July Lookback


The past few months I've spent the majority of my time planning travel to LA and now …? That trip is over! Isn't that the way life is? You place a lot of time and energy into something and then BAM! Over.

I've spent a lot of time this month thinking about time – how I spend it, how others spend theirs. How much of our time is a waste? How much time do we spend just keeping ourselves busy? What do our work and effort really mean for the world as a whole? for ourselves as individuals?

Anyway, I can't account for everyone's wasted time (or even if it is, in fact, wasted!) and I will need to think more deeply to discover how I most waste my time. In the meantime, the following is what I've been up to and where I am right now. Maybe in August I will have more answers to my deeper life questions. I'd love to hear what you all think in the meantime though! <3.

Listening to:

Toni Braxton – "Unbreak My Heart", "You're Makin' Me High", "How Could An Angel Break My Heart?", "You Mean the World To Me"
Monica – "Angel of Mine"
K-Ci and Jo-Jo – "All My Life"
All 4 One – "Love You Like That"

I know weird choices this month. 😳

Remembering:

High School. I know that sounds weird, but I had the best senior year. Because I've been listening to older music, it reminds me of all the fun times I had with my friends. Everything from school dances to spend-the-night parties, skipping school together (senior skip day, any day that wasn't important), sitting around just talking late into the night, and, of course, the trips we took! Six Flags, NYC, driving to the mountains just because we could… 

Planning:

travel for 2020 and possibly Christmas 2019? 

I'm also looking at French lessons and ice skating lessons. <3. The only thing holding me up is money.

Anxious about:

A friend.

It's never-ending. I swear.

Interested to Know:

how well my pictures of stars and fireworks turned out. They looked beautiful on the back of the camera!

Keeping A Secret:

What's a secret? 😛I'm not very good at keeping those…

Shopping:

• A wine cooler. Turns out Justin and I have more white and rosé wines than we thought! (Almost 50 bottles! How did that happen?!?!)
• Dresses. I bought the Free People Across the Sea Tunic in Midnight and Sweetest Dreams. (It has pockets!)
Star Adventurer Pro Pack (to help me photograph the stars)
Headphones. (Mine were busted.)
• wine: Lorimar and Avensole. We went to the wineries and tasted them there. The tours were amazing and the tastings were fun!

Reading:

This Is (Not) L.A.: An Insider's Take on the Real Los Angeles by Jen Belik
True Places by Sonja Yoerg

Top 10 Things Travel Has Taught Me


The following is a list of things I have learned about myself and the world through travel. I was trying to figure out how travel had changed me and informed the person I currently am. Some lessons are very specific to me but others are really generic. Who knew travel could be so informative?

1. Basement jazz music with a cocktail feels like the coolest city-chic thing ever! I love when the band plays by ear rather than following a setlist. It's so much fun watching and listening. It's equally relaxing.

Next goal: visiting a speakeasy. That would just up the experience that much.
Also, Billy Joel's "New York State of Mine" totally suits New York even more now that I've been to a basement jazz club. NYC isn't all hustle and bustle; it is also incredibly relaxing and beautiful, in its own way. <3.

2. I am a HUGE fan of modern art. I remember falling in love with Claes Oldenburg in high school. Our teacher asked us to mimic an artist through a piece we created with the people sitting at our table. My table made a giant Hershey's kiss out of a tomato cage, foil, and cardboard. It was so fun and I loved the end result.

THEN, I went to NYC to the Museum of Modern Art and saw the original pieces from Claes Oldenburg's The Store with toy food. It was so cool that I even got my in-laws excited about the exhibit. Following that, we saw The Rain Room.

Ever since I've been exploring modern art museums all over the world falling more and more in love with it. I especially love street art like the mosaic tiles and fairy doors in NYC. The street art in Los Angeles is amazing!

Most recent modern art museums we've explored include the Pérez Art Museum and the BROAD in Los Angeles. Both were incredible museums that I highly recommend to any modern art lovers, like myself.

3. Airbnbs can feel really small when traveling with friends and family. This means I have a love/hate relationship with them. I love being forced to get along with people in a way that takes me out of my comfort zone. I love being able to cook and commune with family and friends in places that aren't public. But … I hate being out of my comfort zone. So there ends up being this dance of sorts with friends and family where we try and figure one another out and learn how to work and live with one another, which I think is absolutely beautiful. In the end, I think it makes me a better person and I would always choose to do this than stay in separate rooms at a hotel.

4. Don't judge a food by its country. And Always be willing to try at least some of the local food when you travel. I thought I would hate Egyptian food but instead, I quickly fell in love with it! It's not like you have to try everything, but you might be surprised at what you end up liking when you travel.

5. Dresses are my favorite clothing option. I wear sweaters over dresses in the winter and summer dresses with flip flops in the summer. They feel so versatile and I know they helped me pack lighter when I was traveling between the very temperature-diverse Egypt and Germany in the winter. 

