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What's in my bag? Check out the these essential items for what to have in your work bag? Working moms will totally related.

Since taking my new position, I’ve noticed that I’m out and about a lot. Most of my day consists of home visits, interviewing, going to and from appointments, and of course, meetings. What would work be without meetings? A whole lot better, in my opinion, but I digress. Because my job calls for me to be on the go so often, along with the ability to be extremely flexible, I’ve had to learn to pack an amazing work bag. There are just certain essentials that I cannot do without. One thing that’s essential, and I’m sure many ladies can agree with me here, is a cycle survival kit. There is nothing worse than being caught off guard when your period decides to make a grand entrance…while you’re at work. Ugh. Been there, done that, hated it, and it won’t happen again. Recently at Walgreens, I picked up some U by Kotex Curves® and U by Kotex Lightdays Liners® to add to my cycle survival kit. Before I go on, though, let me tell you what I recommend go in your kit. View Post

Planning

A few months ago, I quit my job.  I left the chaos, the sleepless nights, the nagging feelings of guilt, and the constant depression and fear.  I let it go–dropped it on the floor and walked away.

Within one week of making the decision to quit, I had another job offer on the table.

I was elated. I thanked God, the universe, and stars for their alignment in my favor. There was a feeling that I’d finally, finally made a good decision regarding my career and I was being rewarded for it. This new opportunity was close to my home, offered a great deal of flexibility, was not social work-related in the least, it  dealt directly with something I’d been wanting to do for a while, and my supervisor was a rock star that I’d met a few years before. All was perfect–except it was only 20 something hours a week. Yikes! Having always worked full-time and being the provider of most, if not all benefits like health insurance, dental, etc., this was new ground for me. I justified it though.  “They said that this position will go full-time within a few months, so I’ll only be part-time for a little while,” is what I told myself. “If things get too rough, we have a nice savings account to supplement for the few months I’m part-time.  Jam can get health insurance through Hubz and I can do without for a little while; it’s no big deal.”

Fact is, it was a big deal.  A huge deal! Not only was I making significantly less money, but I was also giving up the safety and security that having a full-time, benefits-providing, career job brought me.  But I was chasing my dream, right? I was taking the risks necessary to get that good outcome on the other end. That’s what “dream chasers” do, right? Go all in?

So I went all in.

And it wasn’t long before things started happening that made me question my decision:

Jam got sick. Very, very sick. This meant I had to take time off, like over a week, to be in the hospital with her. So did Hubz. Thank goodness he had some sick time; I wasn’t so lucky. And about that health insurance? Yeah, coverage for her was denied through Hubz’s job. Gotta love those loopholes.

While Jam was in the hospital, our second car started acting up. By the time she got out, it was done. On top of everything else that was happening, we had to figure out how manage all of it, with one vehicle. Yay for panic attacks!

Through all of this, though, I just kept swimming. Just kept justifying this decision to quit my job, even though it was shaping up to be a poor one. I couldn’t fathom that I was the one that was putting all this pressure on my family by not providing like I should have been. “This is just a rough patch,” I would tell myself. “I’m just being tested to see how badly I want this and how much I’m willing to sacrifice to have it. Plus, it’s only a couple more months and I’ll be full-time, doing something that I love.”  Sadly, I can talk myself into anything.

It wasn’t long before even I got the message that I’d screwed up. I started asking about this illusive full-time position and couldn’t seem to get a straight answer. I gave myself a timeline for when I would start applying for other positions if I didn’t get an answer. Those deadlines came and went, yet I still held on to hope. I just didn’t want to give up on something that I felt I’d fought so hard to get. Besides, this full-time position was right around the corner!

But it wasn’t and eventually I had to face the fact that it wasn’t coming.  Soon after the new year, it was confirmed, “There’s just no money in the budget right now, but we can revisit in 6 months.” As pissed off and embarrassed as I was, I knew what I had to do.  I cried to my husband, made a list of what I wanted in a position, picked myself up and started applying.

Once I made up my mind and got serious about getting out of that situation, the wheels started turning. All of the insurance problems that we were facing with Jam, just seemed to melt away. All of the financial issues that we were starting to have seemed to be rectified right in the nick of time. And the guilt, frustration, and fear I was holding on to began to fade too.

