do it twice by accident. Although my goal is 10% of my money, if I have money left over after all my other budget items are taken into account, I’ll increase that percentage. This is money I hope to use to buy a house one day 10 or more years from now.

Donation

My parents taught me to donation 10% of my money by designating 10% of my allowance as “church money.” I still uphold to that and you can see the different things I have donated money to. Often if I’m making a purchase somewhere and it asks “would you like to donate to ____” I’ll hit yest for 1 or 5 dollars and either take it out of free spending or donation.

Vacation

Now that I’m a working adult, I feel obligated to contribute on family vacations. Not only that, but I’d like to take small vacations of my own. I used money from this for my recent trip to New Orleans – I paid for my part of the hotel and withdrew a certain amount in cash that was my budget for that trip with this category. I also plan on paying my part if I get to go with my family on their annual beach vacation and again at Christmas when we get hotel rooms in Birmingham for a few days.

Free Spending

Free Spending covers going out to eat, shopping, going to the movies or a play, entrance to the zoo, aquarium, or a convention, etc. This includes clothes that I don’t need, but want to have. Work clothes, tennis shoes, new jeans, and any other clothing items that I actually need come from a different category. Since this is the most used category, I keep up with it using an app on my phone called “Spending” by MH Riley. It’s great. I have categories like “eating out,” “coffee,” “movies,” and “shopping” so I can see where all my free spending money is going. Extra gas money comes out of here too, but that’s usually not a problem unless I visit my parents two weeks in a row.

Short Term Savings

Short term savings covers more costly items that I plan on buying. This may include furniture, work clothes, kitchen items, organizational items, hangers, a vacuum, etc. Due to me being a little careless and the boyfriend being gone (who usually buys the food), I went over my free spending and used short term savings to balance it out. This is still a new budget, after all. I’m getting better at it. You can see the next items I plan on buying with this budget item.

Gifts

Gifts includes all holidays: Birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s day, and Christmas. These things happen at the same time every year, but a lot of people don’t plan for them – hoping to rely on bonus checks to cover it. By putting in just a little each pay check, I’ll have a nice pot to pull from come Christmas. I’ll be using it to buy a mother’s day present soon. Also, I just decided to up it to 2%, so you’ll see that April got a little more.

G P and M

Pet and Medical used to be grocery (as you can see), however, that’s something the SO took over, so I have lowered that budget item and use it to buy cat food, snake food, cat litter, and snake bedding, as well as any pills I need or doctor visits I take. I get sick often, but I only go to the doctor if I’m bad sick or it last more than a week. I also occasionally buy beer and some groceries, if we just need a couple of items.

Gas

I have a car that has great gas mileage and I live close enough to work that I can walk or ride my bike (if I’m not running late or being lazy), so I only use gas when I go to tutoring or go do something fun (which is why if I go over my gas budget it comes out of free spending). I try to budget enough that I can visit my parents often.

Utilities

Utilities was the trickiest one because it changes every month. As you can see, I started off by budgeting too much, so I backed off to a more realistic number.

Internet and CellPhone

The main reason I show internet and cell phone bill is so I can keep up with when and if I have paid them. I didn’t show them at first, and I forgot to pay my cell bill one month (oops), so it’s just nice to see if I did and when I did.

Insurance

Since work covers health and life insurance, I’m only left with auto and renters insurance. These are semi-annual and annual, respectively. As you can see, I completely forgot to include them into my budget. And my renters insurance is due at the end of this month, so I had to improvise. As for auto insurance, I just took the total amount that I’ll be paying by the end of the year and divided it by 9 instead of 12, since I missed the first 3 months (again, oops).

In conclusion, I feel like I’m pretty well off when it comes to finances, especially since I started this so early in life. If you have any ideas on how I can improve this budget, please share. If you would like me to make you a blank templet that includes all the equations so all you have to change is the dates and the categories, please let me know. You can shoot me an email at bnetherton15@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to make you one! I’ll even change the categories if you’d like.

Please share any of your own thoughts, observations, ideas, personal stories, etc. because I love reading them! Do you think this is a pretty solid budget or do you see some problems with it (if so, what problems do you see)? Does this budget seem overly complicated and hard to maintain or pretty simple and easy? What budget categories do you have and how do you keep up with your own budget?

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What Living with Chronic Depression is Like (at least for me)

Living with depression means never knowing exactly when it’s going to strike.

It doesn’t mean being sad all the time. It doesn’t mean when you’re happy you’re “cured” or “over it.” It means you occasionally get “sick.” Sometimes because of a trigger, but for me it just comes and goes like rolling waves on an ocean.

