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Natasha

0 In Remote Life/ Resources

Bang For Your Buck: The Lucid Mattress Review

lucid mattress as the base of the cuddle pit

Among the many things I did not expect to do during 2020, buying a Lucid Mattress from Amazon is right up there with moving and realizing my heart lived out on the Washington Coast. It went completely against my initial plan…

Okay, my plan was more “I have an outline of things I need to do, so let’s do this one thing and see how the rest works out” so maybe the appropriate word here is idea or outline?

The initial line-item was to purchase the Zinus Green Tea Mattress. Not because I had ever slept on one, because if ApartmentTherapy raved over it, and the 14,00+ reviews did also, surely I would rave over it myself. I even had my Amazon Credit Card (my vice) at the ready, but hit a stocking snag. 

The Queen-size mattresses were out of stock. They also wouldn’t be in stock until after I moved into my new flat. The daybed is the largest piece of furniture I own and with it practically in the middle of the living room, it needed a mattress the day I moved in.

Okay, time for an adjustment. I read through some of the Green Tea Mattress reviews and ended up getting a little squicked out by some of the negative reviews. But since it’s Amazon and there’s a lot of mattresses on there, I did some research on the budget best-sellers. I needed:

  • fast delivery
  • Comfort
  • something not terribly hot
  • under 300$
  • not be a complete suckfest

I also wasn’t going to use my first mattress. That was already slated for my bedroom, which is still odd to say after 2.5 years of living in 400 square feet.

Wait. What?

I already know what you’re going to ask and I can go ahead and answer that question. For the first time in a couple of years,I have a separate bedroom. 

In my excitement, I did purchase a Zinus bedframe (that review is online also), because now I can shut the door between my living room/kitchen and my bedroom. The Tuft & Needle Mattress will live back there, which I should go ahead and post a review for that as well since I’ve been sleeping on it near nightly for the almost-three years. I love my T&N mattress. I may purchase a King-size for my next move with the same, but larger bedframe.

The Lucid mattress would live in the Day Bed that sits in my living room and is affectionately referred to as the Cuddle Pit. It would be sat on, sometimes slept on, definitely lounged on, and should expect to hold at minimum one body, but in upwards of three or four bodies, so good edge support would be required.

I know the adage is, “you get what you pay for”, but sometimes, you get a great bang for your buck, and in this case, that bang would be my Lucid Mattress.

The Lucid Mattress Specs

Measurements: 60” x 80” x 10”

Firmness: Medium

Amazon Listing

Disclosures: I’m an Amazon Prime Member, so I received free shipping.

Price at time of Purchase: $231.99

Current Price: $290

Review Count at Time of Post: 18,865 (4.4 out of 5 stars)

Initial Thoughts

Oh, it arrived early. A week earlier than Amazon slated, so it lived in my foyer for a week because the painters needed to be in the hallway.

There were a couple of bleary ones after unpacking. I had started moving in around 2 am that morning and got around to unpacking the mattress about… 12 hours later. This was after Chris H’s husband, Adam helped me reassemble the daybed with only three “I can’t find the damn hole” comments. Why Adam and not Chris? Well, she was seven months pregnant. Her only project was to “sit her ass down and look pretty.”

The first? “Is it going to expand on the corners?”

This is also one of the biggest complaints in the reviews I saw. But given Adam and I sort of rolled it out of the package and flopped it on the floor while we waited and moved everything else into my flat, I wasn’t expecting very much. You get what you pay for, right?

I’m pleasantly surprised when I say “not quite.”

The second? “Wait, it’s bumpy on the bottom.”

The third and final initial thought? “I expected it to smell funnier.”

Lucid Mattress Pros

My first pleased comment: It’s squishy. It is memory foam and the biggest complaint across the board about memory foam mattresses?

They get hot.

This one doesn’t due to the gel-infused memory foam. But heavier bodies will sink into it if you concentrate your weight in one spot. Like I do, when I sit cross-legged on it. 

It’s also great for naps that accidentally turn into all-night sleep. I’ve accidentally woken myself up with a sunrise once or twice and sleeping in my living room was not how I planned to spend that night, but that also means that sometimes, I detest moving from one spot. It’s so comfortable! 

A bonus is the Lucid mattress’s soft but pleasant firmness even knocks my hyperactive bestie down for the count when she “accidentally” falls over. I just wake her up and hour and a half later. She needs all the sleep she can get.

One of my requirements was edge retention, which on this mattress is pretty amazing. I can leave a leg or two over the edge for hours, in upwards of eight, and once you get up, you just watch the mattress reshape itself as if you were never there.

I mentioned noticing the bottom was covered in silicone bumps, not unlike those house slippers with the textured bottoms. Unlike my T&N, the Lucid mattress, once in place, will not shift on you which is great because the daybed has bunky boards rather than an actual frame for the mattress. 

I purchased the ten-inch Lucid mattress as I have a 10” T&N and felt that between the daybed frame and the mattress, it was a great height for short legs. I stand by that decision, though my mattress slip could stand to have an extra inch or two of height to fill it out better.  

Lucid Mattress Cons

Just two and they’re somewhat tiny but enough that I feel the need to mention them.

  1. The corners: I’m not sure what happened. I guess I didn’t let the mattress keep expanding, but the corners on this Lucid Mattress only expanded to about eight inches and not ten as advertised. This means sheets may fit a bit wonky since the corners aren’t filled out. This makes for a wibbly mattress slip, but nothing I can’t fix with mattress straps if it bothers me too much. It does look a bit weird though.
  2. Heat: Sometimes the Lucid Mattress gets warm. Which is great for the winter, but sucks for the summer.

The First Full-Sleep

Mind you, it was an accident. Because of the way I stage the Cuddlepit, a line of Euro pillows is my “sofa back” (technical term: scatterback). I am a firm believer in down/feather pillows because they have more depth to them, so we have seven pillows back there and that’s before I even start with the throw pillows, whose numbers vary because it really depends on my mood that week.

But I didn’t mean to fall asleep. I just meant to take a nap.

Which I wouldn’t advise to do at 11pm, but I was trying to be efficient with my time and wake up an hour and half later so I could go back to writing. Between the pillows and the mattress, and the warm embrace of a trusty blanket that lives in the cuddle pit (I clearly don’t need it elsewhere), I ended up sleeping for four hours.

I woke up to the sun being rude and shining in my eyes. Which was deliberate and why I put the day bed where I did, but semantics. But I also realized even with my sleep position, my back didn’t hurt. Which it does when I sleep on the other sofa by sheer accident.

Small win in my book.

Would You Buy the Lucid Mattress Again? 

Absolutely if I had a second guest room absolutely. If I had to give up my T&N for whatever reason, I’d consider it. There is another mattress I’d like to try also. I may even consider swapping my T&N and Lucid for a month to see how sleeping on it nightly fares.

Would I suggest the Lucid mattress to friends? Absolutely. Especially if they were looking for an inexpensive but good box mattress in a world of pretty expensive ones that don’t sleep well (looking at you, Casper).

So talk to me, have you played in the box mattress game yourself? If so, what mattress did you buy, and would you suggest it to others? Talk to me in the comments because I will rave for days about my Tuft & Needle mattress…

And I guess now I’ll also rave about the Lucid mattress too.

0 In Befores & Afters/ DIY/ Remote Life/ Resources

Death by Fluff: The Kotatsu Quilt Square

How to Kill Not One, But Two Sewing Machines

This post could easily be titled “More like how a kotatsu square quilt managed to damn near kill one sewing machine, made one metaphorically throw its hands in the air and give up on this project because it was too fluffy, and Natasha seriously contemplated an industrial sewing machine.”

I would have purchased one too if said industrial machines weren’t, you know, a cool $6,000 that I could be spending on everything else save a sewing machine for one project. Because oh, this quilt gave me fits.

Best part? It’s still not finished. My Heavy-Duty sewing machine decided to drop bobbin tension and gave up so I have the beautiful joy of hand stitching the last 20 inches.

</sarcasm>

So Why Did I Make the Kotatsu Quilt Square?

