Vegas, Hospice, Freelance, & all the Rest

Last week I spent a few days in Vegas for the first time as an adult. My first Las Vegas memory was was made over a decade ago. My crazy theme-park loving cousin settling to “walk the plank” with his bride on a ship at Treasure Island because marrying at Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland was too many figures.

Fast forward to now, when I’m nearing thirty, and finally hitting it up as a gambling-and-drinks-legal adult. I did zero drinking, and wasted more money gambling than I should have, but the best parts were outside of the casino. I was able to join my boyfriend and his family for a little taste of downtown and Fremont Street. I’m pretty sure my eyes went wide at some of the debauch billboards and marketing but outside of that, it was all fun. In the course of one day, I dined at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, saw my first Cirque de Soleil show (worth every penny), and ended the night high above the city on The Highroller enjoying the city lights with my love. And yes, it was hot as blazes.

Yesterday at my art lesson my heart sank a little to see a hospice van parked outside my teacher’s home. They delivered a walker to help her get around. Sometimes I get lost in my head and forget that my sweet friend isn’t going to get better. Spending time with someone that’s dying is both severely sobering and the sweetest thing. It means their time is near an end, but they still want to invest some of it with you. The doctor told her recently she is doing better than expected, which is a relief and hard news at the same time. It means more pain, more limitation, but a little longer to get things done. Some days we visit from when I’m off work until 7 pm. I had planned to be there until 6:30 but around 6:10 and after many phone checks, I could tell she was exhausted and it was time to cut the visit short. Sometimes I look back and see genuine smiles and joy, and other times I catch her grimacing with worry. But she has hope again, enough for tomorrow. “Maybe Saint ___ will heal me and I will be a miracle.”

Do you find it hard to answer when someone follows up a ‘how are you’ with ‘what are you up to?’ I feel like a majority of my life is mundane and no one would be interested in what I’d share even if I tried to sound passionate about it. I find myself answering with how my family is doing, or saying not much. I have a freelance job at the moment – my first time consulting, which is very exciting! But not something I’d necessarily share. I can’t believe August is here and that next month my little nephew will turn one. September begins the whirlwind: LOTS of birthdays of people I love, Bible study and my non-profit meetings start back up, and the thrill of holidays and a annual visit from my best friend. I should tell them not a lot is happening but I have many things to look forward to.

 

Advertisements

The Sobering Cost of Rent

If you read almost any money guru book these days, they are still harping on a very outdated rule of thumb that doesn’t really reflect the current housing market. The advice? Keep rent to 30% or less of your income.

If someone made 2k a month, that’s $600. (roughly 24,000/yr, $7,200 rent)
If someone made 3k a month, that’s $900. (roughly 36,000/yr, 10,800 rent)
If someone made 5k a month, that’s $1500. (roughly 60,000/yr, 18,000 rent)
If someone made 9k a month, that’s $2700. (roughly 108,000/yr, 32,400 rent)

In my current area, which is a nice suburban area outside a large metropolitan, in one of the most expensive states to live in, renting a small room is $650-800+. Most larger rooms with a private bathroom will run $900+. A two bedroom apartment is $1800+. Renting a basic home is $2600+. I don’t really know how many people are really able to spend only 30% unless they are shacking up with other friends or both making a nice income.

Here’s an article that breaks down the income necessary to make rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in America’s largest cities. Many people can make the rent by not following the 30% rule or living very frugally. The problem is, many of these places have a formula in place that require you to make 3x the rent per month or make 40x the rent annually. This means that even though one may be able to afford the rent, they may not qualify based on income expectations. For a couple that both works full time? This isn’t as difficult. For a family that has one breadwinner that has a decent job but not a high paying job? That’s problematic.

To live in Southern California, it basically takes two $45,000+ salaries to qualify for anything more than a bedroom. To have a home in Southern California, it basically takes two $50,000+ salaries or four $30,000+ salaries. There’s a reason why owning a home looks like something so far in the distance at this point. How long would it take you based on your annual income and savings plan, to gather 20% down for a half a million plus home? How much can one save for a house when rent is this high?