Yes, I take sick days for depression. Just because it’s a mental disorder and not a cold, doesn’t mean it’s not a sickness, so to speak. I don’t take them often, just when it’s so bad I can’t even force myself out of bed, which is rare. Usually I can still go through the motions of life – my heart just isn’t into it.

My volunteer work helps. Feeling like I’m making a difference and getting the social need filled that even introverts have helps.

I’m in a slump. Adi, that’s the real reason I took so long to respond. I’m in a slump. I can crawl out of it myself – I’ve done it dozens of times, but sometimes it takes longer than others.

I forgot the original point of this post: to educate.

My SO’s sister said something today – that a friend was taking a short leave from work due to depression, but the way she said it sounded like she didn’t think that was a valid reason to take off work, even though it sounded like the depression was due to something that happened. Break a leg? Sure, take a few weeks off. Have something that traumatizes you emotionally happen? Take a day or two, but be back soon. Sometimes mental injuries take longer to heal than physical ones.

But my point is a little different. My point is about people with chronic depression, like myself. No, it doesn’t rule my everyday life like a physical disorder, but when it flares up, so to speak, I can lose days, even weeks. My mind just doesn’t work right. It’s harder to focus which makes it harder to remember things. This doesn’t affect my work too much, but it did affect my studying abilities during school when it would flare up.

For the past several days, maybe a week now, I’ve been in kind of a daze. This isn’t helped by me spending every spare moment to read the Maze Runner series (which is fantastic, btw) to help put myself in a different world.

I can’t say my work is totally unaffected. I can’t say I don’t understand why people would be hesitant to hire someone with depression, because I do. I do believe that the quality of my work is the same, but I’m a lot slower to do things. And I’m a lot less likely to coordinate with people because when I get like this, I just withdraw into myself and avoid communication as much as possible. But I’ll pull myself out of it. I’ll keep going. Yes, I took a half day today, but as long as I have sick leave, who cares if I take it for physical or mental illness?

So many people think that depression is something that you can just “get over,” but it’s not. It hits and it stays. It’s like that antidepressant commercial where the woman had a little black figure that represented depression sitting on her shoulder and it just kept growing and growing even though nothing bad was going on in her life. I’ve had people tell me that my life is great and I have no reason to be depressed. Well, that’s the thing about chronic depression – it’s an illness that isn’t really controlled by outside factors. Yes, outside factors affect it. For example, I think once I move and am no longer living with two people I dislike, and find a more satisfying job, I’ll get depressed less often, but the depression will still it.

It’s kind of like living with migraines. You learn to recognize the signs and do what you can to prevent the worst of it. Sometimes I’ll tell my SO when I feel it coming on. I didn’t this time. Not even sure he’s aware that I’ve been so out of it, feeling like I’m barely hanging on to the lighter side of the depression. Sometimes I’ll force myself to socialize with friends before it gets too bad, and that helps to lighten it and prevent me from going too far into the depression. Sometimes I’ll get myself to go to Sonic and get a delicious ice cream treat to help cheer myself up.

I don’t believe in taking pills for it – mostly because I’ve tried a few different kinds and didn’t like the results. I never felt quite like myself on those pills. And one of them gave me horrific nightmares. I think it’s something that just has to be taken one day at a time – like addiction. I’ve even tried using the 12 Step program that they use in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. It probably would have helped more if I had put more effort into it, heh.

I hope that this post has given you more insight to those who suffer with chronic depression, or helped you feel not so alone if you do suffer with chronic depression. As always, I would love to hear [read] any advice, thoughts, observations, ideas, personal stories, etc, that you’d like to share. Do you think it should be okay to take a sick day for depression? Do you suffer or know anyone that suffers from chronic depression? If you do, does this sound similar to what you go through? What tricks have worked for you when depression flares up?

Edit: Watching PewDiePie dance and sing “let it go” in an Elsa costume helps tremendously!

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A Rose for Stacey

This post is going to be long. At least read the first half.

This post is going to hurt to write and I hope it hurts to read.

This post will [hopefully] be worth it.

This post will probably not be proof-read, so please ignore any errors. I just can’t read through it again.

We went to New Orleans this weekend – my boyfriend, his sister, his aunt, and me. It was awful. Don’t get me wrong, the shops were cool, the parade was great, and the company was fantastic, but it was loud/crowded, dirty, and there was poverty everywhere. That’s what made it bad. The evidence was everywhere – people sleeping on the streets and in the park, people asking for money or leftovers, people just sitting on the ground, staring at nothing. People riding a bike walking around with what looked like everything they own on their back. People who didn’t own anything but the clothes on their back. And Stacey.