I didn’t HAVE to quilt a kotatsu square. But my god, I wanted to. Just to say I did. This was entirely a mess of my own making and I’m owning that.

However, let’s go back a few months to the day I’m on the Facebook Mobile Site (oh Zuck, why) and skimming over my local East Fremont Buy-Nothing group when I see one poster gifting an old kotatsu. He was no longer using it, it was just sitting in a closet and he had no real reason to use it anymore so he was gifting it to a new home.

Naturally, I took the topic to Twitter. Gimme’ that sweet, sweet dopamine hit, baby.

Do I Take the Free Kotatsu?

After the eighth “YES” – I hopped into the post with “if nobody else wants it, I can take it off of your hands.” I received the “when do you want to pick it up” DM about three hours later. Much to my complete delight.

That meant I had a bona fide mother hunking kotatsu and my little weeb heart was never happier.

A Natasha Thrilled with a Kotatsu

What IS a Kotatsu?

A kotatsu is a two-piece heated table hailing from Japan. In your average household, winters plus straw tatami mat floors made for some interesting times, because they burn easily. Really easily. Until someone came along, slapped a super weak heater under a table, dropped a blanket over it all, and smashed a heavy tabletop over it.

We can get into the laws of thermodynamics but that’s not my field and let’s just say the kotatsu is like a haven of warmth. It’s great! Just don’t fall asleep under one. I personally cannot fit under this one because I’m a fat American, but some folks can wedge their entire bodies under it without burning themselves. Your average kotatsu’s wattage would require a step-down generator, but since the previous owner wasn’t using one, I decided not to. Turns out, this particular kotatsu is American wattage-friendly.

He Just Gave It Away!

Wylder was happy (why, Wylder, why) to get it out of his flat. Even helped me put in my car. However, I’m pleased to announce, he now has regrets. I sent him the updated photos sometime before Halloween. Since he lived around the corner. Literally. I could have walked to his flat and carried the kotatsu home. But I had plans later that day, so the kotatsu lived in my car for a month. And then I moved, so it stayed in my backseat for a second month.

I brought it upstairs in early October, grabbed a forty-year-old quilt my great aunt, Juanita, made for my parents when they got married, threw it over the frame, set the tabletop over it, and well… 

…I hated it. It served its purpose just fine, but in my designed flat, it stuck out like a sore thumb. Which meant two things needed to happen:

kotatsu before a makeover
  1. The tabletop would need a makeover
  2. I would have to acquire a better quilt for it.

OR

I could just do it all myself.

Let’s Start with the Makeover

Going in, I knew the kotatsu was showing its age. The plastic top was discoloring from red to pink, the felt under the tabletop was discoloring also, and it was starting to fray around the edges. The plastic edge trim was cracked and taped into place and honestly, it would have been super cute in its heyday.

Right then, it looked tired.

I had a ton of butcher-block contact paper scraps from the bookcase project and pattern-matching wouldn’t be a concern or issue. The paper would hold up to the heater and oh, I could always change the pattern out if I got bored or damaged the contact paper in any way.

Supplies Needed?

  • A knife (I used my ever-handy box cutter)
  • Contact Paper
  • Patience
  • Flat edge – remember the cardboard I used in the bookcase project? I used that here because it was within arm’s reach.

The Tabletop Process

  1. Start in the Center of the tabletop: Lay down your largest piece of contact paper so it covers the middle. If it doesn’t reach from end to end – no big deal, it’s why you have multiple remnants.
  2. Go side to side. Finish laying the paper along the middle. This is how you’ll match your patterns once you start working on the edges.
  3. Oh look, you have gaps. That’s going to happen when you work with scraps. Start in the middle of the edge and lay down another piece of contact paper. You can match the pattern if you’re feeling froggy. If there’s excess, cut it off once the entire side is finished. Do the same on the opposite side of the tabletop.

The Tabletop Corner Edition:

  1. Corner time: Grab more remnants. Pattern-match to the best of your ability. I gave up and hoped for the best.
  2. The corners themselves will need a little more attention. Get those bubbles out to the pattern to the best of your ability and use a thumbnail or your razor (gently) to smooth those corners out. The sharp edge of your nail will go through the vinyl for a smooth curve. Warning: It’s Sexy and sort of distracting. Your mileage may vary.
  3. Just the tip: you’ll need the tip of your razor blade and run it along the edging trim slowly and gently, cutting away the excess paper and leaving a gorgeous surface behind.
  4. Ta-da!

And It was Fine… sort of

Honestly, it was fine for a while. But I had started to tear and rip my quilt in odd places because it was so threadbare – the quilt itself was in its 40s, okay? Fabric doesn’t age that well when you’re constantly using it.

But something else was needed. I needed more pop and something to hold the heat in better. I needed one of those quilts I saw in the anime that were super fluffy and I could just design the damn thing.

So I did, from scratch. Remember, I created this mess all on my own. I’d do it again too, just with a heftier sewing machine.

The Kotatsu Quilt Square: Initial Phase

  1. Decide how the square will look. Mine was a teahouse tatami-esque pattern with a wide edge. I wanted the edge to be white because quilt sheeting is 118” wide, came in two colors of white and eggshell, and I was going to soak the entire thing in fabric protectant. Because lugging this thing downstairs to wash on the regular – no thank you.
    
  2. Draw it up! This is where I decided how big the square was going to be (85” x 85”). How fluffy would it be? Very fluffy, what materials would I use, etc.
    
  3. Order the materials: in this case, I only ordered the quilt sheeting. The rest of my supplies were either around my apartment or oh no, a trip to IKEA to buy things. Heavens. Whatever would I do? (I bought 6 of those comforters.)

The Kotatsu Quilt Square Supply Breakdown:

  • Gray velvet: leftover from headboard project
  • Hunter green broadcloth: initially slated for a duvet cover, but I had a 3-yrd piece because fabric comes in 22yrd bundles.
  • Hunter green velvet: leftover from a February 2020 sofa project
  • Stuffing: 3 IKEA comforters
  • Quilt Sheeting: Ordered from FabricWholeSaleDirect.
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Patience
  • A Sewing Machine capable of handling 15 layers of fabric. (It doesn’t exist on the consumer market.)
  • More patience
  • You thought I was kidding about patience?

The Kotatsu Quilt Square Process Part 1:

  1. Wash the sheeting: It’s 100% cotton, it would shrink in the wash. Pre-shrink it first.
    
  2. Iron everything. Which meant spending some quality time ironing 108” of 118” wide fabric. I wasn’t looking for pristine flat fabric, but I needed to iron the bigger wrinkles out.
    
  3. Cut your fabric to size.
    
  4. Assemble the top layer. My first sewing machine handled this part perfectly.
    
  5. Assemble your fluff – sew three comforters so they’re one squishy fluffy sandwich. Leave 20 inches free on one side so you can flip them inside out into one big puffy cloud. Don’t worry about sewing this part shut – you won’t see it once the quilt is assembled.

The Kotatsu Quilt Square Process Part 2:

  1. Assemble your quilt: Lay your quilt sheeting down on the floor > fluff > top layer.
    
  2. Fold up your edges and tack into place with a needle and thread. The corners will need to be faux mitered.
    
  3. Faux miter your corners – we’re not actually mitering the corners. They’re too fluffy. But we can fake it! Flip your corners over to cover the fluffy bits. Now fold in your straight edges so it looks like you painstakingly mitered the corner. Tack into place with needle and thread. If it just happens to look like an uncut penis, well, it’s because this author is mentally a 12-year kid and I can’t unsee it.
    
  4. Tack your inner square down to the bottom sheeting. We could pin everything, but there’s too much fluff. The average quilting pins are not up for the job. Guess how I know? Go on. I’ll wait.
    
  5. Slowly sew your quilt. Start on the straight sides. I used black thread here. I say slowly because there’s a lot of fluff involved and your machine may not quite be able to handle it. It’ll try. My 20-year-old Brother was not up for the task. My Heavy-Duty Singer sort of gave up when I had to reset the bobbin.
    