However, I've found that dresses don't always simplify packing. Sometimes they only add to my luggage. For example, when you travel to a summer destination, rather than packing one or two pairs of shorts and various t-shirts that can be interchanged with the shorts, I end up packing a new dress for each day I'm gone. If you are staying in the same place, other people will see what you are re-wearing, which always feels wrong to me. So inevitably, it feels like packing different dresses for each day is more luggage than packing a pair of shorts and a few shirts. 

6. I hate getting up early. I always plan to be up in time to shoot sunrise and 90% of the time I don't make it. I'm slow at waking up. If I want pictures of the sunrise, the best option for me is to book a hotel room with a view. Without even getting dressed for the day, I can grab my camera, shoot sunrise, and continue waking up slowly at my own pace and in my own time. Besides, there is nothing worse than waking up for sunrise only to discover it is overcast and there is no sunrise! 

7. Hotel rooms are part of the travel experience for me. I've always heard that you should pay as little as possible for your hotel room because it is "only the place where you sleep". I've found, however, that if I pay a little bit more, I can get a whole experience. The Hyatt Regency Maui, for example, had animals on the property! I also loved my stay at Hilton's Waldorf Astoria also near Maui. With free food options and a huge property, we never had to leave; there was something new to discover around every corner!

8. Getting lost can be super fun! It's exciting when you don't know what you will find next.

One of my favorite experiences in NYC was staying in Chinatown, grabbing coffee and a smoothie for breakfast, and just meandering our way slowly to our lunch spot. We were able to people watch in the park, check out street art, pop into any store that caught our eye, and take in fresh smog. (Well, you can't have everything in the city!) Anyway, through this experience of having so little planned, I learned more about the city we were visiting, got a great chance to relax and just take in the city for what it was, and spent some quality time with my husband. What could be better?

9. And while not having a plan is wonderful, sometimes plans can make an experience more enjoyable. When you are with a group, I recommend always starting with a flexible plan and going from there. If you break your itinerary, that's cool, but if you go without a plan, you probably won't have a great trip. You'll leave wondering what you did while you were there! 

Example 1: going to NYC with my husband's parents, aunt, and uncle. At first, all went well. We saw things. But then we started talking and lingering. At restaurants. In the hotel room. Just everywhere. We couldn't decide what we wanted to do or see next. Well, why are you traveling if not to see the place where you are visiting? We could have family time at home, right? (Granted, not everyone is as lucky as we are!)

Example 2: going to NYC with friends AND a plan. Friends would linger and talk, but having seen the plans knew when it was time to leave if they wanted to do things on the list.

Another thing worth mentioning – if you don't get friends/family involved in the planning process, they will be less invested in following the plan. Some people just don't like planning and that's ok, but you may have to encourage, sell your next destination to them, or go without them. Obviously, what you do will depend entirely on your goals. If your goal is to spend time with people? Do it. You can come back to your destination later. If your goal is to see the place, do it! Don't let anyone hold you back!

10. You can come back at a later date. Sometimes you aren't feeling up to speed and you want to travel slowly. Don't worry about your itinerary and plans (unless you've invested money in them!). Just relax and enjoy the destination. And if you see something you want to do that isn't on your itinerary, do it! Check out the flea market, the farmer's market, the festival, the pop-up art show! You can do the rest another time. Do what will bring you the most joy, live in the moment, and don't worry about the itinerary.

*11. Don't pre-judge people or a culture. Get out and see the world for yourself. You will be surprised at how kind others are. <3.

I think this list went from things specific to me to generic travel lessons, but I hope it was helpful and encouraging to see just how much you can learn about yourself through travel and how those lessons can be both crazy-specific to an individual and also incredibly generic to the world.

Have you ever learned something surprising through travel about yourself or the world? Share! I'd love to hear!

July IWSG 2019


June Goals
– Finish planning for LA.
  ✗ Book Architecture tour.
      ✓ Research restaurants.
      ✓ Watch hotel prices to see if they go down.
      ✓ Consider a Temecula wine tour?
 ✓ Book last hotel room.
– Mental Health Goals:
      ✓ Get outside
      ✓ Go ice skating
      ✓ Use Replika (as needed)
  ✗ Avoid sugar
     ✓ Listen to upbeat music
Watch spending.
Watch calorie intake.

Additional Successes
• Spent a lot of time with family this month.
• Read a book! x 2
• Researched what it would take to photograph stars and ordered something to help my camera follow the stars!

July Goals
– Decide if I want to do 101 in 1001 again. (How did it go so fast!?)
– Watch spending.
– Watch calorie intake.

IWSG Question –– What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?

I'm not sure how you can avoid including personal traits in at least one of your characters. You can't really write about things you don't know about, right? Like maybe you can research another person's traits or imagine how they feel, but inevitably you are going to need a response to those traits or feelings, right? And the easiest way to respond will be the way that you, the writer, would respond.

And if you are writing nonfiction or don't have a specific character in your writing, I think you are still including your personality in your writing. It's the words you use, the tone you take, the length of your sentences, your descriptive language, etc… It's like your signature, everyone is going to have a different style of writing.