I got serious and then the universe got serious. I said, ” I don’t want to live like this anymore”  and God said ,”You don’t have to.” It was confirmed that I wouldn’t have a full-time position at the end of January and by the end of February, I was in a new, full-time position outside of that company.

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. You have to be willing to pivot, and for the longest time, I wasn’t. But I paid for that, both figuratively and literally. We’re rebuilding every, single day, trying to get back to where we were, with the goal of surpassing that. I can’t say that nothing good came from that experience because there were definitely some good things, like being able to get away from a job that was physically making me sick and learning so much about myself. That being said, I’d still never want to relive that experience again.

Have you ever made a major decision that you weren’t completely sold on, but justified it in various ways? How did that work out for you?

Be sure to check out the other stories mentioned in this story:

Are you struggling to snack healthy at work? These healthy snack ideas for busy, on the go professionals are great for the office.

I’ve been snackin’; I’ve been snackin’. Ain’t nothing good goin’ in my body ‘cuz I’ve been snackin’; I’ve been snackin’. <–Read that a la Drunk in Love and you’re there.

Putting Bey in the corner for a moment, I’ve definitely been snacking.  Just last week, I was so starved for energy that I ran (drove my car) up to the store on one of my breaks and snagged some Funions, a shareable pack of Starbursts, and a Coke.  This wouldn’t be so horrible if I hadn’t returned to work and ate/drank ALL OF IT.  Like allll the Funions and allll the Starbursts and Coke.  Jesus be some portion control!

Back in January, even though I don’t think I shared on the blog, I set some weight loss goals.  They were pretty hefty (no pun intended) but they were necessary.  Well, here we are at the end of March and it seems that I’ve been only semi-successful and that was in January.  Damn you New Year ambition!!! Instead I’ve fallen back into my horrible, horrible eating habits.  I can’t even give you excuses as to why because I don’t really know.  What I do know, however, is that snacking is a major part of those bad habits.

For the two or three days that I did do nutritionally well this month, I noticed that I packed my lunch and my snacks.  I wasn’t starved for energy and I wasn’t tempted to beeline to the convenience store because I had some good stuff with me.  This week, I’m planning to go back to that, as it appears that it’s something that works for me.  Apparently, I make really bad decisions when I’m hungry and/or tired.

At work, I have access to a fridge and a microwave so there’s really no reason that I can’t bring fresh fruit and veggies to work everyday.  I mean, other than not wanting to walk up the stairs to get to the break room, I have no reason not to use those things.  So far, this is what I’ve gotten.

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I fell in love with this yogurt after creating these amazing muffins (in a jar) for a quick, on-the-go breakfast. They’re a staple now!

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Not too adventurous for my first time trying a full week, but I’m baby steppin’ it.

How to Snack Healthy at Work

  • Plan. It’s much easier to not get off track when you know exactly what you’re eating and when. This is where meal planning is the best and why so many people swear by it!
  • Get things that you like. Amazing how easy it is to forego a healthy snack for a not so healthy one, huh? Well, that’s usually because the not so healthy options is tastier, sweeter, saltier, etc. than what we already have. Think about this when you’re packing your snack. Is that bag of nuts really going to be fulfilling when your sweet tooth starts to ache?
  • Challenge yourself. Make snacking healthy fun. Since I know I struggle with snacking healthy at work, I make myself a deal that for at least 3 out of 5 days at work, my choices will be healthy options.
  • Get your co-workers involved. Support is awesome…and necessary when you’re making lifestyle changes. Two of my co-workers have drawers in their desks that are just for snacks. They each buy stuff and encourage each other to snack healthy throughout the day. This set-up may not work for everyone, but it can definitely work for some!

What are your favorite healthy snacks to have on-hand at work?

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February is a short month–only 28 days this year.  Our bills didn’t seem to get the memo though.  It’s apparent that they don’t care if the month has 31 or 3 days; they are still going to make an appearance and demand to be paid.  Since this year, we’re focusing on saving and building wealth, we’ve become more cognizant of not only when our bills come and when they’re due, but also how much we’re paying.  For the longest, we’ve been just getting the bills, opening them up, and paying them–most of the time, late.  This month, however, we decided to take another approach.  With yet another change in my employment, it was apparent that if we were to ever make a change, now was the time.  I’m happy to report that, so far, we’ve had two major successes.