  6. Give up on using the machine and hand-stitch the rest.

Next Steps

  1. Soak in Fabric Protectant and Waterproofing solution. Ignore how the green bleeds into the white underneath. It’s FINE. (Warning: Pomegranate seeds will test this. Why did we use white? BLEACH.)
  2. Toss over kotatsu frame
  3. Smash tabletop into place
  4. Enjoy!

Final Lessons Learned

First Lesson

Not even a 20-year old Brother sewing machine that could and had handled eight layers of upholstery velvet without blinking, couldn’t handle this project.

Second Lesson

Humans will packbond to anything. My mother heard me in tears over the phone because I was begging my Brother Machine to not hate me because I purchased a second machine.

“Natasha, are you apologizing to a sewing machine?” 

“Shut up, Mom!”

Third Lesson

My HD Singer tried to handle it and lost bobbin tension with 20 inches left. Consumer heavy-duty machines are not quite up for the task of a quilt this fluffy. Death by fluff, RIP sewing machines everywhere.

Final Lesson

Pomegranate seeds are the bane of my existence. That wasn’t the lesson I learned though. The actual lesson was this would have been a hell of a lot cheaper if I had just bought a kotatsu square on Amazon or something. It wouldn’t have been as fluffy and probably would have been uglier but this square is luxury-level cost, effort, and has velvet on it and we are in love. 

Initial Quilt Cost:

Comforters: 30$

Sheeting: 27$

Stain Solution: $12

Fabric: Free

And then I was forced to upgrade my machine. So…

Final Cost: $400

0 In Befores & Afters/ DIY/ Resources

IKEA EXPEDIT MAKEOVER

The Grand IKEA EXPEDIT Makeover. Also known as an IKEA Expedit shakes off two dusty previous owners and earns its sexy butcher-block makeover.

OR.

Ed gave me his old EXPEDIT 2×4. It’s your standard dark brown wood veneer affair and he was owner number 2. Part of his flat renovations included a kitchen bar, which meant he no longer had room for the shelf unit and I now had plenty of space for additional future. 

Fortunately, my landlord knows I have an affinity for “making things pretty”, Yvonne did not (she now stands corrected) and mentioned the unit didn’t quite fit my aesthetic.

Ed: “Don’t worry, she has an idea.”

Nat: “Oh, I have like eight ideas.”

– When I was signing my lease

This is true and I had like eight ideas off the top of my bed before I finished reading and signing my lease. I think I flipped through six or seven ideas and settled on the GRAND IKEA EXPEDIT MAKEOVER.

But you know those projects where you have high hopes and think you don’t need as much material as you think you do?

This is one of those projects. Half of the reason it took so long because I kept thinking “oh, six rolls of contact paper will be PLENTY!”

Narrator: That was incorrect.

The Contact Paper

I have a small one-sided love affair with DC-Fix Contact paper. Every variety I’ve used has this gorgeous, thick finish and that’s understandable, it’s meant to be used on countertops. I redid my Helmer Drawer units in the white-gray marble paper (which I think I need to redo).

It’s also staticky as hell. A sharp straight edge is required to get rid of the bubbles and in some cases, I just embraced the bubbles because they were happening whether I liked it or not. I decided to match my bamboo picture ledges (yay, IKEA), therefore I chose to use the butcher block colorway. 

Supply List

The IKEA Makeover Process:

  1. Measure: Every single surface. 
    • Your shelves from front to back, side to side. Rinse and repeat for the entire unit. Yes, even the little transition pieces. Measure it ALL! 
    • Write those measurements down. 
    • Go measure again. I’m serious. You probably measured wrong.
    • Confirm your first measurements were correct. Bet you measured wrong, didn’t you?
  2. Mark: With your pen and ruler, unroll your first roll of paper and with the helpful grid on the backside, mark out your pieces. I started with the interior pieces, knowing my external sides would take up the most paper. Work carefully here, because you’ll want to puzzle together as much on one roll as you can actively get away with.
  3. Cut: Now carefully, cut your pieces from that roll. GO SLOW. Use your straight edge or in my case, an acrylic ruler to make sure I stayed on my lines and cut slowly.
  4. Save: See how much you’re cutting away as scrap? Don’t throw it away, reroll it. I found two other projects to use and I have 3 more on the way. The waste will get used. Calm down.
  5. Peel: Once a piece is cut, carefully peel an edge away and set that edge into place. Use your straight edge as you peel away the backing paper.
  6. Press: Once your paper is set, use your straight edge or thumbnail to press the opposite edge into place. If you have excess hanging over your edge, use your razor blade to cut off the bits.
  7. Do It Again: Only 35 more surfaces left! This project took ME about two weeks at 6hours at a time, but also because I kept running out of paper. Be patient.

The Final Result?

Ta-da! The unit now sits in my bedroom under a set of picture ledges. I originally had plans to set up a pole in the bedroom, but now that I look at my budget, I think it’s a project I may cut for future reasons. 

So now your chance. Tell me about your favorite IKEA makeovers or the ones you wish you could do. Let’s share the makeover fun!

IKEA EXPEDIT Makeover Final Result - butcher-block contact paper covered shelf unit sits on the long side under a set of bamboo picture ledges against a light gray wall
0 In Finances/ Life Lessons

Life Goal: Auto Loan Paid in Full

auto-loan-payoff

I even paid my auto loan off early!

Paying my car off was not on my 2020 Ta-Da list. The loan maturation date was sometime in April 2021, but past Nat made a terribly awesome decision to pay beyond the monthly payment. I learned a lot along the way, so I’ll share those lessons with you in this post.

Lesson 1: Avoid the auto loan in the first place

In my case, it was unavoidable. I financed my car entirely back in 2015 because my first car had more than its fair share of issues (brakes, suspension, transmission number 3) and after my last car door lock broke – duct tape was involved, I pulled into the CarMax lot about an hour after I got off of a plane.

The sales guy wasn’t going to let me leave in my first car. I still remember his expression when I pulled into the dealership that somehow let my brother have a car and I had the steadier job between the two of us. I had reserved my current car while I was out of state at a convention in Georgia and after my bank sneered at me for daring to get a loan in the first place, I had to eat a 485$ a month car payment with Gap insurance. That was when I learned just how quickly my money moves. Which is a loan rejection reason.

“Your money moves too fast.” Excuse me for paying bills?

Not that said gap insurance did me any good, but it did make my insurance company happy. If I had a better trade-in or actual funds for a down payment, I would have put it down. Instead, I had a 400$ scrap to my name. But I needed a car.

So I now had a six-year auto loan. Yay.

Lesson 2: Pay over the loan’s minimum payment

Don’t ask me where I heard the tip. Maybe it was something I found on the Internet. Maybe it was from a friend. But instead of paying that 485$ a month, I bumped my payment up to $500 a month and hoped it was a good idea. It was a handsome chunk of change to lose each month, but I needed the car and it was a perfect fit for my lifestyle. The cost was doable, but I had to be smart about my budget. Past Nat was a clever cookie. It was just another step in paying off my auto loan early.

Lesson 3: Savings accounts are your friend

Any time I incur any sort of significant windfall (over $300), I deposit it straight into my savings account. Well, I have it set to be wired straight to my savings account so I don’t have to think about it. I just am surprised when I receive a notification from my credit union and do a tiny little dance.

But the hero, in this case, was my savings account. I would check in on my car loan each month to see when it would reach a level that I could pay off all at all.

Once the account hit 3k, I made that transfer the next week.

Don’t worry, I had a full-blown freak out over it. I’ve never moved so much money in my life and I moved across the damn country.

Lesson 4: Pay off the Auto Loan early

I know, I know, the credit experts tell you not to pay off auto loans and personal loans early to because it screws up your credit score. Well, I needed that extra 500$ back in order to make rent, so my credit score can suffer a bit. I had a goal where I paid my auto loan off early. I just didn’t know what early actually meant. But doing so was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done in my life. Now if only I can unsaddle the credit card debt.

I’m working on it.