Sobering.

Tahoe Fun

***Super long post warning***

Right before my little vacation I was near my cutoff for dealing with life. Sometimes you just need a small escape to help you focus on the everyday again. More importantly, sometimes you’ve just got to see a best friend in person after emails and texts and Skype calls don’t quite cut it any longer. And luckily, I got both this trip.

We stayed at my friend’s grandmother’s house and I secretly love other people’s grandparents, so I had a lot of fun getting to know her. We’d do some adventuring, H and Me, and then retire in the evening to the living room and watch some Netflix (Anne with an “E”) with her grandma and the siamese cat, Max [who I was sadly *VERY* allergic to]. It was fun re-acquainting with an area I visited in childhood and exploring it again as an adult.

Lake Tahoe is a beautiful mix of “away-from-it-all” and “tourist central” but thankfully we were there right before everything gets busy and flooded with guests. The downside? A lot of activities and museums weren’t open. The upside? Much more away-from-it-all and relaxing for the both of us. Which truly, was more of the focus of this trip.

Things didn’t start off quite right; the flyaway bus took an hour and a half to get to the airport when it should have gotten me there in nearly half that time. From there, I was kindly placed in the express TSA line and RAN to my gating area. Only to find that I had a shuttle to take from there. I finally hopped on, checked the time frantically, and asked the driver if I’d make my flight. She, half-caring, nodded and told me to take a seat. Once I got to THAT building, I once again ran in a frenzy to the actual gate and was told that the planes doors were shut and there was no way to board it now. I’d have to attempt the next flight as a standby. There were four or five of us total that I could see who had just barely missed it and that worried me too: we’d all be vying for a seat on the next nearly full flight. I was about three minutes too late. Three. Because the flyaway bus took forever and the shuttle was running late. Because we waited for a plane to clear the shuttle’s path. I was so upset that all of these things that were happening were out of my control despite planning my flyaway bus in plenty of time. I will be sending them a formal complaint for not disclosing shuttle times or the fact that my flight wasn’t in a main terminal.

I texted H and let her know of the change of plans and felt terrible for extending their wait in Reno to pick me up. She assured me they understood and that I let them know at a good time so they could figure out some things to do in the meantime. I was so frustrated, especially since my trip was so short. I should have landed by 12:32 pm, and now I wouldn’t be in Reno until 6:30. The half a day I expected to have with them was gone, and we only had time to dine and get to her grandmother’s. They were such troopers and I could tell her grandma was quite exhausted from a full day out.

Our first full day we walked around the South Lake Tahoe marina and shopped and enjoy coffee in the Heavenly center. It was super casual and just what we needed. That evening we walked down the street and up the hill near the house. I could feel the combination of  thin mountain air, tight lungs from the recent bronchitis and cat allergy, and extra weight really making this relatively short inclined stroll a problem. I needed to pause and catch my breath a handful of times to make it all the way up.

The second day, I got to meet H’s cousin and we all enjoyed a good chat over coffee. We got basic instructions on how to drive down to the Emerald Bay lookout, and started our second adventure around noon. I was surprised at how easy it was to get gas and go to the lookout; we had our GPS going for good measure but would have gotten there without it very easily. The lookout was gorgeous and easy to get to, with only one little ominous-looking portion of road. We knew the trail there would take us to Vikingsholm, which is still closed. We mutually agreed to take it easy and not go any further than we felt since the 1 mile hike was easy down, and very steep coming back up.

Really, we should have known better. We kept saying we’d stop here or there and not really follow through. We finally got to a spot where EVERYONE looked like they had some labored breathing and H said it might only get steeper there. Did we stop? Ha! We asked a person hiking up how much further and he said 10 minutes and we went for it! The views from the bottom were amazing. We got to see a small log cabin, the beautiful craftsmanship of Vikingsholm, and get to the water’s edge of Emerald Bay. If we didn’t go all the way, we would have been so disappointed.

