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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!

0 In Life Lessons

Eldritch Horrors from the Lazy Susan

AKA: Do Not Store Potatoes and Onions Together

Let’s set the scene. The Lazy Susan. The otherwise workhorse of the Kitchen cabinet corner. Or in my case, where all of my canned goods, and up to this point, my potatoes and onions lived since it was dark under there.

See that past tense? Because I’ve learned an incredibly valuable lesson that nobody bothered to tell me growing up. What I didn’t take into account was that my apartment has in-floor heating and it’s Seattle, it’s damp here.

Did you know that it’s an awful combination for a dark corner? Especially when storing potatoes and onions.

The Mistake

Did you know that potatoes and onions shouldn’t be stored together?

I didn’t. I do now.

Why? Because onions off-gas ethylene, which makes potatoes sprout and rot that much faster if they’re in proximity with each other. That same gas that makes your eyes water when you’re cutting onions? Yeah, that’s the culprit.

I had no idea.

Until I saw a potato melt in my lazy susan.

onion-potato-disaster

rotten-potato

Serious Growth

I learned that after a few months, I say months because for a while there, I tried just not bothering with the lazy susan in hopes that the problem would you know, go away on its own.

Life doesn’t work that way.

I wish it did.

But since it didn’t go away on its own, in fact, the sprouting got worse, and I discovered that I can grow a mean potato with just moisture, darkness, and oh, other potatoes. I mean, can we say Eldritch Horror? Because I certainly did when I opened up the Lazy Susan this weekend.

Serious Yuck

I also had flashbacks to myself as a teenager back in Ohio. One summer, we had a serious fly issue and we couldn’t figure out why there was blood in our pantry. Until I saw it again and realized that when potatoes rot, they bleed.

It looks like blood. And it’s not pretty, but at least it was easy to clean up with a paper towel and a strong stomach. Fortunately, due to allergies and a recovering cold, I can’t smell very much.

Yes, I said, fortunately.

Oh, the tableau was surprisingly tame once you’re able to stomach the sprouting onions and potatoes everywhere. Cleanup was a different story (involved a lot of bleach), but I did come up with a helpful solution that I may need to revisit because I think my onions need to live in another spot all together as my taters are still sprouting. Just not as quickly.

Burlap bags

One major perk of living in Coffee Central, oh, I mean Seattle, is that my local hardware store carries burlap coffee sacks for weed-control. Coffee beans and all. I spotted them on my last trip to Stone Way Hardware and realized that I had a gold mine of burlap on my hands.

Almost a whole yard for wide burlap for less than a buck.

I got super excited and then realized that I could definitely solve my veggie problem with said burlap and some laundry line. So I fashioned together drawstring bags from burlap and after hanging a couple of hooks in my coat closet, the veggies now live in there.

A Lot of Soup

I also make a lot of soup. This is strictly so I can share my favorite potato soup recipe with you. You can go check out Gimme Some Oven’s Potato Soup recipe here. Sound off in the comments to share any horror stories you’ve had with veggie storage, because I’d love to laugh with you!

burlap drawstring bag