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Archive for September, 2011

October Ambitions

October is nigh, and I’ve got the cold toes to prove it. Fortunately for everyone involved, Jeff bought me these cute new kitty socks to help keep my digits warm…

This past month has been a doozy. I’ve been in a funk for most of it, and just now am starting to feel like the chemical balance is returning to my brain. Not to say that it’s been all stress and melancholy, no not at all. On September 3rd I was having a particularly bad weekend, and Jeff drove me to one of our favorite spots to help cheer me up. This secret little place of ours is a tiny park in Rocky Ripple, where the public can gain access to a fantastically undeveloped bend in the White River. All you can see is water, trees, fish, and a park bench on the opposite bank. It’s a quick getaway in the middle of the city, giving an immediate sense of peace and an air of solitude. As we drove through the neighborhood on our way out, we spotted a house that we both instantly loved. I hopped out and grabbed a flier, and the whole process began…

Much of September has been consumed by our first adventure in home-buying. We’ve been viewing, inspecting, deliberating, negotiating, anticipating, and wishful thinking for what seems like months now. If all goes as planned, we will be moving into our new home by the end of October. We couldn’t be happier about it.

Aside from that unexpected escapade, we spent our first real vacation together, touring the great state of California and visiting some excellent tour guides family members. We saw an enormous amount of fantastic sights in a short time, and it turned out to be a very relaxing getaway.

In spite of all the fun and excitement, I have to say I’m glad to put September behind me, and try to get back into some sort of normalcy groove. To help me in that, I’ve given myself a few goals to complete in October.

My first goal is to work on streamlining my belongings. A move into a new place is a great time to clear the cobwebs and begin anew. Any objects that I don’t use or treasure on a regular basis will be passed along to the next person who is willing to use/hoard/treasure them.

Second, I have a kitty in my care who desperately needs to be taught how to be loved. Hunter has been at the shelter for some time now and only very gradually making any progress from his stressed state. My hope is that a loving home environment and lots of back scratches will get him back to the point where he starts acting more like a cat and less like a hunted rabbit.

My third goal for this month is to draw. I spent a lot of time this summer salvaging vintage items and making things, but it’s been too long since I sat down with a sketchbook and a pen and let my imagination wander for a few hours.

And finally, I need to remedy the fact that vacations and slumps and home buying are not conducive to keeping up with a healthy lifestyle. Lots of fruits and veggies and time spent outdoors walking and hiking and exploring must be on the agenda for a great October.

And I think it will be a great October.

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Every so often I consider an unfortunately major topic in my life: student loans. And every time I happen upon these reflections, it has a profound and not particularly enjoyable earth-shattering effect on my life and my psyche. I have long since left behind any regrets that may have crossed my mind with regards to my looming debt: leaving behind a full-ride to an honors college after my freshman year, choosing a major that has very little practical application in the job market, returning to school to pursue a new course of study and subsequently abandoning it, buying a Macbook Pro with my loaned money in the meantime…these aren’t the things that I regret pursuing, but I do regret not knowing better than to assure myself repeatedly that I would worry about the cost of it all later.

Because later is now, and looking over the figures nearly gives me a heart attack every time.

I know I’m not the only one in this boat. Student loan debt is soaring, and even has surpassed credit card debt in America. College attendance is practically expected of young people today. Not only that, but a bachelor’s degree no longer holds the same sway that it has in years past. Degrees are becoming commonplace, universities are hiking fees and tuition in fierce competition with one another, and the idea of learning a skill that is not backed up by three years of theoretical study in a higher learning institution is absurd. The more educated we become as a species, the more we need to study, and keep studying, in order to advance to the next highest level of discovery. You can’t even become a librarian without having a Master’s degree in Library Sciences. But what’s a librarian to do when her salary can’t cover the cost of six years’ worth of learning the intricacies of the Dewey Decimal System?

But banks and the government don’t seem to mind. Dishing out money left and right to anyone who will accept it for educational purposes is a good thing, right? Kind of like giving money to whoever wanted to buy their own home seemed like a good idea for a while. I’m no expert on finance or economics, but I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen when hundreds of thousands of college graduates can’t afford to pay back their student loans because the economy can’t sustain the cost of their education. I recently met an acquaintance who openly admitted to her deliberate failure to pay back student loans. In her words, “What are they going to do, take away my education?”

As far as I can see, trying to take away a person’s education is about as effective as foreclosing on a house that nobody can afford to buy any longer. Now I’m not trying to say that student loans are the new housing bubble, but, well, I guess that is exactly what I’m trying to say. In my own supremely inexpert opinion, of course.

Thankfully, I’m not really the type to mull over these big-picture problems any more than it suits my passing amusement. I’m much more concerned about my own immediate challenge, and how I intend to meet it.

A few days ago I realized that, at the rate I was casually tucking money away into my Sallie Mae account, I was going to be approaching 50 before I could finally boast of being free from the shackles of my college education. I briefly considered returning to school to rack up three times as much debt, in order to obtain a career that would be high paying enough to pay off the entire load before I reached 45. The payoff didn’t seem worth the effort, so I’ve drawn up a new plan of action: good old budgeting, belt-tightening, and sticking to it to the glorious, debt-free end.

After a night of number crunching with the help of handy calculators (you may want to check them out if you are curious about your own impending payback), I have decided upon a plan which I affectionately refer to as 100 Months. 100 of anything doesn’t sound impossible, and I’ve convinced myself that I can settle for being debt free 100 months from now. It’s the ideal balance between acceptable length of time, and a challenging but (hopefully) not impossible payment goal for each month. And the best part of it is, I get to use my blog as a nifty tool to motivate myself and celebrate each month’s victory. If all goes as planned, I will get to look forward to posting my 99 Months blog by the end of October, 98 Months in November, and so on until the deed is done or the economy collapses again and all student loans are miraculously forgiven.

I think it’s going to be as fun as it can be.

🙂

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Things That Make Me Happy

More farm

Making a Mess

Seedlings!

Colorful Produce

Comfort Food

Freshly Chopped Hair

Making and Sharing Cookies

Christmas Music

Funny Shakespearean quotes (now available for purchase!)

Flowerworks

A found train ticket stub stamped July 18, 1957, at Union Station

Playful kids

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