Lesson 5: Do not lease an apartment you have to dance to pay for

Still learning this one. Turns out, your first paycheck going straight to a cell phone bill and rent and having to pay remaining expenses from the second paycheck is not my best strategy and I need a new one. Would love to hear some not-spammy feedback on this topic.

Goal 1: Auto Loan Paid In Full – Complete

This was a goal I had on my 10-year plan and I’m happy to say, my car is entirely mine, complete with the overpayment check I deposited into savings.

…And then someone hit me at a red light and I backed into a second car later down the road. Because this is what happens when you own your car outright, right?

Unfortunately, my car has a time limit, because the Silver Comet’s clearance is too low to drive on the beach sand. But that’s a bridge I’ll cross at a future time.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite loan payoff tips you’ve learned over the years? Share it in the comments below so we can help each other!

0 In DIY/ Life Lessons/ Mental Health

Emerald City Quarantine Diaries Catch-Up Post: Burnout

Burnout, What Is It?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. – HelpGuide

I knew it was coming. You could even say I saw it coming. I just wasn’t sure when it would get here. After the last few weeks’ events and trying to manage both my own anxiety and that of friends, I crashed and burned.

Completely.

Utterly.

And so very hard.

It took me a few days to realize what exactly happened. Burnout.

Which is something I’m pretty familiar with because due partially to burnout being the reason I shuttered Full Moon Beauty. That and COVID-19 being so much bigger than I initially thought.

Or maybe it was seeing all of my friends get furloughed or lose their jobs entirely. Regardless, I found myself forced to pivot in a way that would be so much more helpful to the collective. But I forgot one important thing in this entire mess.

I Forgot Myself

I forgot to take care of myself. In my efforts to care for everyone else, I stumbled over my own rapidly-emptying bucket of feels and found myself pouring from empty. Fortunately, I’ve been through burnout enough that I know how to at least get myself stable. It’s not easy, it takes time and as of penning this entry, I’m still battling waves of random emotional instability.

Physical affection is a huge help. It’s also scarce when you’re supposed to be social distancing and staying at least six feet apart with a mask and gloves if you’re immunocompromised. I reached out to a friend who was within walking distance and we grilled each other on a level that honestly felt like I was asking a prospective sex partner about STDs and their sexual history to determine whether or not they were safe. The same feeling and it’s still weird.

But it was necessary because I was cracking and breaking fast.

Now I’m getting the hugs I craved. We both are, which makes us both feel somewhat more human than we were a few weeks ago. There was even a chance to drown my sorrows in petting two cats and a dog. All crafting stopped around week 4, which you may not have noticed, but I didn’t post that entry. Because that entire week was simply my survival. The next week though, I took my time in picking myself back up.

Picking Myself Back Up

It wasn’t easy on my side. The first part was admitting that I needed support. Friends around me enjoy pointing out just how often I hate asking for the help that they know I need, and while I’m glad they’re supportive, it felt like that the first part of my month was dominated by my father’s issues, not exactly my own and I didn’t want to wear them out.

Look, I never said it was a rational feeling, but that’s how I was feeling throughout week 3 and week 4. Week 5 was punctuated with a damn hug and a night spent at a friend’s where we could just exist in the same space and get the affection we craved. It wasn’t the smartest idea, it wasn’t the best idea, but it’s working.

I broke Quarantine. It was better than my own mind breaking to try to do my part with social distancing. Week 5 and 6 also heralded a couple of new additions to the apartment.

Addition 1: Bamboo Shelves

bamboo shelves on a wallThese 16” shelves were an Amazon find when IKEA failed me. This wall called for a couple of shelves in order to balance out a future medium-scaled commissioned art piece. Having two of the shelves also lets me get a few fragile items up off of my dresser and altar shelf. Thankfully, these also arrived in a 2-pack!

One day, I’ll create a tutorial about how I am hanging everything on my own, but these make it pretty simple to do if you have a bubble or laser level. The built-in mounting hardware is the part that you’ll need to ensure is level, and it helps if you screw at least one side into the wall and figure it out from there. The shelves look amazing and were just one material step in helping me recover from burnout.

Addition 2: Boom Microphone

boom-microphoneYou can probably guess that I’m working on an overreaching project here. It’s bonus time at the Day Job and the Blue Yeticaster Microphone sat on my wishlist for three months before I just bought it. I’m still working out some kinks in sound quality, but once I do, I’ll let you all know where that project is heading. I can’t wait to share it with you! Mental health note: a surefire way to help conquer burn out is to introduce a task that lights your fire, so to speak. Podcasting always intrigued me, but not enough to actively pursue it. Well, now I’m not going anywhere, so here we are!

Addition 3: Ring Light

I know there are smaller ring lights out there.  This one sat on my wish list since last summer when I mulled over the idea of starting a Youtube Channel. For selfish reasons, this one makes my skin look flawless.

Oh, yeah, some of the topics I want to cover with this blog are better suited for video. So this blog is going to be on Youtube. Granted, this move might be ill-timed since I know the Landlord is considering a rent raise. If he does, I’m going to see if I can swap units with another resident.

Which means a bigger space!

Addition 4: Circle Skirt

If you’ve been reading through these entries, I adopted sewing as a way to stay steady throughout this COVID-19 affair. When I identified the burnout back in Week 4, I knew a sewing project would be helpful. But I didn’t want to work on pillows. Rather, I opted for clothing and started planning a massive circle skirt.

Honestly, it started with a set of sheets I had for at least a decade. I wouldn’t say that they hold value to me, but they are soft, and they are pretty, and they were just enough fabric for a 4-paneled circle skirt. I’ll share the finished results in Week 7’s entry as part of the process is to hang your skirt so it can stretch and then you trim. I still haven’t trimmed it. Life got away with me. But I am excited about it. You can see other pictures and the finished result will also be posted to Instagram!

There are not enough words to describe how liberating I am finding creation though. It’s been enough of an energy boost that I’ve made four rosette pillows to date and have plans for eight more. I haven’t been feeling creative writing-wise and I would usually read, but my hands (and to that extent my brain) aren’t doing anything.

Or they could be repeatedly stabbing a piece of fabric that after a few hours of effort turns into something beautiful and usable other than a piece of fabric. I can transform an IKEA curtain into a gorgeous pillow or quilt that can be used for more than just light and sound blocking. When my anxiety ramps up to 10,000, the repetition is very grounding and right now, grounding is required.

Recovering From Burnout

You don’t.

At least not immediately. Sitting with that feeling for weeks or months, in some cases, years and you find something else to be passionate about. This helps you mentally reroute and find happiness there. The hardest part is learning what caused the burnout and then trying not to do that again. Learning how to avoid the same patterns and eventually, you learn how to avoid starting that pattern altogether. Then and only then will you recover.

We’ve all been there. Some of us more than once, which is probably a flag in of itself, but it’s been a journey for me and part of the reason I feel confident saying the above. But let’s be real here, the last few weeks have not been easy, for anyone. I know you’re all feeling it because I am feeling it too.

Stay Home, Stay Healthy

I’m writing the initial draft of this entry on May 6, 2020. Our Stay-Home, Stay-Healthy Order has been extended through May 31st, so we’re in lock-down at least through that point. I have no idea what the future holds, but whatever it does, I hope you’re staying home yourself and keeping yourself healthy. 

Be safe and know that my comments and email are always open to you should you need a safe ear to help you get through this mess.

0 In Life Lessons/ Mental Health

Emerald City Quarantine Diaries Week 3: Survive

]What should have been a fun Zoom call turned tragic this Sunday. If my father had been alone, he would have died of a massive heart attack in Ohio. Fortunately, he was trying to help out a friend with fixing her car. She administered chest compressions. I couldn’t do anything except survive the week.

This week’s entry comes with content warnings due to the topics mentioned.

Content Warning: Cardiac discussion | Toxic Behavior

My first Zoom call ever was that Sunday morning. A friend hosted along with some of her circle (a few folks I was acquainted with). We jived pretty well, the conversations were hopping, but then my father called. 

Background

Estranged is being used because this is a man whom I acknowledge as my father, I do love him. But having a relationship with the man in our adult years grew increasingly toxic, so I had to step away, a few thousand miles away.

  1. He doesn’t pay for his own cell phone. I have since 2006. My brother and I decided back then that if it hadn’t been for our intervention, we’d never hear from the man.
  2. In finding an apartment for him (which he was evicted from a year later), I ensured his cashflow was enough for him to live. Somehow, that cash went to everything but his living expenses.
  3. Each conversation I have with the man usually includes a request for money because he didn’t budget properly. Once or twice, sure, I can swing that. Every conversation since I left Ohio? Your children are not a bank account you as a parent can withdraw from whenever you desire.

The voice on the other end was not my father.

It was the woman who’s car he was in the middle of fixing. He collapsed, seized, and lost control of his bodily functions. She administered chest compressions until the EMTs arrived. The EMTs suspected COVID-19 complications. After thanking her for being there, the first thing I did was make sure she was okay, because I can only imagine how traumatic that must have been for her. She adores my father, which is good, but she also had had no clue what his family history was like.

After the ambulance was en route to the hospital, she called his Emergency Contacts.

My number is second in his In Case of an Emergency log.

There isn’t a lot one can do when your city has a Stay-At-Home order in place and there’s a pandemic ravaging through said city. Having me listed as an ICE contact doesn’t exactly work because I’m not local.

So I stayed home.

Survive

Some weeks aren’t positive. You exist, you take care of yourself, you do what you need to do to get through the day, and you rinse and repeat to survive the next day. This week found me in that odd state of feeling numb, removed from everything, and I feel like all I did was exist and cry over the phone. My other job turned into fielding phone calls and making Facebook updated. The rest of the week was parroting updates I received. Then I realized since I was three time-zones over, they updated me last. I stopped sharing updates.

That was when my goal for the week was singular: survive. After reeling, grieving, and monitoring the situation back in Ohio, my life didn’t stop because I had an estranged parent in a hospital handling active COVID-19 cases. When the Head ER Nurse asked if I would be flying in and from where the fastest shutdown I ever received outside of a sale would be when she heard “Seattle” leave my mouth.

“Sweetheart, stay home. Stay there. It would be criminally irresponsible for you to jump on a plane, pick up another vicious strain of COVID-19 and then introduce it here in Cincinnati. You will stay at home. We’ll take care of him here.”

Rational Natasha knew this. But Rational Natasha not present during my subsequent meltdown. 

The Reason

We can thank societal conditioning for my reaction to the news. Nothing quite said “bad child who couldn’t take care of a parent like she was supposed to” then not being able to fly back to Ohio at the drop of a hat. Don’t bother unpacking that right now, I will take the time to unpack those issues in Week 5. But I’d be a terrible human if I flew out to Cincinnati, so I stayed home and sat enthralled at how fast my support network (that I had no idea would actually do anything) moved.

When Your Support Network Moves Fast

In a panic move, I tweeted that I needed help. I posted a similar message to alert my father’s family on Facebook.

Magic happened.

A friend reached out immediately and I spent a good half hour sobbing on the phone with her. Another few messaged me, one being the Zoom call hostess because I forgot to turn my camera off. The general gist that they’d be here if they could be, but thanks to the pandemic, we had to keep our buns home.

My next phone call was to my mom. She divorced my father about seven or eight years ago. The main question on my brain was naturally about finances because I know those two filed for bankruptcy at one point and it devastated them.

“What happens if he dies? I can’t pay his bills.”

Terry, her husband, took over that call. The man is a master with legal issues. Hearing “if that happens, I’ll pay for your lawyer so you won’t have to,”  was the most comforting words I ever heard. Well, also hearing my mom acknowledge that yes, I am an adult, but I’m allowed to not have everything together right now. He would let me have my well-deserved meltdown.

She took over finding out the updates for me at that point. Which would be funny to those who know me, because I’m great in a crisis. But not when it’s one crisis nested in the middle of another global crisis.

In an effort to regain stability, I shifted my attention to the weather because, during the said meltdown,  I did notice that my neighborhood got some pretty good hail and rain.

The Weather

One of the biggest things I miss from living in the Midwest is thunderstorms. Due to the microclimates and topography of the city, Seattle doesn’t achieve quite the right conditions for the cacophonous thunderstorms I’m used to. But we do occasionally get them. I can count on one hand the number I’ve heard. It would stay gloomy that entire week. Which, relatable, because I spent the rest of that week an emotional wreck.

Whenever I feel unsteady, I cope by reaching for things I feel are steady. In this case, since we all are supposed to stay inside, I focused on my day job and improving my personal living aesthetic, which I’m referring to as “bohemian glam”.

What is Bohemian Glam?

Bohemian glam is relatively new to the decor scene, but a quick Pinterest Seach will bombard you with a mashup of bohemian decor. The style incorporates a lot of warmth, woods and rattans, plants, soft textures, in combination with the glitz and glitter that comes with glamourous decor.

Basically, it’s the style I want for my studio space, and I’m getting there. The soft pinks and magentas are being swapped out for gem tones and deep grays, white for warmer bamboo, and textures that are not just velvet but are still soft with cotton rope and wool roving. Essentially, I want a jungalow. I’m blaming my four very happy succulents here. To be fair, I was going to be stuck in my flat through May 4th, so I might as well lean into it.

a glass house containing tables and sofas with chandeliers

Stay-At-Home Orders & Mental Health

Governor Inslee extended our Stay-Home, Stay-Healthy Order on April 2, 2020. The order now ends on May 4, 2020, which wasn’t a surprise since other states were also extended their orders, but it sucked. My heart breaks for the small businesses I love and support because I have no idea how they’ll recover from this. Especially since actual small businesses are not receiving the SBA loans that are going to corporate franchises instead. But that’s also out of my control. 

Another three weeks of no physical contact, that I can control and I hate it. Being physically affectionate with friends and not being able to hug them is beginning to wear. I know how squirrelly I get after four weeks of no contact and after the events of this week, all I want are hugs. Even when my anxiety makes my skin so sensitive and itchy that wearing clothes actually hurts.

It would be an interesting few more weeks. By interesting, I mean trying. It would be a trying few more weeks, but I’ll survive those by focusing on something I can create. 

In other words, I started another Canadian Smocked Pillow.

Projects: Canadian Smocked Pillow

I delight in creating beautiful things. Words, occasional pictures (I am not an artist), websites, home decor, if I have a plan, I can take off from there! Sewing has been my go-to over the last few weeks. There’s something amazing with watching the project form as I move from planning to finishing that final knot!

the underside of green velvet covered in a chalk grid

I started a second Canadian-smocked pillow in the same hunter green velvet as the first one. Because I have so many of the IKEA Sanela panels left. Sewing through each line of the grid keeps my hands busy. I can focus on just going through the motions of attaching each corner together, sewing it, knot, clip it and move on to the next square. Seeing how the smocking develops after a foot or two is enough to get me going, and then it’s just a race to the finish. If you want to try to make one of your own, you can check out Christine McConnell’s tutorial over on Youtube

Survive. That’s all.

Let’s be real here, I wish I had more to offer with this post. In order to avoid emotional black holes that are grief and family history that nobody needs to hear about, I’m going to keep it high-level. We made it through this week. If all you did was survive, I need you to know that you’re doing great.

0 In DIY/ Life Lessons/ Mental Health/ Remote Life

Emerald City Quarantine Diaries Week 2: Stay-At-Home Order

Week 2 was when things took a turn for the well, I can’t say unexpected, because California issued the Stay-At-Home Order before Washington did, so it was expected, but nobody expected it to hit quite as hard as it did. I launched a couple of projects this week in order to keep my own spirits up and realized that I could actively help others who felt like their wings had been “clipped” by the Stay-At-Home Order.

The Stay-At-Home Order

Governor Inslee announced the Stay-At-Home Order on March 23,2020. It was rumored for the previous week, but after the rising number of COVID-19 cases here in Washington State, the move was beyond required. The only reasons we’re allowed to leave our homes are:

  • Grocery & Pharmacy Trips
  • Taking medical care of someone else
  • Exercise

Doesn’t sound like fun, huh?

The Quaran-Tea-In

Because it’s not. But that’s okay, I am a creative creature and since I am a remote employee, I know many ways to stay social while keeping my backside at home. I joked on my side Twitter account that I would start a weekly chat that I jokingly called the Quaran-tea-in. It went live on Wednesday that week and is a weekly chat where a lot of the Friday Afternoon Tea regulars can pop in, fill their social spoons, and then leave at their leisure. My parent company may view it as a slight against their resources, but I’m slotting my use of the Professional Google Meet network as a way of helping out my community. Some days, the Quaran-tea-in is the only thing I look forward all day or week.

craft-n-chat-weekly-google-meet-invite

Which is another way I realized I could help others. Several friends reached out to ask me how to stay sane and level during the Stay-At-Home order and I hope this can help you also.

One Thing To Look Forward To

Find One Thing to Look Forward to, Every Day. Just one thing. You can have several things you want to do that day, but just have one to look forward to. Then go do that one thing and relish the feeling when you do the thing. Why?

Because some days, being at home, seeing the same walls every day will mess with your head and even I’ve fallen into the trap of “I’m going to be alone forever” and other very dark thoughts. Or I can pivot and find one thing to look forward to each day. It could be as simple as a cup of coffee, or basking in a sunbeam, or the dance party I’ll have by myself at 2pm to an invisible audience of 30 thousand viewers. I didn’t say that it had to make sense. Just that it’s something you look forward to doing. That week, my one thing became planting trees. That week, Brandi J, over at Hey Brandi, introduced me to the Forest App.

Forest Focus App

I’ll admit I have a phone addiction. Born from Anxiety, my phone provides a distraction when I’m uncomfortable, bored, scared, or lonely. It’s an outlet to the outside world around me and a guard for when I need it. But I’m also reaching for the said phone when I shouldn’t be. Brandi kept mentioning she was growing trees in our shared Slack channel and introduced me to Forest, a focus app that lets you “plant trees” and grow the trees for as long as you put your phone down. Pick it up, the app will tell you to put it back down so the tree can grow. 

Quartz Forest App Screencap

Your goal is to plant 25 trees a day to fill up your forest. You pick your tree, set your timer for however long you need to focus, and then go do something else. Once your tree has grown, you can collect coins to put toward:

  • New trees
  • Ambient noise

Planting Real Trees

Or upgrade to the Pro edition where you can actually contribute to real trees being planted in exchange for you focusing for up to two hours at a time. Bonuses are baked into the app like:

  • Double coins if you watch ads (the longer the focus – the shorter the ad)
  • Double trees once you go above 60 minutes
  • 4x the trees at 120 minutes of focus

The game has been a delight and helps me audit my phone time. Which is great on days where Executive Dysfunction is running rampant, but also is a fun conversation starter for those who are bored at home. A trap I also fall into when I’m not crafting.

Crafting

I finished my massive wall art this week. The final product included cotton rope and two colors of wool roving,  two moon phase wall hangings that I purchased (retail therapy is a coping method), and then had nowhere to actually hang them. The final product measures six feet wide by 4 ft tall and I pet it every day to marvel over how well it came together. But mainly because it kept me busy and focused. I’ll walk through the project in a separate post at a later time, but it finished my kitchen in a way I did not expect.

black and cream macrame wall hanging surrounding wall sconce with moon phase metal attachments

Wall Ledges

Up next on my “slow apartment makeover during Social-Distancing” were these bamboo picture ledges I acquired from IKEA. I had the White Mosslanda ones for about two years, but the bamboo sang its seductive song and I found my original color scheme for the past (entry here) wasn’t quite “me” anymore.

white ikea mosslanda picture ledges on a wall with colorful art

Change is a constant, so I put up the first two to see if they’d even work for the space. If they didn’t, I’d have taken advantage of IKEA’s super generous return policy. Or I would have if the retail stores weren’t shut down with the Stay-At-Home Order. I’d finish putting the shelves up the following week, but so far so good. I’m in love with how much warmth these ledges infuse into my flat.

bamboo picture ledges provide an altar

Euro Shams

A few weeks prior, Friday and I finally finished reupholstering her sofa (images will be posted on Instagram within the week). But then I realized I had 12 yards of hunter green velvet left, (2 sets of curtains), so I decided to make her a set of Euro Shams and a Canadian Smocked Pillow. Those will also be written up in a different entry (I’ll revisit) since they turned out pretty well. I’ve decided to make a few of my own while in lockdown. Except mine will have button closures. I do not have the patience to deal with three more sets of zipper closures. It doesn’t leave me with enough spoons to help others.

hunter-green velvet euro sham and canadian smocked pillow

How I Coped This Week

Your mileage may vary. Some days, I’d be honest with whoever asks and admit that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Even my own patience with myself is tested. But I am the queen of distraction, so I like to host the occasional game on Twitter I call “WhatChaDrinkin?”

Maybe it’s because my best friend owns a teashop with a fairly rabid social network, but the game gains traction after a few retweets. Tea makes this lockdown business that much easier to deal with. Another method I’ve been employing is a tried and true coping method.

I own an inflatable T-Rex Costume. Yes, one of those. They’re hilarious to watch on Youtube and in-person and while they are a pain in the ass to wear if you’re 5’4” and the facing seam is hitting you in the eyes and forehead, the sheer delight I see on others’ faces when I wear the damned costume makes the effort worth it.

They’re even funnier when a friend owns their own costume. Sarah and I decided to meet up at a socially-accepted distance of six feet at her townhouse where we’d suit up and take advantage of dead streets to well, do a safety walk in the T-Rex Costumes.

We took our spectacle onto 45th Street and watched the cars go by, half of the drivers would drive super slow to get photos (of course they did) and the rest would honk their horns because there are two dinosaurs sitting on a bench and watching cars go by. It’s unexpected. It’s hilarious. Our neighborhood needed a laugh. I know I needed it, especially after how many times I uttered: “what the hell” as the news of the week came in daily or in one case, hourly.

What the Hell?

Did you know FEMA uses Waffle House status’ to determine how badly a disaster-affected an area? The 24/7 breakfast chain doesn’t close unless the store has been damn near demolished. If the Waffle House is closed, you keep driving because something awful has happened.

Waffle House closed 365 stores due to COVID-19. Just in case you didn’t take COVID-19 seriously, the corporation behind Waffle House certainly is. 

I know staying home is hard, especially when it’s mandated, but come Week Four, our staying home will help flatten the curve. In the meantime, if you need to vent, talk, share what’s working for you to help you cope with Stay-At-Home Orders, my comments are open to you! 

See you in Week Three!

0 In DIY/ Life Lessons/ Mental Health/ Remote Life

Emerald City Quarantine Diaries Week 1: Social Distancing Lessons

Disclaimer

I, Natasha, am not a licensed medical professional. But I can do research just like anyone else and I have a super unhealthy fascination with Epidemiology. Resource links for those who are licensed medical professionals will be scattered through this post because that’s where I pulled my information from. As of April 5, 2020, if you’re not practicing social distancing, please do so.

So What the Heck Is Going On?

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), or as it’s currently referred to as “the Coronavirus”. Which sends me into fits of “well, actually” and yes, I did subject a dear friend to a “well, actually.” It wasn’t a good look, but I was so tired of hearing “the coronavirus” when that reference just isn’t accurate. Give me 10 seconds, I have my reasons.

Coronaviruses are the family of viruses whose protein structure looks like it’s wearing a “Corona” or a crown. Which will be hilarious if Cells At Work decides to tackle the virus once this mess has peaked and it no longer qualifies as a pandemic. Coronaviruses are responsible for 20 to 30% of your average Winter/Spring colds and tend to go dormant in the summer. Turns out, the viruses do not do well with heat. Which is relatable, because I don’t either.

Novel Coronavirus is a new strain (hence the “novel”) that the collective doesn’t have immunity (herd or otherwise) to, unless you suffer through it. I will refer to the virus through this entry as COVID-19, as it was discovered in December 2019. The United States (at least the general public) started hearing about it right around the beginning of January, when it was ravaging through the Wuhan province.

Seattle is a port city, so it’s usually the first stop planes departing from Asia make once they’re over the Pacific Ocean. We, the general public of Seattle thought we were okay, until folks started getting seriously sick after PAX Unplugged 2020. But it wasn’t RSV or the flu. And those folks did get better, but it took about a month until they were baseline again.

Things got worse in February.

The Timeline + Some Salt

I filed for two weeks off back in December 2019. Day Job makes taking said time off damn near impossible and I had 45 days to burn, so I did the same thing that I did last year. I applied for the 10 days surrounding and including Emerald City Comic Con, where I’d sling tea for one of Friday’s best revenue-driving weekends for the year. Two weeks prior to that, things got weird.

Real weird.

COVID-19 hit Washington State in January and made headlines with it’s rapid spread, enough that Reed Pop decided to postpone ECCC due to attendee, exhibitor, and vendor concerns. The con tends to see around 40,000 people and last year’s Con Crud was this fun mix of Bronchitis and Pneumonia. I say this, because I fell ill and was miserable for three weeks following Con. This year, I prepared for it, hence the 10 days PTO.

But after some pressure from said day job, which had told everyone to just work from home anyway and to avoid crowds of over 500 people, I shaved my PTO down to 4 days. And then shaved it again down to two days when ECCC was postponed until August. The environment was starting to get tense and weird. Like overly weird to the point of concerning and I needed a break from work because my brain was fried.

We (coworkers and myself) were asked to socially distance ourselves and if all else failed – stay home around the beginning of March 2020.

Thus Begins The Emerald City Quarantine Diaries

This series is where I make attempts to stay healthy even though I am a sucker for physical affection and love my people. Even if I haven’t seen 75% of them in weeks now.

This series will cover projects I’m doing to help stay sane in my solitude, why I’m all but staying home, the dangers of COVID-19, why it’s so contagious, and how I leverage my studio space and the dance pole in the middle of my kitchen.

Week One started off odd because Monday and Tuesdays were my two days off. I began working on my latest project, a large-scale piece of Macrame Wall Art. Otherwise, it was very much an ebb-and-flow, especially when I learned that a majority of my daily routine didn’t change. 

I am an introvert after all.

Introvert Life

I’m a homebody. There, I said it. One of my Seattle Bucket List items was to see my apartment featured on Apartment Therapy, so I pour a LOT of time into my 400 sq. feet. I go to the grocery store twice a week, usually on foot, take walks around the neighborhood, but since a lot of my fitness classes are already streamed, I don’t really step foot in gyms. I usually spend one or two days a week at the Tea Shop nearby to see other humans, but for the most part, I tend to keep to myself unless there’s a social activity to which I’ve been invited.

Those ground to a halt. I miss them. But Social Distancing needed to happen.

Why Social Distancing Works

I’ll link the image I found that explained it pretty well for me, but generally speaking, imagine a line of matches. Light one and next thing you know, the rest of the matches are going up one after the other. 

line of matches on fire until one steps out of line

A line of matches on fire until one steps out of line

Now remove a match from the line and the flame now has nowhere to go. That’s how Social Distancing works, but it is so hard when humans are social creatures and you live by yourself. Seattle isn’t exactly the greatest at it (looking at you, Greenlake), not because we don’t like staying home, we love to do that. But Seattle is not built for social distancing, especially our sidewalks, our roads, hell, even our grocery stores. So you are urged to stay home. Some are struggling with how to stay sane.

I am one of them. Sort of?

How I’m staying sane

I am a creature used to solitude. Since I live alone, I make it a point to lightly obsess over various projects and up to this point, I was nursing a pretty hefty interest in some sort of a wall art project for my kitchen.

I rediscovered Macrame. Week 1 at home was a mix of Day Job and working on my new wall art. Using this tutorial, I did half of it before I winged the rest. I also learned a valuable lesson when it comes to rope projects. You’ll want to order about twice as much rope as you expected to need. I knew if I kept busy, I wouldn’t feel quite so miserable about staying at home for longer than expected. Below is my tentative plan to keep myself steady. 

Note how I didn’t say positive, I know better.

Crafting:

If I keep my hands busy, I can flow along with the crafts and physical labor. My project list is tentative per the ability to get supplies.

  • Large-Scale Macrame Wall Art
  • Replacing Flat Picture Ledges
  • Sewing a slipcover for the sofa.
  • Figuring out how to wash cotton velvet without dry-cleaning.
  • Create a website.
  • Canadian Smocked Pillows

Social Media hangouts:

Slack, Google Hangouts, Google Meets, Zoom, and my favorite, text messaging all come into play here. I work from home, therefore video calls are not a new thing in my world. But dammit, I wanted a new background for said calls. Because that spot in my kitchen gets amazing natural light throughout the day.

Exercise:

Sure, going for a walk is always a good thing, but when you need to stay six feet away from everyone else, it tends to fall to the wayside. Which is why I own booty bands, resistance bands, a yoga mat, a dance pole, and a coin scarf. By reembracing dance in the forms of Pole and Belly Dance, I can avoid the weight gain that tends to come with a traumatic experience like a global pandemic. It’s going about as well as expected. As of this entry – it wasn’t going at all.

Pretending:

Yep, you read that correctly. When you have mental health issues, a global pandemic isn’t just a crisis – you are retraumatized every damn day. So some days, I pretend that the world hasn’t changed and that for me, it’s business as usual. Look, I didn’t say it was a good coping method, it’s just a method that’s working for me.

Routine:

I created a very loose one and I’m trying to stick to it. Once I can establish that I am actually sticking to that routine, I’ll add something new and hopefully adapt into a routine that benefits both my physical and mental health. We’ll see how this goes!

What’s the point, Nat?

This series is an experiment and honestly my way of documenting a global crisis while trying to handle social distancing. If anything I do in here is something you can adopt to help yourself cope, then great!  Because humans are indeed social creatures and social distancing is effective, but it is so hard.

I’m here if you need someone to vent to, talk to, and since we’re all online now, let’s be internet besties! My comments are moderated but are indeed open to you. Because the only way we’ll get through this is together.

See you on the other side of the Stay-At-Home orders!

0 In Affiliate Post/ Finances/ Life Lessons/ Resources

In Credit-Card Debt Up To My Ears

Credit-card debt is scary. They* say that the first step in handling your debt is to identify it. All of it!

I’m doing so via this post. As the debt decreases – I’ll update things here. I’m also tracking my credit-card debt in the sidebar because I’m long past the point where I need to get serious about it.

Which means I go public!

The first focus is on my smallest credit-card, my Amazon Prime Card. I’ll eventually work my way down with the current plan to conquer each amount. Snowballing (adding the previous amount to the debt’s minimum payment) as I work through the list. You can see how the debts will be treated in the infographic below.

*Go ahead and google “financial steps”. I’ll wait.

The Credit Card Debt List

Amazon Prime Card: $1654.59

Limiting my Amazon purchases is the first step I’m taking to pay off this card. My next step is to stop using the card and making those purchases on bank card #1 instead (I’m in the middle of a bank switch). Payments will be $190 twice a month (self-imposed) until the debt is paid off in November 2019.

Capital One Platinum Card: $2551.59

This card was my first credit card and helped me pay for a new transmission. That said, now it goes unused and is now just being paid off. Payments are $80 until Amazon is paid off, at that point the payments will be $270 twice a month until the debt is paid off hopefully by January 2020.

PAID! Auto Loan: $9,169.65

There’s a reason I’m including this one in the breakdown – as it’s a debt, but I’d like to pay it off earlier than intended just to prove to myself that I can. Will I finance a new car afterward? I doubt it because I barely drive the one I have!

The current minimum payment is $482.68. I added extra to bring it up to around $500 a month that I am now sick of paying. I’m going to bump the payment up to $570 to attack my monthly interest until it’s ready to have the snowball thrown at it. With the snowball in effect, the payment will be $840 until that load is paid off by September 2020.