The hike up was absolutely awful for me physically. I was breathing super heavy and since the circulation in my feet isn’t the greatest right now, there were portions of the hike up where my calves and foot cramped stiff. H was gracious and let me take a ton of breaks. Some of them were quite sad; maybe 15 feet away from each other. I finally figured out my stamina and breathing worked out better if I power walked in a quick burst and then rested a good while rather than trying to go slow and steady. I’m really glad we did the hike even though I wasn’t happy with how hard it was on my body. The big plus here was I never got wheezy, I just had labored breathing.

On Sunday, we left for the airport and back to our places. It was really only 2 full days, but I left feeling full in heart and soul. I’m so thankful for our friendship.

I’m super open with my friend and don’t ever feel judgement from her which I so appreciate. I told her I really felt like I was at “that point”. Sure, there were contributing factors to how I felt on our walks, but really, I knew my weight and health had hit a point where it was starting to disable me. I think I’ve had a couple enough-is-enough points, but this one really hit home. I shared with her how now, at this heavy point, physical exertion was harder, and I had to be mindful of my weight limiting some activities, like say zip-lining or maxing out a weight limit paddle boating with an equally overweight friend. I just don’t want that kind of worry and limitation in my life.

I’m happy that in that admittance and through the strenuous labored portions of our trip, I never felt shame or hated on my body. I was somewhat ashamed of my hiking performance, sure, but it never negatively affected my idea of my body or worth. I think that shows a lot of growth on my part. I’ve learned to not make the idea of weight loss emotional or negative (although of course we all have those days). It was just simple: I don’t like how I feel and how hard it was on my body so I need to be more disciplined to doing something about it. And I didn’t let it stop me from enjoying sugary coffee because I was on vacation. No. More. Guilt.

Yesterday I started my day with a bowl of traditional oatmeal. I had a light healthy lunch and allotted the calories for dinner out with my boyfriend. Today, I had some baked oatmeal and egg whites and have a sardine salad for lunch and the gym scheduled for this evening. None of this is rooted in negativity.

I printed out the Tahoe pics already and have them in all the little corners of my room for happy memories.

Now back to the grind.

Less Shopping; More Finances and Free Time

I talk about organizing and minimizing a lot but I’m not “there yet” in any way. I have found that I am more disciplined and my bank account and home are reaping the rewards. By gradually reducing and spending less, money doesn’t feel so tight. When I want something whole-heartedly, I don’t mind paying full price or settling on something that will do. I’m averaging anywhere from $50-150 less spent per month. That’s eye opening for me. Instead of wandering the aisles tracking down finds I find myself actually having a moment to pause by driving straight home and actually unwinding. I used to buy a lot for others too but I’m trying to find other ways to show appreciation and investment.

Can you believe there was a time in my life where I spent at least half my week shopping after work? It was good exercise to an extent, but I also found myself mentally exhausted by the time I got home and short on time. I also got frustrated when I walked out of a place empty handed. Now, I am amused and happy when I can say I didn’t need that.

I find a lot of joy in grocery shopping, so I do still find shopping cathartic but it’s on items that will be consumed shortly. The colors of bell peppers excite me. Finding the most perfect orange in the bunch. The little things. New ingredients and flavors to try. Foods that I know are full of benefits. I’ve shifted a lot of shopping fulfillment to that department. I’m still spending more than I should in this area, but overall, I’m saving and  getting fresh ingredients so that will do.

Letting go is still one of the hardest parts. Deciding I no longer need something that is still in great condition or letting go of a multiple takes me several attempts. That will take more time and practice. Right now, I’m just working on it as I go. Letting go of non-physical is hard for me too. I’ve been working on building habit, and purposefully keeping myself from any new projects and art because I need to establish a focus with what I am doing currently. I find my head less cloudy and time better spent when I do that.

I want to aim to take room pictures for this blog in May. They’ve been long overdue and it’ll be a fun reward to me for working on it.