Stacey was a bright spot, though not at first. I felt for her immediately. The first time I saw her burned into my brain. We just got some drinks and were continuing our walk down the sidewalk when I saw her. She had a box lid in front of here with a few coins in it and a sign that said “anything helps.” She wasn’t begging. She wasn’t asking passersby if they could spare a dollar. She was sitting on the ground, back against the wall, arms wrapped around her knees, looking withdrawn and defeated. I felt an immediate connection and my heart reached out for her. I wanted to give her everything – my shirt, my jacket, my drink, and all the money I had in my pocket. I wanted to giver a home and a life. I wanted to know her story. I wanted her to be okay. I wanted to give her hope.

We kept walking, and I kept thinking about her. And thinking about her. And thinking about her. Several times I tried to tell the group that I was going to go run off on my own for a bit, so I could go and see her. But, I’m introverted, I’m shy, and I just couldn’t. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I told my SO I was going to walk ahead. He was very confused (since I have social anxiety and there’s crowds of people everywhere), but let me go. I went to the Cafe and got two orders of bennetts, a small coffee, and two water bottles. Then I marched over to where Stacey had been. Had been. I walked around a little more, determined to find her. I almost asked another person playing music if he had seen her, but I couldn’t bring myself to. There was a cop standing where she had been sitting and after three tries, I finally mustered up the courage to ask him if he’d seen her. He pointed her out to me, walking away with a guy with a pit bull.

I walked as fast as I could to catch up to her. Mind you, all the homeless people tore into my soul, but Stacey tore at my heart. My soul still hurts from all the poverty I saw. I wonder if all cities are like that. It hurts to think about. I guess that’s why people don’t. And you never know just how to help. Some people stay homeless and just take handouts without trying to do better. Not all, but some. That makes it hard to just give money or food or clothes to someone. I guess the reason Stacey caught me is because if I was in her situation, where I had to ask people for money because I didn’t have another means of getting any, I would have sat and looked just like she did. Even though I know I’ll never be in that situation, I somehow saw myself in her.

I caught up to her. She was carrying a bag with little food. I told her I saw her earlier and I bought some doughnuts and asked if we could hang out and talk. She said yes, so we found a place to sit out of the way and I gave her some bennetts and the coffee and a water bottle. She was introverted too. I guess I expected her to tell me all her troubles, because that’s what others in bad situations have done, but she didn’t. She didn’t talk much at all. So, I had to prompt her a little bit. She did talk some and she asked a few questions about me like who I was with and how long I was staying. I found out that the pit bull was hers and only 7 months. The guy walking the dog was a friend of hers who lets the dog stay with him since the shelter doesn’t allow it. I found out that people feed the dog better than they feed her. I found out that she sleeps at a shelter every night that she is able to scrape together enough money to do so. She likes to stay at the shelter that costs money because there’s less crime there. She owns nothing more than the clothes on her back and that little bit of food she was able to buy. She gets jumped occasionally. The last time she got jumped, they took her social security card and her I.D. card, so she’s starting from scratch. She has asthma which makes it difficult to work (though she tries and she’s determined to get another job), and she can’t afford an inhaler. She also has bad allergies, like me. I can’t help but to think that if she had all the opportunities that I did, she would have done something great with her life, like I’m trying to do. I also found out that she doesn’t drink alcohol and she really likes Monster energy drinks.

She has a positive attitude, regardless. One thing I liked is she never told me how much it costs to get into the shelter (until I asked – $10) and she never told me that she didn’t get enough to get in that night (though I knew she didn’t). She has hopes and dreams. She calls this time “a bump in the road” and she’s determined to get back on track. She’s second in line to get placed into a home. I told her I was routing for her and hoped that life got better. I gave her $20 so she could get more food and get into the shelter. I told her I would try to see her tomorrow when we would be out shopping around, and I gave my two uneaten bennetts to her friend as I left.

I didn’t see her the next day, and I feel awful about it. When I finally got back to the group, my boyfriend had been worried, and while his aunt and sister said it was nice that I took her some bennetts, my SO didn’t get it. He didn’t say it, but the look on his face said (I thought) “why the fuck would do that for some homeless nobody?” I really hope I misread that, but sadly, I don’t think that’s the case.

The day we went to the french market. I found a necklace there that I bought to give to Stacey, hoping we would walk that way and I would see her – we didn’t. It was a simple, silver rose on a silver chain. A rose for Stacey. A rose she never got. A rose that I have in my bed-side drawer. I feel so guilty. I never even tried to get the group to go that way. It wouldn’t have been too much out our way, and I don’t think the two ladies would have minded. It was the look that my SO had on his face when I showed him what I bought for Stacey that caused me to hide my tongue. I’m tearing up now just thinking about it. I just wish he would have tried to understand. If it’s something I care about, then he should care about it too, right? Or at least ask me about it and try to understand why I wanted to be nice to her and give her the necklace. I like her. I connect with her. I care about her. And he won’t even try. And I’m too afraid to speak up. I feel like I bite my tongue around him a lot lately, but that’s a different story. And this is not the end of this blog.

I said it would be long. But there’s more I need to get off my chest. Even if you don’t want to read anymore, at least read the favor I’m about to ask.

If you ever go to NO, please, please check on her. She sits in front of the Walgreen’s on Decatur St., by Wilkinson St. She’s black, looks to be in later 20’s or maybe early 30’s and she was wearing black pants and a black hoodie. Please, just give her something – anything: a Monster drink, a cup of coffee, some fruit, some bennetts, a dollar, a hug, a smile. Just give her something, look her in the eyes, and tell her that Brandy is thinking about her and rooting for her. Tell her you’re rooting for her too. Give her hope. Keep her spirit alive. Also, ask her what shelter she goes to and let me know. I want to send a donation there.

Now onto a few more events that I just need to get out.

One, a comment the boyfriend made when I told him about meeting up with Stacey and that I ended up also giving her enough money to get into the Shelter (with a little extra): “hopefully we don’t see her in a bar later.” Why? Her life seems horrible. She has no money, job, home, or even identification. She gets jumped regularly, so it’s not like she would work on saving up money for anything, because it would just get stolen. If I was in her situation, and I had a little extra cash, I would buy a drink or two. If they’d let me without and I.D. People look down on the homeless when they drink (and I used to also), but who cares? It’s not like society is really willing to give them a chance with anything. Not a lot of people are willing to hire someone homeless and jobless. Not a lot of people are willing to share their home with someone who doesn’t have one and help them find the means to support themselves. It’s not like they have a lot of options. If they want to buy a bottle and get so drunk that they can’t think straight so they don’t have to mull over their situation, let them. It’s hard to come out of rock bottom, especially when society isn’t looking to help.

Another, someone asked for our leftovers after leaving a nice restaurant. Now, Brandy, why would that bother you when you were willing to give the shirt off your back to someone else? Good question, Reader. Because I don’t know them and I don’t like being pressured. No, I didn’t know Stacey either, but she also didn’t pressure me. These guys seem perfectly well off. There was a group of them. They all had back packs and some had instruments. Instead of buying their own food (though, I don’t know for sure that they had the money to), they hung around an expensive restaurant, knowing the portions were big and that people would leave with leftovers, then ask for that food. So, they got a nice, expensive meal for free. That just rubbed me the wrong way, I guess. However, I was thinking about it, and they probably would have been thrown away, anyway. it takes oil, water, work, and money to make food, and it costs money, and a large percent of all food made never reaches a human mouth – just goes straight into the garbage. So, I guess if those guys kept that food from going in the trash, and got a nice meal, then, that’s okay.

Another is a guy standing out by the french market asking for money. Again, why would he bother me and not Stacey? Well, first off, he had his hands in his pants, which is just creepy. I guess that was really the main thing that bothered me. He was asking people if they could spare a dollar so he could get some food. But still, why would you approach me with your hands down your pants asking for money? Ask me for a banana and keep your hand visible.

One small instant was I witnessed some guy steel something like it was nothing. He just walked up, grabbed a soda w/out paying, and walked off. He was also holding one of those containers of sugar that you see at Waffle House that I’m pretty sure he stole too. He didn’t even look like he was bad off, he just looked like a bad person. White skin, black hair, and dressed hard core gothic.

Last one – a vendor. At the French market, there were many, many vendors and a few of them were selling marble sculptors/figures, cups, shot glasses, and little boxes. One of these tables also had marble chess sets. I’ve been wanting a marble chess set. One of them had jade and white pieces. It was beautiful. I bought it. I hate that I bought it. Here’s why – the main reason I bought it, was the vendor pressured me too much. Have I mentioned I’m an introvert? I can’t handle pressure from others very well. Don’t get me wrong, at first I really, really wanted it. But, the more I thought about it, and my boyfriend said a few things, the more I realized it was a dumb purchase and tried to get out of it. It was heavy, I already have a chess set that’s part of a multi-game box, and I haven’t played chess with another human since I graduated college almost a year ago. And we’re looking at moving into a smaller space soon, so we need to be downsizing, not buying stupid crap. That, and it wasn’t in my budget. But the guy kept pressuring me and lowering the price and I tried to get away a few times but there was just so much pressure and I just bought the damn thing and cried about it on and off the rest of the day (it doesn’t help that this weekend and today are pms days).

So, that was my [awful] trip to New Orleans. I wish I knew how to help the poverty. But I don’t. I don’t think feeding them and giving them money straight up is a help. Maybe donating to the shelters and the programs that help house them is a help. My Grandpa’s church offered their church as a living space for one of those programs. The first family who moved in was a man and woman and three kids (why the hell would you have three kids if you don’t have a house?). They were pretty terrible. The man kept saying he was trying to find a job, but he really wasn’t. One of the ladies even got him an interview at Walmart because she has a contact there, but he never went to it even though he said he did. They let their middle child draw all over the walls and furniture and just in general let their kids run wild. The shelter was supposed to send food and water supplies once a month, but didn’t, so the church fed them. The church finally kicked them out. However, they did keep doing the program, and the next person who was housed there was a loner and got a job and was soon able to move out. So, not everyone simply rides the system, but I think too many do ride the system, which makes it hard to help those who are really trying to get out of it. You want to help people, but only people who are willing to help themselves. Stacey sees her situation as a set back, so I didn’t mind helping her during her rough patch because I know she is trying to get out of it. I know she’s not riding the system. That first family that stayed at my grandpa’s church – they were just in it for the free ride. I feel bad for those kids. I feel bad for society. I feel bad for not giving Stacey her rose.

Please, please, please share any thoughts, observations, ideas, personal stories, etc that you have. Even if you only read the first half. How do you think we can help the homeless, or if we even can? Do you have a story where you tried to help someone in need or at least talked to them and heard their story? Do you have a story of someone abusing the system?

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The Relationship I Never Thought I’d Have

I’m the type of person that never thought I would settle down with someone (and was perfectly happy about that). Still not sure I will. I’m too introverted and independent. And I’m happy alone, so long as I have friends and someone to fool around with. What more could I want?

Well, I found someone that I might be able to spend the rest of my life with. Maybe. Usually, I get tired of someone when spending too much time with them. For me, too much time can mean 2 or 3 days straight or even just a few hours every day. I need me time, and lots of it. Preferably 2-4 hours a day (at least). I get really irritated if I’m around the same person too much. A whole day can wear me out, even if we’re having fun the whole time.

Not this guy. We spent weekend after weekend together and a few evenings a week – enough time for me to get irritated and tired of hanging out with someone so much. But I didn’t. Even when he moved in like a month after we started dating (the situation called for it – it was either that or he was going to be sleeping in his truck, and I couldn’t allow that) I didn’t get tired of him. It was only supposed to be temporary, while he found a new place. But I liked having him around, so we made it permanent.

It’s been wonderful. Yes, sometimes I get irritated when I don’t get enough time alone at the apartment, and yes, there are bad times, but overall it’s been worth it. He shares in the household chores, including cooking and washing dishes, which has been a huge help. It means I get more free time to work on puzzles, knit, or read or write. In fact, I haven’t done laundry since he’s moved in. If you read my last post about eating healthy, you’ll know that, while I do all the meal planning, we split up food preparation/cooking and dish washing pretty evenly.

He helps lift my mood too. He can always make me smile or laugh, even when I’m trying to be upset at him. We’re constantly being silly/goofy together. Our idea of a good date is going to the bar during happy hour, getting a couple of frozen margaritas, and sitting outside sipping on the margaritas and reading our books. Jealous? Oh yeah. We also like to go hiking in the woods (okay it’s not so much a “hike” as a “leisurely walk”). Sometimes we’ll go to big events together like an arts festival or a geek convention. Luckily, he doesn’t have social anxiety like I do, and holding onto him helps calm me down in those crowded events (so does having a drink first, which I can do since he likes to be the driver – another nice perk).

