Monday, February 23, 2015

Spring fever

While the rest of the country is buried under snow and packed in icy air, the Pacific NW is blooming. The cherry and magnolia trees are budding, I've got 20+ daffodils cut and arranged inside my house, and I've now learned to identify the beauty that is the quince flower!

I've been doing some hiking with local friends, and I also want to try to find a club to go with - my friends' lives are much busier than mine, so I could go longer/do more but they're not up for it. In an ideal world I'd find some hiking buddies for long challenging Saturday hikes, and could do recovery hikes on Sunday. Even if I had a car I'd be reluctant to hike solo - not so much from concern for my personal safety, but I'd be worried about turning an ankle or something and needing help to get out of the woods. I'm sure I'll muddle through, and perhaps I'll even make some bonus hiking friends!
On top of all that, I started my garden. As usual I'll likely get tired of it and not give it the attention it merits.. but MAYBE this year is my year.
I'm definitely feeling the urge to do new things and get out and move around a lot. We'll see how I do if (when) the rain returns!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

scary exciting plan

A friend proposed that she try to get a number of us permits to hike to the top of Mount St. Helens sometime this year. I accepted, she got into the lottery (i.e. hit the site first thing when permits were available), and we're in! We're going to summit Mount St. Helens on Sunday August 2nd. EEk!

We've bitten off quite a challenge - it's 10.5 miles round trip, 4450 feet of elevation gain, and it's rated Very Difficult; gloves are recommended for climbing around all the boulders covered with ash! You have to carry your own water, and the training recommendation one friend found is that you plan to carry about 30 pounds (mostly water). Wow.

It will be interesting to see how this goes. Of the 8 permits we are using, one person has done this before and is very fit/experienced with training for tough events. Two of us did Cycle Oregon last year, so we have recent experience in setting a tough goal and hitting it. Two of us have done tough things in the distant past (marathon, Cycle Oregon), but have had a few years of not being so good about following through on challenging fitness plans. Three are wild cards that are probably pretty reliable.

I know that things happen and life throws changes at us, so who knows, maybe I'll be one of the people who bails on the event! Every single year since I moved here in the 90s I've wanted to have a year with lots of hiking, so this may be it! My lack of car will be a hindrance in that, however...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Still running

So far I've managed to keep running this winter. Sure, it's only January, but I was really worried I'd return to my lazy/inert days of yore and stop exercising. That hasn't happened, but it HAS been a bit of a struggle lately to get myself out there.

I think if I step back from my feelings and look at the facts, I'm actually doing okay:
  • In December I only ran once/week.  Certainly not awesome, but given two different trips, weather,  holidays - I'll take it.
  • So far this month I've run nine times -  I took a week off after a (non-running) injury, but have gotten out three times/week otherwise, and am on track to do so this week, too.
  • My distances have not been awesome - my shortest (when I was limited for time) was 1.66 miles, and my other runs have ranged from 2.2 to 2.5 miles.
  • When it's not a running day, I'm walking a good bit - Sunday I walked a whopping nine miles!!! - but I'm not doing any purposeful cross-training.
  • My running buddies aren't running at all. I used to get an ego boost out of running more and better than they were, but this is getting ridiculous. We're signed up for a 5k in March and it'll be interesting to see if they participate! (One has a very busy life and the other...has no good reasons and is struggling a lot.)
  • While my distances aren't great, my pace is improving. I'm consistently hitting between 11:30 and 12-minute miles, whereas in October my runs were more typically 12:30 and even 12:45. Wow, I've shaved a minute off my time in many cases! 
Okay, that really did help. Yeah, I'm tired, and yeah, I have been running out of energy/motivation/willpower mid-run. I think I need to change up some of my fueling choices, and I also need to be patient - that I'm running at all in these chilly days is huge. High five, me! (And keep it up - that 5k looms!)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Easy come, easy go?

I've had money on my mind lately.

A friend volunteered to cut her hours to halftime, but only after the fact did she crunch the numbers and realize that means she's now running in the red by a few hundred dollars every month. I haven't seen the numbers she used - I hope and assume there's some room for belt-tightening to make it work, but I don't want to stress her by asking. I may broach it in a few weeks, very very gently.

However, her situation inspired some number-crunching, and I'm  happy to say I feel absolutely certain that I could get by on half my income, but it wouldn't be fun or pretty. I've also got enough in savings that I could support myself for eight months, which is a good solid feeling to have.

AND - there's lots of room for improvement in my fiscal life. I just looked at all my spending and saving last year. I saved 16% pre-tax for retirement, and saved 19.5% post-tax. Not bad, you say? Well, it's true but I could do a lot better. Most of my post-tax saving was from various bonuses, contract work, my tax return, and other non-work income. If I just look at what I earned vs what I spent each month, I saved 5.6% - meaning 14% of my savings came from sources of income I can't count on next year!