Large Purchase Item and General Apathy

I’ve been feeling a lot of general apathy lately. I go from 0 to 100, nearly bawling my eyes out when thinking or doing something for a cause or person I really care about to not feeling anything when my brain says “Hey, this should make you smile.” “Hey, this should be fun.”

Life is super mundane right now. Unfortunately, most of my excitement is coming from food and that’s non-diet friendly stuff too. I need to refocus badly so I’m sobering up my routine March 1st.

I don’t want to place all my eggs in a happiness basket but I think I’m due for a vacation soon. Something to shake up my surroundings. I have a very fun day planned in March and I just keep telling myself to chug along and grasp on to little tidbits of rest in the meantime.

I’ve been very observant of spending lately because I have a large purchase to make. My mac is a fossil in tech years and it’s becoming more apparent that, to my chagrin, my 9 year old laptop isn’t cutting it anymore. I wouldn’t be so hesitant if the price tag on a new Macbook Pro wasn’t $3,000 for what I need it to do as a designer. Or if I hadn’t have spent thousands on trying to figure out my (still unresolved) health ailment.

One of the things that bothers me is that while I am blood clot and circulation issue free (thousand of dollars later, I’ve got that at least) is that I might put myself at a bigger risk for a clot flying now that I’m dealing with edema. That means no long flights or road trips when I’m craving one so badly. :-/

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said:
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Ups and Downs

My brother confided in me earlier this month that the specialist firmly suspects the state of his concussion is now solidly out of PCS (post concussion syndrome) and now more firmly planted in a brain injury. This means instead of the 6 month timeframe, his injuries could last time a year or more still, or certain elements may be permanent. You can see how this news was carefully considered before he could break it to my parents. Today he is making the most of things and interviewing for a spot in a PT program. It was a rare opening and we are praying things go well despite his brain injury. The plus is that he got a much sought after but hardly given interview, the downside is that he has so much to figure out even if the interview goes well. I am SO PROUD of him.

The upside of my health scare was that blood tests and an ultrasound ruled out DVT, heart, liver, and kidney scares. I figured I could live with some foot and leg swelling and never wearing nice shoes again. Then downside, about two or so weeks ago, any type of sock made my swelling much worse and restricted circulation to my ankle area. And on my good leg, a red tender bruise/rash appeared and swelling followed. I went to urgent care and while the appointment was rather useless, they ruled out any kind of topical infection or cellulitis on the rash/bruise but advised I get an ultrasound of my left leg now too.

My mom asked me to a take a picture of an infection happening in her gums so she could show her dentist. Two years later and they’re still messing with her teeth as they’ve failed to provide the implant results they guaranteed her. She has dealt with drills and fittings and people tinkering inside her mouth for so long that it infuriates me.

It’s been a crazy time for our family but I’m glad we’re close and able to encourage each other through all the ups and downs.

Showing Mercy While Emotionally Wounded

Yesterday was an emotional stretcher for me. I can’t say I did amazingly under the weight of my emotions, but I can say despite some tears, I learned to practice mercy a little better.

Because my brother is still suffering from his concussion, things are kind of planned last minute to see how he’s doing. It wasn’t until 8pm or so Saturday that he and my SIL confirmed they would be coming over on Sunday to celebrate our Mom’s birthday and have lunch. My dad and I mutually agreed that if we were dining at home, Mom wasn’t allowed to make her own meal. So, I offered to make everything. Because it was so last minute, I elected to stay home from church and watch the live stream online while I got everything prepared. Yes, admittedly, it was a little overwhelming. I was making food for 5, picking up a cake and ice cream, and tidying up all by myself in a few hours.

I purposefully didn’t rush too much while I was listening to the live stream. Just because I was working on some cooking didn’t mean I wasn’t wholeheartedly listening. As soon as it finished though, it was a race for the clock. I had most things ready and tidied and went to get ready. In that time my parents got home and from another room I heard my dad going “What’s this? Where do I put that?” I think, “Oh no, they’re moving stuff around.” When my dad moves things, you most likely will take forever finding it. He doesn’t ask and doesn’t tell where things are going. So I rushed out and asked him what he was talking about and to let me handle it.