In fact, my honest, biggest complaint is that we’re not good workout partners, which would have been so convenient if we were! I like to be upbeat and energetic during workouts and he just like to be quiet and concentrate. I get on his nerves by being so upbeat and he gets on my nerves by not talking or encouraging me (which to me is the whole point of having a workout partner). So, we stopped working out together, which means we basically stopped working out, though I’m trying to get back into it. He also doesn’t do very well at taking care of me when I’m depressed, but I don’t think that’s something someone can just jump in a do (especially if they don’t get depressed often enough to know how to be helpful), so that’s really on me for not talking to him about it more (but I will).

I still find myself often wondering if I really do want to be with him or be alone. Sometimes it feels like i’m on a see-saw. When we have a bad moment, I wonder if I’d be better off alone, and when we have good moments, I wonder what I’d do without him. I know, I’m a mess haha. And lately he’s been home a lot more, so I haven’t been getting enough time alone, which isn’t helping things.

Anyway, I didn’t write this to show off. I thought I was writing it to make some point about dating as an introvert, but that didn’t happen. I’m not sure why I wrote this, it’s just what I felt like writing about. I’m happy, and wanted to share. I found a person who I can stand to be around for long and frequent periods of time, which I didn’t think would ever happen. And although I wish he were a more compatible workout partner, and took better care of me when I go into a depression, and a few other minor things, we get along well, we help each other eat healthy and be careful with money, and we brighten each other’s day, so it’s worth fighting/being patient through those short bad times.

Do you see yourself settling down with someone one day? What are some traits in a relationship that are important to you? What do you look for in a partner? I’d love to hear [read] any thoughts, observations, ideas, personal stories, etc, that you’d like to share. 🙂

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Eating Healthy – Why doesn’t everyone do it?

Because it takes constant effort.

Also, many people are under the notion that eating healthy is costly, when it’s actually much cheaper than ordering out every night. What’s costly is eating organic.

Anyway, I’m not an expert, nor claiming to have it all figured out, but I did start a system that has worked for me (and my significant other). Of course, part of the reason it works so well is there are two people doing the cooking and cleaning, not just one, but still. I just want to share what I’ve done to help me stay on track with eating healthy in hopes that it may give you some ideas if you’re trying to eat healthy.

This is going to be a long article, but I will underline the main points if you want to skim it instead of read in detail.

First, what I’ve learned from reading health tips and the like:

Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as, sometimes more, nutritious as fresh. Why? Because they were picked and then washed and frozen (or washed, chopped, and frozen), so all the nutrients were immediately frozen with the produce. Produce that isn’t in season has been stored or shipped from far away, and produce looses their nutrients with time (apparently).

The fewer ingredients, the better (for shopping). When buying something in a can or a package, check the ingredients. If there are a lot of words on there you don’t recognize, it’s probably not that good for you. If they contain a few ingredients that you do recognize, then it’s been less processed and is likely much better for you than the one with a lot of unpronounceable ingredients.

Homemade is healthier. It has been less processed and uses more whole foods. But not everyone has time to home-make everything. I pick and choose what I think is worth spending time making. I like to make bread (though I haven’t had the chance to in a while do to messy roommates), granola, yogurt parfets, and meals. But I don’t bother with homemade soups that are part of meals, homemade pasta, or homemade juice. I just buy that pre-made and pre-packaged.

Variety, variety, variety. The greater the variety the foods you get, the greater the variety of good bacteria in you, the healthier you’ll be, and the better you’ll feel. Also, lots of yogurt.

Now, onto what I actually do to eat healthy without getting too overwhelmed with meal planning (it still happens sometimes).

First, I went to homemade by carmona and followed her meal planner (with some personal modifications): http://www.homemadebycarmona.com/menu-planner/  Yes, it took a lot of time to put it together, but it was soooo worth it. I’m still adding to it, as I have several cookbooks, but have stuck to a limited number of recipes in the past. The main modification that I did was change “breakfast, lunch, dinner”  to “breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, drink/dessert” though I don’t often use that last one. By having meal and snack ideas in the back pages, when I plan meals I can easily flip through them and grab the stickies and move them to the appropriate day of when I want to cook/eat them. I put the recipe location on each one so I can easily look up the recipe when making a grocery list.

Next, I tackled the most difficult and frequently skipped meal: breakfast. I generally force myself out of bed 10 minutes before I have to leave for work, which leaves no time for breakfast. My father told me he drinks a glass of juice (something thick like the naked juice) with a scoop of protein powder and then follows it with a glass of water and he’s not hungry til lunch. Great, that’s easy. I also read the importance of yogurt and a recipe for homemade granola, so I got some plain, non-fat yogurt, fruit and berries, and made the granola. Now, part of my evening routine is putting together breakfast for the next day. Sometimes the SO helps and sometimes not – it really just depends on if there are dirty dishes or not. I put a little over two cups of juice and then two scoops of protein powder in my blender and blend until it’s well mixed and there are no powdery chucks. Then I pour it into our travel cups and stick those in the fridge and rinse out the blender. Next I pull out our parfet containers which are really designed to be salad containers. They have a little cup that sits in the middle of the lid that is supposed to be for salad dressing, but I use it for the granola. I simply get my 1 cup scoop and scoop out a cup of yogurt into each container, then top it off with fruit and/or berries and fill the little cup in the lid with granola (about 1/4 cup). Most often I’ll take half a peach and cut it up in to small squares and split it between the two containers then add a small handful of blueberries to each. This has become part of my nightly routine, so even when I’m dead tired, I still can’t get myself to go to bed before I’ve completed it. And it really only takes about 15 minutes.

Next is the other two meals. Dinner and lunch are integrated – lunch is always left over dinner. Dinner is picked out using my handy-dandy meal planner, and my SO will often do the cooking since I often tutor in the evenings. If he’s not cooking, then he’s washing dishes while I cook. When cleaning up from dinner, the leftovers go into two lunch containers for us for the next day.

Lastly is planning an afternoon snack. Since we’ve been including portion control to our healthy eating, we’re hungry mid-afternoon. And the way our work schedules are, I get home mid afternoon and he gets home late afternoon, so I always come home, clean the kitchen, and fix a snack for us. So far some of things I’ve fixed: carrots and peanut butter, hummus and pita chips, bacon wrapped artichoke hearts, and strawberry and banana smoothie. And once a banana colada, haha. I have cookbook that has a lot of healthy snacks in it, so I’m slowly going through those.

In summary, here’s what our daily food/meals look like: breakfast is juice with protein powder followed by a glass of water; mid-morning snack is fruit and yogurt parfet; lunch is leftovers from the night before; mid-to-late-afternoon snack is something healthy that I fix; and dinner is something we cook (and we usually eat a smaller portion than lunch).

The time breakdown: Breakfast/mid-morning snack takes about 15-20 min to put together the night before, lunch is put in containers we can just grab and go (along with breakfast and parfet), late afternoon snack takes varied time depending on what it is, and dinner usually takes an hour or so for cooking and cleaning. At most, we spend a total of 2.5 hours (usually 2 or less) preparing food and washing dishes a day. It takes me maybe 30-45 minutes to plan a weeks worth of meals and snacks, and that’s mainly because I’m still flipping through cookbooks for new recipes to try. Once I’ve gone through all my cookbooks, I imagine it will only take 10-15 minutes to plan a weeks worth of meals using my meal planner.

What are some health tips that have stuck with you? What’s your favorite healthy snack? Do you have any meal planning or implementing tricks that work for you?  I’d love to hear [read] any thoughts, observations, ideas, personal stories, etc, that you’d like to share. 🙂

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Why We Need More Mothers at Work

I typically stay away from re-blogging, but I just had to share this article. So many people don’t realize just how hard working moms really are. They only see how many hours they spend in the office. I’ve been reading Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” and learning so much about the differences between being a female vs male in the work place and the struggles moms face. And also how to help. This article really highlights things that I’ve read and things that I haven’t read. I love this start up company that they talk about in the article too. My coworker, who is a mom, recently started working from home and I asked her about it the other day. She said that she is actually working more hours than when she was coming into the office. Our IT guy set her computer up with all the programs she needs to do her job and linked her to our shared files at the office. Since all her work stuff is right there at home, it’s really convenient for her to sit down and work on something as soon as it pops into her mind instead of waiting until going to the office to do it. Anyway, great article. Worth the read, for sure.

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What to do with My Life??

I would think at 23, with a college degree and a job, I would have a good idea on what I want to do with the rest of my life. NOPE. All I know for sure is that I don’t like my current job and that I do not want to be a doctor or a veterinarian. Or a nurse.

My current job involves me sitting at a desk 90% of the time and on a computer 80% of the time. I have my Engineer Intern certification and I’m working under a Professional Engineer, which means I’m getting hours towards getting my Professional Engineering degree, but not with what I’m interested in. I work in a small Civil Engineering and Surveying firm, so we do all kinds of different projects and don’t specialize in anything. I am in charge of all the environmental permitting, which I don’t mind too much, and I’m the head of a few projects. I just finished putting together my first book of specifications for one of my projects, which was kind of interesting, but mostly boring.