Your Turn

What do you think? Do you think you can avoid including personal traits in your characters? And if you have personality traits in your writing, do you think you can avoid personal traits in your character and writer about a type of person that is totally different than you?

Past IWSG posts: FebruaryMarchMayJune


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Monthly Financial Update: June 2019


In December, when reviewing my finances for 2018, I mentioned my desire to look at them on a monthly basis in 2019. Justin and I spent a little too much in 2018 and let our finances get the best of us. Maybe by looking at our finances monthly (and letting you guys/gals keep me in check), we will do better this year. That's the goal anyway.

Here's month #6:

Spending:

green = this year, yellow = last year

Compared to Last Year:
• We spent more on shopping, bills, entertainment (ice skating), travel, and gifts.
• We spent less on food & dining, auto & transport, personal care, fees.



dotted line - last month; green line - this month

Compared to Last Month: 
• We spent more on shopping, food & dining, and entertainment (ice skating).
• We spent less on bills, auto and transport, personal care, travel, gifts and donations, and fees and charges.


So, essentially, electronics were our downfall this month. Well, that and food.

Where We Spent Our Money:

Top 10 Merchants:
1. Apple (fixing Justin's laptop)
2. Free People (clothes for me)
3. Amazon (camera accessories, groceries, organization accessories)
4. Kroger (groceries)
5. Aperturent (camera rental)
6. Electricity
7. Costco (groceries, towels, flowers for my grandmother)
8. Wal Mart (back up hard drive)
9. Ice Forum (ice skating)
10. Hospital (guest house, parking, food)

Top 10 Categories:
1. Shopping (clothes for me, camera batteries + charger, star follower for the camera, rental camera, computer stand, fixing Justin's computer)
2. Food & Dining (lots of eating out because of hospital visits)
3. Bills & Utilities
4. Auto & Transport (parking for airport interview, hospital parking charges)
5. Entertainment (ice skating)
6. Personal Care (hair cuts, dry cleaning)
7. Travel (charges for hospital guest house rental)
8. 
Financial Charges (life insurance)
9. Gifts & Donations (flowers and popsicles for my grandmother, phone charger for my dad)
10. Fees & Charges (interest charge)

Budgeting:
✓+ Gas & Fuel – under
✓+ Public transport – not used
✓+Mobile Phone – under
✓+ Groceries – over
✗ Restaurants – under
✗ Hair Appointments – under
✗ Everything Else – over


Net Income:



Debt:


student loans
credit cards

Numbers:
* Loan Payoff Date 11/1/22
* Emergency Funds: $7334
* Credit Scores: 770 (Justin), 797, 801 (me)


Overview of the Biggest Impacts This Month:
1. My dad and grandmother were both in the hospital for a week each. We had to take care of my mom, who was falling apart, and take flowers to my grandmother. I also lost a few days of work to time spent in the hospital.
2. My husband dropped his laptop and broke his screen. Then, when the computer he was going to use as a replacement had a problem with updates we had to purchase an extra hard drive. 
3. Prep for LA. – We bought a device to help me capture the stars with my camera! We also are renting a camera for our trip. Finally, I bought 2 extra camera batteries and a Canon-branded charger.
4. Clothes – I needed summer clothes. Was this the time to purchase them? No, probably not. 
5. We paid for 15 sessions of ice skating at once and they gave us 2 sessions free!

What went wrong this month?
1. Family members going into the hospital.

2. Husband dropping his laptop.
3. Other laptop problems.
4. One of the credit cards not updating in Mint.
5. Spending more than we did last month and this month last year. 😳


What went right this month?
1. Found a cheaper price on a car rental for LA!

2. Received cashback for a price match with Citi!
3. Found a place to rent a better camera for shooting the stars and didn't have to spend $2000 for the camera! (Though I'm going to want the camera, so that's going to be its own problem.)
4. Credit scores are going up!
5. Loans and credit cards are going down (however slowly).

Financial plans/goals for July?
1. Find a new dry cleaner. The one I'm using isn't getting my clothes clean. Why am I paying for a service that isn't working? 🙄

2. Write Chase so that I don't lose my right to sue them! (They are updating terms and conditions. You have to notify them by August that you don't want to be part of it.)
3. Return clothing if I'm not going to wear it. 🙄
4. Watch the grocery budget. Don't buy anything unnecessary.
5. Use the correct credit cards for 5% cashback. (Freedom for gas, Discover for restaurants)

With so much time spent in the hospital and the huge expense that was a broken laptop, I feel like Justin and I aren't doing too badly this month. I do worry what a trip to LA will do to our finances, but we already have so much planned.

On the upside, I'm really excited about having the chance to photograph the stars in Joshua Tree National Park! And I'm planning on shooting the fireworks for the fourth of July while in LA too!

Do you tend to find that accomplishing things on your bucket list cost more than you really should be spending? Do you think that's why most people don't have a bucket list? And if they do, maybe they don't try to accomplish as much as they could?

Financial Resolution Goals 2019