Saving success #1

About a year and a half ago, we decided to ditch our month to month phones and sign a contract with a cell phone provider.  We got iPhones and for the most part, we’ve been satisfied with our purchase.  When we first signed the contract, our bill was around $140 something plus tax.  At least I think it was.  Over the months, however, the bill has just crept up.  In November, I received a text from our provider stating that we could upgrade our data plan free of charge with no contract extension or change in our service plan.  Of course I said yes. What followed was a response text from our provider saying, “Thank you for upgrading, which will add $10 to your monthly charges.”  Whaaa???  So y’all some liars, huh?  Of course, I attempted to contact customer service, but didn’t have time to stay on hold for my “estimated wait time.”  I passed the task along to Hubz.  And to make a long story short, we got comfortable with paying an extra $10.  Too lazy or too busy to call in to dispute the charges, we eventually realized that we were actually using most of the new amount of data anyway.

In December, there was yet another increase in our bill.  We paid it, but made a mental note to call and check on the bill.  Yeah, let’s just say that that mental note was somehow erased.  In January, I finally looked at the bill and was shocked to see that our bill had crept up to a little over $200 a month.  Neither Hubz or I knew exactly how or why and we had to admit that that was a shame.

So earlier this month, Hubz called our provider (after my many nagging motivational sessions) and found out what was going on.  Not only had the the data plan been increased once more, but a 33% discount that came along with my job, had been removed!  Well, after much discussion, Hubz was able to get our bill down to about $130 something including taxes.  So, yeah, about $70 saved there.

Saving success #2

Every month, I pay the electricity bill late.  I honestly have no idea when it’s due, but pay it when I get the final notice in the mail.  In all transparency, I wasn’t even sure where they were sending the bill statement until I did some digging and found out that it was being sent to an old email address.  An email address that I can no longer get into and that I really don’t care about.  Yeah, the bills are in there.

So anyway, I noticed that I was paying more and more, even taking into account the late fees.  Now, I know that energy fluctuates–depending on its use, the weather, etc.  Living in Nebraska, I’ve dealt with it for years.  But our bills were getting ridiculous! Like close to $300 ridiculous!  A few weeks ago, I was chatting with my mother and she let it slip that she didn’t have to pay her electricity bill for about 6 months due to a credit.  Say what, now?  6 months?  She said that a few years ago, she signed up for the level payment plan with the electric company and just paid the estimated amount every month.  Turns out, she overpaid and had a pretty significant credit on her account.  Ergo, no payments for 6 months.

I was sold.  I called our electric company immediately, signed up for the level payment plan, and now we’ll be paying $158 a month, every month. That’s much better than what we’ve been paying.

So, that’s what we’ve saved so far this month and we still have a few days left in the month.

How have you saved money this month?

 

 

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Was it just me, or was choosing a planner this year super overwhelming?  I mean, I started looking for “the perfect planner” in late November and didn’t settle on the Sugar Paper Planner until the last week in December.  I don’t know if the options are growing exponentially or if my indecisiveness is getting worse.  It’s probably a combination of both.

Disorganization creates chaos

Before I jump into how I use my planner, I think that it’s important that you understand where my level of disorganization was and what it’s meant for my life and productivity.  Looking back over last year, it’s apparent that much of the year was guided by whichever way the wind was blowing.  I would make plans and not follow through because I’d forgotten to write them down.  Or I happened up on the plans in my planner too late because I didn’t plan with intention.  Throughout most of last year, I struggled horribly to get stuff done.  And everything around me suffered because of it.  I was stressed,  my family was stressed from all the last minute changes, and my self-care took a nose dive.  Everything, even stuff that I thought I’d planned for, was falling through the cracks.  When this year started, I was determined not to re-live that epic mess that was last year’s disorganization.  I decided to get my life together and organize my planner so that it’d work for me.  Here’s how I did it.

Step 1: Pick the perfect planner…for you

The first thing I had to do was choose the perfect planner and I decided that, for me, the Sugar Paper Planner was what I needed.  Last year, I had the Erin Condren Life Planner, but felt that I didn’t really utilize it as much as I thought I would.  So, I decided against it this year.  The Day Designer is beautiful and one day I’ll have one, but having started the year off feeling overwhelmed already, I felt that I needed something simple and straight to the point.  Then I found the Sugar Paper Planner and it’s perfect for that.  That being said, it may not be perfect for you.  If you’re someone that thrives and does well with the hour by hour set-up and enjoy segmented pages with clear instructions on what goes where, The Day Designer or the Passion Planner could be it for you.  If you enjoy color and prefer that your days are broken into morning, noon, and night, or something similar, Erin Condren will rock your world.  It just depends on your needs and how you work best.  This year, I needed simplicity.  I needed the Sugar Paper Planner.

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Step 2: Customize it

How do I customize my Sugar Paper Planner (or how I make my planner work for me)

Since I work outside the home and my job requires that I do some after work and weekend activities every once in a while, I was initially worried about being able to distinguish my work stuff from my family life stuff.  I can’t do all the color coding, sticky tabs, and Washi tape because it overwhelms me.  I found that out last year with the Erin Condren Life Planner.  No, I need everything uninformed throughout.  The pen color can change, but trying to keep purple for Jam, green for home, blue for work, orange for Hubz, and everything else, is just too much for me to digest on a daily basis.  But because the Sugar Paper Planner uses a daily, un-separated format, I had to make some adjustments in order to make it meet my needs.  I’ll get to that in a minute though.  First, let’s start with the month at a glance section.

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The beginning of each month starts with that month’s overview.  The month at a glance is where I write down ALL my due dates.  From rent to car insurance to Jam’s dance recital fees, everything that has a due date goes here.  I do this because it helps me to see that, even though we’re on day 4 of the month, on day 15 our cell phone bill is due.  It’s so not fun to have day 15 roll around and as I’m writing out my intentions for the day, I see that Verizon is due.  That’s no good and quite frankly, it pisses me off because then I’m scrambling.  So yeah…the month at a glance is great for bills and other due dates, which is mainly what I use it for.  Plus, in addition to using it for due dates, I also use this part of the planner for any new or “out of the norm” things.  For example, attending “Smart Start-up” is not a normal occurrence for me, so I need a quick reminder, which would then lead me to the actual date in the planner for more details. This is also where I put work commitments that happen outside of my regular 9 to 5 schedule and where I’d place the information if I were to pick up any hours at my on-call job.

On the month at a glance page is also a small notes section, which I really like.  You could honestly put whatever you want to put there, but I use it for things that I want to accomplish during that month that have a loose deadline. There’s really no timetable for getting these things completed, other than I must have them completed by the month’s end.

The next part of the planner is the days section.  And look at all this space to write! Wow!  If  nothing else sold me on this planner, the way the days are set up did.  The lines are spaced far enough apart to where you don’t have to squeeze info between them, but at the same time, you don’t have to write huge like a 6 year-old to fill the space either (sorry Jam).  Instead, it’s pretty perfectly spaced for normal people writing.

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The days section, or week section, consists of days and lines to write on.  There are no time slots, no boxes, no nothing.  Just lines and space for writing.  It’s not separated in any way.  At first, I really liked this (and I still do), because I could write whatever I needed to write, wherever.  I could circle stuff for emphasis, write sideways, etc.  Then I started noticing that I have a tendency to complete task in the order in which they’re written, even if it would make more sense to skip around.  This was especially the case when co-mingling my professional and personal to-dos.  My solution was to simply separate the “blocked” format with a vertical line down the middle.  One side is for my personal/family activities, while the other side is for my professional and work-related stuff.  I write, “Dinner” right above the personal list and jot down what’s for dinner on each of those days.  The approach I use for my days is super easy, takes care of everything I need it to, and doesn’t take a lot of modifying.  That’s a win in my book!

Step 3:  Add what you need. Take away what you don’t.

One of the best things about a simple planner is the ability to add to or take away what’s of no use to you.  For example, I rarely, if ever, use the notes section in the back of my planner.  I just don’t have a real need for it.  Occasionally, I’ll use it for brainstorming, but those sessions (in the planner) are few and far between.  I do, however, use sticky notes, highlighters, and tabs on a regular basis.

So, yeah.  That’s how I organize my planner as a working mom.  It’s pretty simple and straightforward with not a lot of hoopla.  And so far, it’s working out well.  Now, I’m on to the goal of actually remembering to write things down in my planner, instead of thinking I can hold it all in my mind.  I’ll get it together one of these days.

What planner are you using this year?  Are there any planner systems that work for you?