Point is, I want to be outside more. And I want to be doing something interesting. I thought I wanted to pursue water and waste water treatment because I find it absolutely fascinating and I want to design them one day. My current plan is to find a job a water or waste water treatment plant to get a feel for how everything works, rather than just reading about it in a text book and working problems for imaginary situations (which I’ve done plenty of). Then maybe get a Master’s and a job at a firm that specializes in treatment plants or find a related job that doesn’t need a Master’s degree.

However, in addition to the voluntary GED tutoring, I recently started doing some paid private tutoring. I have enjoyed this more than I expected. I thought it would be a fun way to get some extra cash, but I never expected to enjoy it so much. I found that I love making lessons as well as working directly with my individual students.

I also recently discovered this thing called Earthships which is right up my ally of almost all my loves combined: renewable energy, recycling/reusing, home-grown food, reduced water use, AND helping people. Those five things sum up most of my passions. Maybe all of them. I love helping people, hence my volunteer work. I love renewable energy and if I had an interest in electricity, might have gone into that field. I try to reduce, reuse, & recycle as much as possible. I think home-grown food is great because it increases the plants in the area, reduces the amount of fuel used to transport food, and often tastes better. Being passionate about water and waste water treatment, I’m also passionate about reducing the amount of water used. Plus, since these things are built in many different places, it’s a great opportunity to travel, which I also love doing. Honestly, if I wasn’t with the person I think I want to spend the rest of my life with, I’d probably jump right into that. I think continuing with my engineering and water/waste water treatment experience and knowledge will help if and when I do pursue Earthships. The only real problem I see with that is trying to tutor and having a husband who has a steady job that doesn’t travel. Maybe it’s not the best idea, but it seems so perfect for me.

The point is, I’m quite lost with how to pursue and shape my future.

I’ve also looked into working for the USDA Forestry Service because that would include getting to work outside a lot and possible travel.

For now, I’m planning on moving to FL in June and looking for a job in my field or something similar. I put in an application for a waste water treatment plant, but I’m not extremely hopeful. I might even look into some tutoring or substitute teaching jobs. I feel like it would be easier if I knew what my ultimate goal was that I was aiming for. I guess for now, I’ll act as though I still plan on designing water and waste water treatment plants, but there are so many other fun opportunities out there like Earthship or teaching GED classes full time.

I’d love to hear [read] any advice, thoughts, observations, ideas, personal stories, etc, that you’d like to share. How/when did you decide on your career path? Have you struggled with deciding what you want to do in life? Do you have any advice on the matter?

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Education – The Noble Pursuit

I am a firm believer that the pursuit of education is admirable and that helping educate others is one of the most noble things you can do with your time. I believe that if everyone were educated on the many problems of this world, there would be fewer problems. If everyone was educated about finances, almost no one would be in debt (except those who recently went to college). If everyone was educated about the affects of overpopulation, more people would adopt children rather than add to the current population. If everyone had a basic knowledge of how the world works, we’d have more people producing solutions than problems.

I hold people/groups like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and ASAP Science in the highest regard because they are spending their time educating the general public on a variety of topics. In addition, Dr. Tyson is doing what he can to encourage students to pursue science and math related fields.

When I was at Mississippi State University, a program was started with the purpose of getting middle school girls interested in careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics). Fantastic! I had never heard of engineering until I was looking to colleges, and even when I picked Civil Engineering as my major, I still had NO idea what it was. It just sounded cool. This program brought girls who were interested in math and science to MSU one Saturday a month for four months in the spring semester. Female engineering students, including myself, volunteered to help out on these Saturdays. We planned different activities that thought them about the different engineering majors. We taught them basic information about how a plane flies, how water is treated, and how to make lip gloss. We had girls wanting to be rocket scientists, doctors, and everything in between! It was awesome.

I also believe in giving back to the community. That program, called I AM GIRL, was my favorite volunteering experience at college. Now that I’m graduated and moved away, my favorite way to volunteer is by tutoring GED prep to adults who wish to get their GED. The local community college offers free GED classes to adults, so I called and asked if they could use a volunteer tutor, and they said yes! Getting a GED is a very difficult thing to do, and I applauded anyone and everyone who seeks to get theirs. I want to help in any way I can. Probably my favorite part of GED tutoring is when a student I have been helping passes one of the sections of the test. It’s a great feeling.

As always, I’d love to hear [read] any thoughts, observations, ideas, personal stories, etc, that you’d like to share. What are some ways you like to volunteer? Do you agree or disagree that education is the key to changing the world for the better? Why? What are some other worthy pursuits that you believe in?