Capital One Journey Card: $8389.85

My third oldest credit card that was approved just as my car’s second transmission died (it was used – but had a weird quirk nobody was ready for) and I needed the cash to pay for a new transmission fast. Capital One pulled through for me when my own bank wouldn’t. The minimum payment on this one is hefty at $265, but once the other debts are paid in full, the payment will skyrocket to $1,105 to effectively erase this one by January 2021. It helps that I rarely use this card. So far, it’s primary use has been for business reasons – and it will continue to be used on a smaller scale for business reasons that I can pay off the next week.

US Bank Card: $8,632.86

My second oldest credit card and once I conquer this one, I will close out my accounts with US Bank and transfer this card over to my new Credit Union account. The minimum payment on this one isn’t as heavy as my Capital One Journey’s payment, but it’s still $232. Once the snowball has been hurled at it, it will be $1,337 until May 2021 when I have it paid in full.

Personal Loan List

The two below loans are special to me because of how fast I was able to acquire them and everything they’ve allowed me to do with my life. I’m super grateful to Sofi for not giving me the run around most financial companies do. They even overlooked my most popular reason for high-interest rates:

“Your money moves too fast.”

Yes, that was an actual rejection reason.

Sofi Personal Loan #1: $10,788.96

I’m almost two-thirds of the way paid off with my first SoFi loan. It’s currently set for auto-payment at $435.32. The final payment will be in June 2021 with $1,209.5. There will be no need for an actual snowball plan for this one since it’s so far down the line!

Sofi Personal Loan #2: $19,003.62

This loan got me to Seattle. I don’t regret this move either as it was a great boost to raise my credit limit, criteria I didn’t know I would need until I was elbow-deep into looking for an apartment here in Washington. Also set up for auto-pay, the payment is currently $377.52 each month. The snowball payment will be $2,149.95 when it’s all said and done. I’m hoping to have it paid off by December 2021.

Some Income Numbers

Now, Natasha, you ask, where is this income coming from?! Well, I’m paid pretty handsomely by Day Job, and two paychecks a month ring in at $5,180.12 gross. Insurance and stock are taken out before I even see it, so it’s one less thing I actively worry about as long as I’m employed by a corporation.

My current outgoing income is a little scarier than I’d like, but that’s why I’m creating this post! I’m looking at $3,884.45 in Debt alone, and I’m hoping that in 6 months, that number moves a little!

All in all, my financial health doesn’t suck. I can still pay for food, insurance, gas, and have some semblance of a social life that will be curtailed in about 8 months due to a new project I’m getting ready to launch. I also plan to increase my income with freelance projects and side items that I know are pretty lucrative.

To wrap this all up, I’m using Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball to conquer my own credit-card debt and take control of my finances. If I play my cards right, I will be debt-free by the end of 2021 and I’m super excited about it! I’ll update this post when I hit my debt milestones and I encourage you to leave your own debt-control plans in the comments below. Let’s celebrate together!

0 In Affiliate Post/ DIY/ Finances/ Life Lessons

Saving Without Thinking: Using Automation

Saving money is Hard. There, I said it.

Sure, we have Online Banking, savings apps, jars, mattresses, squirrel funds, etc, but let’s be honest here. Saving money is HARD. It’s hard when you’re broke, it’s hard when you’re not broke, and it’s even harder when you have the money to burn but you also have financial goals and things you’re saving for that matter to you.

I’m going to share with you some tricks I’ve used to help me break a couple of mindsets and conquer a financial milestone. Automation has played a pretty heavy hand in all of this.

Automating Your Savings

Why automate? Because it removes the “you” factor from the equation once you’ve set it up. Your only goal after setting up the automation is to have the personal discipline to ignore it long enough to reach your savings goal. Or see it gain interest. Or both. I was really fond of my bank paying me for keeping my cash with them, but your mileage may vary. This is a 5-Step Process. Read below to find out more!
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Use automations and recurring transfers to help boost your savings

Step 1: Open a Separate Savings Account

I can hear you already. “But I already have one open!”

Do it anyway. That account has been You-Comprised. So we’re starting out with a Fresh new account. If it needs $50 to open it, you are going to move that $50 over to it. Because with a fresh new account comes a fresh new goal. It helps that this is also a certain Financial Guru’s Baby Step #1: $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund.

You also need to promise yourself to not touch this account. This one is strictly to save your funds with the automation. If any money comes out of it, it’s you moving it to another bank’s saving account (what I’m doing with my own).

Step 2: Start Small: Find an Amount You Won’t Miss

Well, yes, you’re going to miss it for the first few paychecks. But then you’ll find that you can skip that $6 latte (I live in Seattle) and just take your own mochas out with you in a travel mug. You’ll make a game to see what you can give up and suddenly that amount you set up to start saving each month is no longer missed. I started with $50. I usually pay for lattes with this amount, so to give it up to the automation is well worth it.

Step 3: Step up an Internal Transfer (Psst, this is the Automation)

Go sign into your Online Banking account.

You’re going to set up an internal transfer from your checking to your savings account. I started with one transfer going out at the 1st of the month. Once my paycheck hits my account, that money is already heading elsewhere. I didn’t even see it go unless I signed into the account itself.

You can choose the dates that work for you, but you do have to choose them.

Step 4: Observe & Modify

We wait and we watch. I waited a couple of months before I added a second (third and fourth) transfer because I’m paid twice a month. So I increased the amount of the first transfer to $100 and this one I started at $50. I added two other automations to take advantage of both savings accounts because well, I can get creative with groceries and takeout in this city is expensive anyway.

Step 5: Stop Thinking About It

Ignore that account until the amount on it reads over $1,000. If I received a bonus from my Insurance, I sent it to Savings. If I received a bonus from work, the same story, it went to that Savings account because it helped me achieve Step 1 that much faster.

Once you’ve completed Steps 1 – 5, you can celebrate!

Celebration Time!

Congratulations! You’ve taken an awesome and huge step toward conquering a financial goal by automating your savings.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

You Mentioned a Certain Financial Guru

I did.

A fast online search can help you suss out their identity if not the below steps certainly will. As much as I would love to cling to the below steps, knowing that they’ve indeed worked for so many others, I also know myself.

I’m going to skip at least three of those (5, 6, & 7) because two no longer apply to my life and one I sort of do each month anyway.

The Baby Steps are Below:

  • Baby Step 1 – $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund
  • Baby Step 2 – Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball
  • Baby Step 3 – 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings
  • Baby Step 4 – Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
  • Baby Step 5 – College funding for children
  • Baby Step 6 – Pay off home early
  • Baby Step 7 – Build wealth and give!

Dave Ramsey's 7 Baby Steps

Hang On, You said Jars, Mattresses, and Squirrel Funds

I meant it too, well, kind of. Except for the mattress thing, that was my grandfather’s way of savings. Mine is just the jars and squirrel funds. In an undisclosed place in my apartment is a coffee cup dedicated to my coin change. At the end of each month, I empty out all of my coin change from my wallet/purse, hold back just enough for two bus rides ($5.50) in quarters, and put the rest in that cup.

I have no idea what that cup has in it, except for a lot of coins that I’ll take to a bank one day.

The Squirrel fund though is a new one that I started when I moved to Seattle and realized that I actually could. Some of you may have heard it referred to as something else, but I call it the Squirrel fund and it comes in two varieties. The first is physical.

At the end of the week, if I have any number of $5 bills in my wallet, I put them in the physical Squirrel fund. Once that fund reaches $100, it either goes to the bank, or I take it to go play.

I also have a digital Squirrel fund that my friend introduced me to called Qapital. She thinks of it as gamefying her savings, I called it the digital Squirrel fund and this is where I’m going to be a shameless plugger.

The Shameless Plugging

Available for both IOS and Android, there’s an app called Qapital. You set your goal, attach your banking card, and set a rule to help you save. I set a goal for $2,500 to save for a new-to-me MacBook. My rule is for every purchase I make, Qapital rounds up to the next two dollars and shoots it to the digital squirrel fund. In the short two weeks, I’ve used the app, I’ve become very cognizant of the purchases and frequency of purchases made. Forty dollars down, only $2,460 to go!