Travel was what killed me (and thrilled me!) the most last year - 16% of my post-tax income went to that. So... I guess that's the biggest place to focus for savings this year! Here's how my numbers broke out:


Category Percent of income Notes
Eating out 6.96% 10-12 times per month on average
Groceries 4.92% That's about 75-80 meals/month
Coffee out 0.20% 2015 will include all at-home coffee expenses
Bills 42.71% That's all mortgage principle/interest/insurance/taxes; plus water, gas, elec, trash, cell, internet, driver's insurance...very little to trim here. In a pinch I'd get a roommate to offset this.
Entertainment 1.64 Netflix, NYTimes, movies, the occasional play or concert in town.
Gifts 1.20%
Charity 1.72% I'd like to double this for 2015, and ideally hit 5% annually.
Travel 16.41% wow! 2015 travel should be half or a third that amount. Good thing nine of my 2014 flights were practically free.
Transportation 1.41% No idea how the car thing will affect this
Clothes 3.05% If my weight stays down I'm going to have to get a few more items, but I'm slowly buying clothes.
Household 1.84% Cleaning supplies, decor, small furniture expenses, etc.
Upkeep/Health 2.64% Haircuts, doctor copays, vitamins, etc.
Hobby 2.71% Knitting, biking, sewing class - bought a number of biking items pre-Cycle Oregon last year.
Misc .15% Glad this is so tiny - means my categories are good.
Booze 1.49% wine, beer for home. Toning this down this year.
House 1.25% Things like a ladder, a couch.
Big ticket 4.02% Big irregular expenses like glasses and other $$ outlays. New-to-me car will go here.

Some of my categories have crossover: is running gear for health or for hobby or for clothing? Is a framed picture household or house? How about a ladder? I just try to be consistent - the art is household (since I'd have paid for it whether or not I owned a house) but the ladder is house (as a renter I wouldn't own one). So far I've slotted running gear into clothing, but as I buy extras that are beyond the bare minimum, I'll probably put them into hobby spending. Registration fees for 5k events will be hobby for sure. If I needed physical therapy, it would be health/upkeep.

The best spots for trimming spending and boosting saving are travel (16%!) and food (when I combine eating out + grocery I see I spent nearly 12% of my income there). Funny that they are the fun ones. We'll see how it goes!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Two years

I just realized that tomorrow is two years exactly since I moved into my house! Saturday was two years exactly since I wired a whole lot of money and signed a whole lot of papers. I'm so glad that process is behind me, and that my house continues to be delightful. It's more than enough room, is great for hosting visitors, and is so quiet and light-filled and there's very little about it I would change (I would add a half-bathroom and make the bedrooms a bit bigger..but there are no deal-breakers).

I've even done a few projects lately - I fixed a paint job (I'd used the not-quite-right color when doing a patch job), and I added key and bike storage!

Key storage was easy, and I did it all on my own. I wanted to sort out the thicket of spare keys that lived in my junk drawer: 7 keys to four different bike locks, three keys & a remote to my sister's car & apartment, a key to a friend's house, a spare key to my back door, and my front door key. Crazy!

I spent a little time looking for key organizers, and then decided that the answer was staring me in the face - the inside door of my broom closet + sticker-hooks. Voila!
Yeah, they're crooked, and yeah, I meant for them to line up better. Oh well. I'm still happy with the decision!

The other project required help from friends. I'm providing long-term bike storage for a couple of friends, and those bikes were IN THE WAY. Though getting rid of my car did help clear a lot of space in the garage.. but still. My friends installed one ceiling-mounted bike hanger as a surprise over Christmas, and we added a second one yesterday. It looks so so great:
I can walk under the bikes without hitting my head, they'll still be out of the way when I have a car in the garage, and we also did some other little garage projects: put some boxes up out of the way, tightened the punch-code remote that triggers the garage door from outside, and installed hooks to hang my hoses. Goodness, it was so awesome!

There are lots of other non-pressing items on my house list. My yard is an extremely slow-motion project, without a master plan. I want to have a deck built and am saving slowly for that - at my current pace I will have the money in another 2-and-a-bit years. That's not so bad, really: it could be completed by the time I've been in here 5 years. I'd like to remove/possibly replace the front chain link fence; the wood fence around the back is rickety and will have to be fixed eventually. When the deck goes in I'll have to move two of my three garden beds (to the back where there is a LOT of direct sun). I want to print and hang more of my photos, and change the light fixtures, and swap out the kitchen sink, and gut and refurnish my office ..