My mom caught some stress in the tone of my voice and responded rashly. She muttered something along the lines of not bothering to do anything for her again and walked off to her room. She keeps on muttering and I tell her I just wanted to handle things and not have my dad mess with it. She ends up telling me something terrible:

“You should have kept your priorities straight and gone to church today. Your heart is in the wrong place and I don’t want you to do anything for me again.”

I tell her I’m sorry if I came off scattered but I am handling everything and she mutters more stuff. I finish getting ready to head to the store and start crying because it really hurt me, especially since my intentions were good and now it didn’t matter. Still, I opened the door and drove to the grocery store.

I walked through Vons swatting tears as they rolled down and slowly picked up a birthday cake and ice cream. I thought about how upset with her I wanted to be, how wounded her words made me, and here I am picking up a cake and ice cream.

I took as much time as I could so my brother and his family would be home at roughly the same time. My mom of course changed her tune as soon as she saw my nephew.

I put the cake and ice cream away, snuck off and composed myself for five minutes, and then carried on with the celebration even though my heart was burdened and heavy.

She never said sorry. I never brought it back up. It still hurt. But I knew mercy was the right choice.

The irony? My pastor’s message that morning was about how during the holidays people may hurt you or be hard to deal with and living out peace.

Concert Vibes: The Dear Hunter & Eisley

It’s been a while since I’ve gone to a concert! I love living near a big music scene where I know most bands I love will hit on their tour.

Screen Shot 2016-10-27 at 9.26.38 AM.png

LACMA is practically my art home away from home, and I was surprised to find out  how close in proximity the El Rey Theater is to my art stomping grounds. I’ve been to the El Rey before, how did I not know this?!

My friend J is now a nurse at a children’s hospital and since she moved about 2 hours away, this was the first time I really got to hang out with her and catch up on life. She got to explore the La Brea Tar Pit area as she waited for me to navigate through the heavy traffic. We grabbed dinner at a fantastic burger place and chatted away until the concert was about to start. A four minute walk later, and voila!

This was first time seeing The Dear Hunter live and my second time enjoying Eisley. I tried to give J a rundown of the acts and the the story in TDH’s music, and it sounds like a crazy soap opera when you put it in a nutshell. Haha.

The Dear Hunter played a great set: everyone in the crowd cheered as they heard the first few seconds of instrumental and knew another favorite was about to play.

Screen Shot 2016-10-27 at 9.26.53 AM.png

My new Eisley gear! I was worried the t-shirt wouldn’t fit as they only carried small and large, but it fits like a glove since it’s a unisex slim fit. How gorgeous is that design? I sent my boyfriend this pic and he said, “It’s you!” 😉

Seeing Eisley this time was quite different now that Chauntelle and Stacy have moved on to pursue their own music, but it was magical all the same.

I’m not sure if there were issues with the audio. It seemed like the instruments were a little overpowering and Sherri’s mic wasn’t as loud as it needed to be, but they rocked it. I was ecstatic to hear Golly Sandra and Smarter in their set. Sherri is my band spirit animal. I love her sense of wonder and whimsy and that she also draws and doodles. She proudly brought up her hubby and two daughters and thanked the crowd for letting her be a touring mom who gets to do what she loves. ❤

They announced they’ll be releasing new music and touring LA around February. Guess what I’ll be adding to my birthday list?

Glorifying Obesity?

Today my post is to share an empowering video by Anna. I’ve followed her YouTube channel for a little while now and love that I can see her fashion hauls and picture them on me. She is a different body type than I, but is closer in size than the models for Torrid, etc. Her sunshine-y personality is hard not to love, and she has amazing yoga videos that make me feel able to do anything at my size.

This video is technically a personal response to someone who accused her of glorifying obesity but is also so empowering and shares how I feel: