The Story of One Very Happy Cat Lady (in Pictures)

(Originally published October 8, 2013)


I was distracted by EVERYTHING tonight as I attempted to do my very part-time transcription job. Here was the highlight of my working evening (okay, every evening…hell, every time I sit down in my apartment):



And now I’m off to bed (way too late, as usual), where I will …? You guessed it! Cuddle with my cats!


To Increase Happiness, Do MORE of What REALLY Matters to You

(Originally published October 7, 2013)


On the road trip to Walla Walla, I got great one-on-one time with my girl Katie. We see each other fairly often but usually it’s in a big group setting and we don’t get the chance to just BE with each other and really dig deep and catch up.

Somewhere along the drive our conversation found its way to the question of what we’ve been doing lately in our lives to increase our happiness quotients. Katie mentioned increased mindfulness, which for her has been an increased focus on what TRULY MATTERS to her in her life. She’s taken the time to reflect on what and who is most important to her and she’s gone about prioritizing those people/activities in her life.

This is one of those things that seems so simple—”Duh, of course we all prioritize what’s most important to us.” But if you really look at your life and see what areas you put the most time and effort into, you might realize that you AREN’T prioritizing at all!

If you say your spouse is important to you, can you back that claim up with any action you regularly take to show your spouse how important he/she is to you? Do you make your spouse a top priority or do you always put your relationship in the back seat while you give your time away freely and easily to everyone BUT your spouse?

As Katie snoozed beside me, I used this conversation as a catalyst to ask myself tough questions like:

  • What do I profess is important to me that I give no energy to? (Until about a month ago, one obvious answer for me would have been writing.)
  • What do I deem NOT important and yet I allow it to suck me dry?
  • What dreams have I allowed to go dormant and what small actions can I take to breathe life into them again?
  • In what ways do I prioritize others above myself? Is that adding to my life force or depleting it? Is that adding to what I have to give or am I operating at a deficit because I never put myself first?
  • What are some ways in which I show those who are most important to me that I love them? What are some ways that I show myself that I love me?
  • What’s the ratio of how often I say yes to things versus how often I say no? (This is not a question meant to create self-judgment; it’s merely meant to increase your awareness of where you might be overextending yourself or holding yourself back from new experiences.)

I had 34 hours in a car to think about all of this…and I’m so grateful I did.

Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step #2: Pay Off All Debt Using the Debt Snowball

(Originally published October 6, 2013)


Please note: This is a very brief summary of Dave Ramsey’s advice to getting out of debt. The following is paraphrased from Dave’s Complete Guide to Money, which is the book provided to everyone attending Financial Peace University classes.

Please also note: Dave Ramsey is VERY Christian. If that offends you and you would discount his advice because you can’t get past his religious beliefs, then you will simply be missing out on life-transforming information. It would behoove you to look past what doesn’t match with your own belief system and listen to the meat of the advice. If I was able to do it, you can do it.

Essentials for Getting Out of Debt

1) You must have “gazelle intensity.” Picture it: Discovery Channel. Gazelles grazing. Cheetah sneaks up. Gazelles sense him. Cheetah pounces. Gazelles run in every direction. Although cheetah is fastest land mammal on Earth, gazelles are adept at outmaneuvering. Cheetah gets a kill only about once in 19 attempts. If you are in debt, YOU ARE A GAZELLE!! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE OR THE CHEETAHS (AKA CREDITORS) WILL GET YOU!!

2) You must stop borrowing more money. As I said in my previous post, Dave’s advice is not rocket science! You must stop the bleeding in order for the wound to heal. Quit picking at financial scabs, quit stabbing yourself in the hand, QUIT USING DEBT! This is another “simple but not easy” tip. Debt is easy. Debt is everywhere. It can be FRIGHTENING to imagine life without credit if you’ve always relied on it. Do what you must to make yourself stop. Dave would have you cut up your credit cards!

3) You must have savings (see my previous post about Baby Step #1). Credit cards are not emergency funds. Money sitting idly in a bank account is an emergency fund!

4) Pray about it. Or meditate. Or talk to the universe. Or talk to your angels, guides, masters, and teachers. Or visualize light illuminating your bank account. Do whatever you do to connect into the fabric of what’s bigger than you. And if you’re a nonbeliever, post your financial goals all over your house and car and keep your eye on the prize at all times!

5) Be willing to do whatever it takes! A good defensive strategy is to know that you might not have a life for a little while. You might dress like a vagabond (not that I would know anything about that). You might miss your favorite performers when they roll through town. You  might need to say no to some things. You can also have a strong offensive strategy! You could get a part-time job to supplement your current job. You could do a purge of your house and make a pile of everything you can sell to make money. Have a garage sale or sell things individually online. I can’t tell you how many times I sold something on Craigslist just in time to allow me to pay a certain bill I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to pay.

The Debt Snowball

This is so simple it’s ridiculous…and yet if you aren’t using this technique, I can guarantee you’re treading water.

Here’s the plan:

  • Make a list of all your debts and order them from smallest payoff amount to largest payoff amount.
  • Make minimum payments on all debts except the top one on the list (aka “debt #1″—the smallest payoff amount).
  • Attack debt #1 with every bit of money you can spare each month (including the amounts you were paying above and beyond minimum on your other debts).
  • Once debt #1 is paid off, roll everything you were throwing at it toward debt #2 (plus the minimum you’d already been paying on debt #2). So, for example, maybe you were able to pay $300/month to debt #1. With it now paid off, you’re able to apply that $300 payment toward debt #2, which you’d already been paying $50/month on. So now you’re attacking debt #2 with $350, whereas you’d only had $300 to pay toward debt #1.

You’ll be surprised how big your payments become as you proceed with this plan (hence the “snowball” reference, as snowballs get bigger and bigger as they roll downhill and gather more snow). Think of this as a financial variation on the theme of “united we stand, divided we fall.” If you’re trying to pay just a little bit extra on every debt, you’ll get nowhere fast (it’s just the mathematical reality because most of each payment is likely going toward interest and very little is actually knocking down the principle balance).

The reason Dave advises ordering debts by payoff amount instead of by interest rate is because of the importance of little victories. In order to stay motivated and moving with “gazelle intensity,” you need to have consistent wins! You need to see that you’re making progress and gaining ground. The benefit of staying motivated FAR OUTWEIGHS the money you’ll save in interest by listing your debts in order of interest rate. How raging will you be able to keep your internal fire if you know it’ll take 3 years to pay off your balance with the highest interest rate? Yeah…that’s a setup for failure…

If you’re a member of Financial Peace University, Dave provides a free calculator that will help you figure out how quickly you can knock out all your debt. You can probably also find a similar calculator online for free.

Alright, gazelles! Let’s get out there and outmaneuver those cheetahs!!

Becoming Debt-Free: The One Thing You MUST Do First!

(Originally published October 6, 2013)


I feel compelled to share things that have transformed my life. This one comes from Dave Ramsey. He’s a man who learned the hard way (as did I) that he knew nothing about money. He declared bankruptcy in his early twenties and was determined from that point forward to learn about how money works and to begin making different choices.

The crazy thing about his brilliance is that it was once common sense (before we were all brainwashed about the magic of credit and the importance of having a great credit score). If I told my grandmother that this man named Dave has changed the lives of millions of people by teaching what he teaches, and if I then told her blow-by-blow what he teaches, she would probably laugh hysterically.

What Dave Ramsey teaches is not rocket science! It’s fiscal responsibility packaged into 7 Baby Steps that are simple to understand and not always easy to implement. I’ve read TONS of books about money and Dave’s was the first to TELL ME WHAT TO DO.

Dave’s Baby Step #1: Put $1,000 in a beginner emergency fund ($500 if your income is under $20K per year).

I can’t begin to tell you how this seemingly simple and obvious tip changed my financial life forever! I had been trying to claw my way out of debt for years and to no avail. I would live simply and throw as much as I could at my credit card balances. I was using the debt snowball tactic (part of Dave’s Baby Step #2) but because I was missing this SAVINGS piece, I failed and failed and failed and failed at paying down my debt.

Without this savings in place, here’s what happens:

Throw money at debt. Throw money at debt. Jeez I’m broke, but I’m paying down my debt! Throw money at debt. Need car repair. Damn. I don’t have any money because I’ve thrown it all at my debt. Have to put car repair on my credit card. Damn, that just undid a lot of progress. Okay, back at it. Throw money at debt. Throw money at debt. This sucks. I have no money ever. Throw money at debt. Water heater needs to be replaced. Damn it. Put it on the credit card.

And around and around and around this cycle goes: two steps forward, one step back, three steps forward, four steps back. It’s exhausting and frustrating and will-breaking!

Enter this magical $1000 emergency fund. In order to build it up, you might need to stop paying extra to debt for a while. So be it. Cut back on everything you can, pay only minimum on all your debts, and build your emergency fund as fast as you can. Sell stuff. Take on extra jobs. Do what you must to gather 1000 dollar bills into an account. It will change your life!

Now, with this savings in place, go attack your debt. Now if something breaks and needs to be fixed, you’ve got it covered without going further into debt. It’s what Dave calls “Murphy-proofing” your life. He talks about how Murphy goes from door to door, looking for a place to wreak havoc. What happens when he comes to your door and realizes you have savings? He moves on to the next house.

(Important note: If you do dip into this savings account to take care of an emergency, halt the massive debt payments until you’ve refilled this account, then proceed once again to attack the debt.)

I’ve had my $1000 in place for just over a year now and I haven’t had need of it. It’s mind-boggling how important this seemingly simple thing is. It shifts everything! It backs you a hundred feet away from the cliff and holds your hand and says, “You’re safe. Everything is okay. You can do this.” It puts something in your mental “plus” column and shifts your perspective from one of “I have no money ever” to “I HAVE money.”

And if anyone tries to convince you it’s stupid to have this money hanging out earning no interest while your debt is being charged incredibly high interest…thank them for caring and run as fast as you can to a Financial Peace University class. They are offered at churches all around the country or you can do it home-study style. It’s an affordable class that will change your life (if you follow the plan). I promise.

Maybe Not Such a Bad Thing: My Propensity to Fall in Love

(Originally published October 5, 2013)


There’s only one thing I’ve had on my mind all day: my propensity to fall in love.

Perhaps it’s simply that my definition of falling in love is looser than most people’s. For me falling in love has nothing to do with romance and sex and everything to do with basking in the amazing energy of something or someone. Right now I have a cat lying on my chest. I tell him every day how in love with him I am. I tell him that if he’d be willing to devolve into a human, I’d marry him immediately. He’s my soul mate…hopefully one of many…and he just happens to be feline. And then there’s my dog Radha: I’ve been in love with her from the moment someone put her on my lap when she was 10 weeks old. I’ve been in love with Sofie since the moment I picked her up and held her to my heart, rescuing her from a pack of foxes. And Princess I’ve been in love with since I brought her home 13 years ago, petrified that I wouldn’t have the capacity to care for another living being. She’s taught me well and loved me through thick and thin.

And then there are friends—too many to list individually so I’ll just mention a sampling from tonight. Nancy Wadsworth is one of the most joyful women I’ve ever known. Who could NOT fall in love with her? And the same for Sarah Brown, whose natural beauty and effortless sensuality stun me.

When I walk in the park I fall in love with the geese and the pelicans (oh how I love those pelicans!) and the crows and the squirrels. I laugh at my silly dogs and am filled with joy to see their joy.

My last girlfriend never said she was in love with me. She put such significance and meaning on the phrase that she totally squashed the magic out of it. She turned it into an object of control and dangled it before me. That’s a fun game and all (not), but why would we limit who we fall in love with to just a romantic partner when we live in such a magical and beautiful world full of millions of moments worth falling in love with?

I’ve always made myself wrong for falling in love so quickly—and now I’m beginning to realize that it might just be one of my strongest assets.

Am I Now Dating the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles?!

(Originally published October 3, 2013)


Two funny things happened today.

1) I got an email from Sallie Mae. She’s clearly in denial that I’ve truly left her.

2) I received correspondence yet again from the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles. This is the second time I’ve heard from them in as many weeks. The clerks are very sweet about including a cover sheet each time that tells me exactly which part of the process I’ve screwed up.

Rebecca and I were married in California during the few months the window was open for gay marriage. Do you know how easy it is to get married? And do you also know how difficult it is to get divorced?!

And we’ve got it easy peasy. We’re still friends, I really like her new girlfriend, Radha the dog goes back and forth and still benefits from having two (well, actually three) mommas. We no longer own property together, we’ve already divided all the assets, yada yada. And still…the matter is not yet closed.

The real problem is that legalese shuts my brain down. Rebecca and I met with a lawyer once to have our wills written up (we needed to have a plan in place for who would take care of all the animals) and Rebecca followed every minute of the conversation. I just kept shrinking lower in my chair and might have cried from frustration after we left. I had NO IDEA what was said or what was happening. Mostly I’m pretty smart—I get by—but in a lawyer’s office I am out of my element and totally clueless.

So I just laugh every time I get another fat envelope back from the Superior Court of CA. And then I chuckle softly to myself as I write the LOL text to Rebecca about what I just received in the mail. She might just be stuck with me forever. She thinks she should get a divorce so that the woman who’s currently in love with her could make a move? RIDICULOUS! CA thinks NOT!

But with perseverance (which as a Taurus, I’ve got an abundance of), we’ll make it through to the other side of divorce. For some people it’s about rebuilding self esteem, starting from scratch, picking up the pieces. For us, at this point, it’s purely about bureaucracy.

And we will win.

Mild State of Shock: I Really Just Dumped Sallie Mae

(Originally published October 2, 2013)


She treated me well. She put me through massage school. She took my phone calls.

She was never much for cuddling.

It was a relationship I stayed in way too long. Finally I woke up from the fog I’d been living in and realized there were better things waiting for me out in the world—but only once I cut ties with Sallie Mae.

I didn’t even warn her that I was done. I just left a wad of cash on the living room table under my empty beer bottle…no “Dear Sallie Mae” letter or anything. No lesbian over-processing. No “It’s not you, it’s me” speech.


I don’t feel too bad, though. With a sailor in every port and two on Sunday (she mixed metaphors all the time and spoke in acronyms…), she’ll be fine without me. She was always recruiting younger women and had a warehouse full of proverbial toasters.

I left her on account of Dave Ramsey. He helped me see that she really wasn’t doing me any favors and he helped me map out a plan to leave her. He’s a married man, ultra-Christian, with kids. Nothing happened between us; he just gave me some great advice. I followed it.

Now I’m free to dream bigger. I finally know I deserve more.

Bye Bye, Sallie Mae. It’s Been a Pleasure Doing Business with You.

(Originally posted October 1, 2013)


I keep obsessively checking the Sallie Mae website. I’m waiting for my final online payment to clear so I can see the long-awaited $0 balance I’ve been working so hard to create.

Current balance: $703.78

Pending payment: $703.78

And this time when it’s $0, it’ll be for real!

Four or five months ago I was doing my obsessive balance checking and one random morning it said I had a $0 balance!

I jumped for joy all around my office and called my mom immediately to thank her—because I couldn’t figure out how else the balance could have been paid. My mom insisted she hadn’t made any payments on my behalf and yet I continued to think she was just messing with me. Upon her suggestion I finally called the Direct Loan people and I was routed to a recording saying that my balance had been transferred to the Sallie Mae Servicing Center (with no prior warning).

<Bwa wa wa….> (that’s the sound you hear on game shows when someone loses…)

Talk about a bubble-bursting letdown moment! I’d even called my close friend “Amy in Alabama” (as I usually refer to her) and left a debt-free scream on her answering machine! That’s a funny thing to have to take back: “Uh, Amy…ignore that previous message, it was a little premature…” I’d even already sent out invites to a few friends to join me in a little celebration!

Tomorrow I should finally see the $0 balance for real. Unfortunately that won’t mean I’m completely debt free, but it’ll mean I’m darn close…And now when I massage people (which happens rarely), I’ll do it without the burden of that massage school student loan hanging over my head.

My target is to be able to call Amy with that debt-free scream by the end of the year. Putting it on record here. :-)

15-Year College Reunion: A Reminder of Magic and Miracles

(Originally published September 30, 2013)


This weekend for me was like a giant billboard that reads: “CAN YOU SEE HOW AMAZING YOUR LIFE IS?”

And what’s funny about that is that only a month ago I was beating myself up with thoughts like, “Wow, everyone will notice the weight you’ve gained, the extra gray in your hair, the slight hesitation as you pull out your wallet to pay [while you do quick math to figure out whether you’re good for it], the job you have that is no higher level than you might have had right out of college (or high school, for that matter), the lack of a partner, the less-than-500-square-foot dwelling you call home…” and on and on. We all know how easy is it to succumb to the point of view of our inner critic. And the thought of going to something like a reunion can have the effect of handing the critic a megaphone.

My experience of this weekend, however, turned out to be one of a HUGELY renewed faith in the magic and mystery of life (and thus rendering all that inner critic nonsense completely absurd). In reminiscing with friends I was unable to ignore that life is amazing and perfect and unexplainable. Here are a couple of the miraculous moments I love to remember most:

Freshman drop-off day, I’m turning away from my dorm window with tears streaming down my face after watching my mom pull out of the parking lot to start the long drive home to Denver. Feeling a huge black hole of sadness and fear and loneliness, I walk out into the hallway and see Pat Vallely—the father of a girl I’d met while visiting the college—beaming a huge smile at me and pulling me into a hug. He was helping his daughter Amy move into the room a few doors down from mine. Sadness instantly gone. She’s still one of my best friends and he still greets me with a huge smile and a hug.

Junior year, Genie Lyn showing up unexpectedly during one of my darkest hours EVER…as if she’d seen the bat signal. Only Genie could have done for me that night what she did. Although she may never understand the extent of her contribution, I will ALWAYS be grateful that on that particular day,

                                        Of all the recliners, in all the dorm rooms, in all the world, she sat in mine.

I could go on and on listing all the miracles that have happened in my life. And that’s exactly how I spent some of the time on the drive home: listing in my head all the miracles I could think of (including the depth of my love for the woman sitting next to me in the car, resting her eyes).

And do you know what happened within about a five-minute span while I was contemplating magic and miracles? First, I looked directly up at a streetlight as I drove under it and I saw a huge hawk soar directly under the light so that its shape was perfectly silhouetted. Then not three minutes later I saw a shooting star right in front of me go from the right to the left, perfectly horizontal. And then I looked at the clock and the time was exactly 1:11 a.m.

What miracles have happened in your life? I bet if you started writing them down every time you thought of one, you’d be shocked at how long the list is. And if you can’t think of any, lower the expectation of what you think of as a miracle. It doesn’t have to be seeing someone turn water into wine. It can be as subtle as that friend who calls when you’re in the pit of despair and says, “Hey, I was thinking of you. Wanna’ grab coffee?”

15-Year College Reunion: General Reflections

(Originally published September 30, 2013)


I spent 17 hours yesterday and today with one of my closest friends driving back to Denver from Walla Walla. All together we spent about 34 hours in the car (round trip) for about 32 hours of awake reunion time (and don’t believe my math because I’m very sleep deprived).

We were giddy with excitement the whole way to Walla Walla. We spent time buffering our memories with names and stories in an effort to avoid the herky-jerky awkwardness of non-remembering.

This was an amazing reunion in that it was way less about, “Hey, what do you do for a living?” and way more about, “Wow, so good to see you [and truly meaning it]. How are you? Tell me about your life.” I could see the sleep deprivation in the faces of my many friends with young children. I could feel beneath the excitement the weariness, the struggle, the contentment, the juggling…the actual living that so many of us have done since last seeing each other: kids born, illnesses fought (and won), marriages changing for better or worse, hearts broken and then mended, finances both smooth and rough, and all of us sharing memories of then with the added perspective of now.

I also noticed unadulterated joy, kindness, and the constantly asked question between people of different friend groups: “Why didn’t we ever hang out? You’re so cool!” Walls were down. Insecurities seemed to fade quickly. I heard those who were self-conscious of their own status say things like, “I can’t believe one woman from my class became an astronaut and the other became a [fill in the blank] and I’m just a [fill in the blank].” This self-deprecation really wasn’t tolerated as I’d hear someone say, “And are you happy?” The atmosphere seemed one in which many of us might have been self-conscious but we sure weren’t going to allow anyone else to be!

I also heard people say to each other, “Wow, you look EXACTLY the same!” And honestly, most of us really do…on the outside.