So yeah. Happy two years, house! No wonder the time has been flying!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Looking back

No doubt about it, 2014 was a great year! I was midway through being 42, and everyone knows that year is considered the answer to the life, the universe, and everything. I felt empowered & ready to make some changes, like fixing a cosmetic dental issue that had been bugging me for years, getting fitter, and dropping some weight. Pictures are a much more pleasant experience now!

I work from home and I took advantage of that flexibility to spend a couple weeks in Toronto visiting my best friend - sure, February in Toronto is COLD but we also drove a couple hours' north to spend a weekend with a bunch of friends crammed into a three-bedroom house playing games, eating food, and hanging out. This fall I worked remotely for a week from my brother's place in Hawaii - it was nice that he and his wife could work, and I could work, and then we could socialize on the nights and weekends. I also did a combo work/play trip to Detroit/Toronto in the spring.


Me and my siblings at the wedding.

I did a lot of non-work travel, too: I spent two weeks in Hawaii in the early summer for my brother's (awesome) wedding AND I spent a week biking in September AND I spent a week in the Dominican Republic AND I went to plays in Ashland on two different weekends. But that's not all! I also spent a long weekend at a friend's epic birthday party, and a quick weekend in Nashville at a family reunion, AND went to the Bay Area three times (twice for work, once for play) AND spent ten days in Rhode Island for Christmas (two days of which I worked).
Sunrise in Hawaii, while I was working.

Sunrise in the Dominican Republic - strictly play, this time.

Fortunately, I only paid full price for the holiday travel - three of my trips were work-related, and the six other flights were all paid for with miles and points. High five! However - for those counting, that's 10 flights this year, three road trips, and one bike trip. WHEW.

On the first day of Cycle Oregon.

I also had several house guests (and one came to visit three times - oh, the charms of my fair city - but is a very good guest so that wasn't a problem), maintained membership in two book groups, ran 116 miles, biked 1641, and ...did not track my walking. As far as I can recall I have not been sick a single time this year - that is largely due to working at home, I suspect - and I mostly feel really great.

Career-wise I've sort of plateaued lately, though I was handed some new responsibilities at the end of the year which are pushing me a little outside my comfort zone and are giving me resume fodder.

Hobby-wise I kept knitting, obviously amped up the fitness, and of course I ate out plenty (if that can be considered a hobby!).

Fiscally, things are decent. I do have to deal with that whole no-car thing, but it hasn't been pressing yet, and may not be any time soon! I'm saving 16% of my salary (with a 4% match) for retirement, and have started making house-payoff plans (that will bear fruit in 2030 or later). I've been saving for a deck but it'll still be quite a while before I have enough saved, unless I get a thwacking raise or a roommate - equally unlikely at this point. 

The only real lacks in my life are volunteering and having an awesome boyfriend. I can definitely do something about the former, and I keep figuring I'm going to live an awesome life and hopefully the latter will show up eventually - and if not, well, I regret nothing!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking forward

I intend to do a separate post that reflects on the past year, but who knows if I'll get around to it. At any rate, I've been thinking about any sort of resolutions/hopes I have for the coming year. I have a few!

Fitness: My city does a series of 5ks that cost $5 each that runs from May to October, and if they’re not an insane mass of people, I’d like to do those this year. I also want to find a 10k to run in the fall (or sooner, if things are going well – we’ll see).

Weight: I'm going to keep eating healthily and will keep tracking what I eat. That, coupled with running, should do good things.

Mindfulness: I received a 5-year journal for Christmas – each page is for a day of the year, and there are 5 writing areas of about 4 lines each. I want to just take little notes about good things that happen on most days, so I can look back and see what was going on each day without having to dig through lots of boring navel-gazing (as in my previous journals that I got sick of writing!).

Money: Keep up the good work, mostly. I'm saving 16% of my salary toward retirement, returns have been good, and I feel like my savings in that area is adequate. This year I started saving the equivalent of four mortgage payments per year (mortgage only, not interest/taxes/insurance) in an investment account to use toward paying off my house in another 16 years or so (barring any emergency use of those funds!). I'm going to have to replace my car eventually, but I'm holding off as long as I can, as I want neither a car payment nor to pillage my savings. There's definitely room for improvement in my various spending categories, so we'll see how I do. I haven't reviewed my spending, but I already know that my travel was off the charts, even though I only paid for one plane ticket this year! I regret nothing, even though it WAS a bit too much by the end of the year!

Community: I could stand to give back by volunteering in a meaningful way this year. I'm mulling it over.

So those are my plans for the coming year. Not bad! Happy New Year!