Grownup Stuff

I mentioned a few months ago that I was working with Ashley from Saving Money in Your Twenties (which is, sadly, an age group to which I no longer belong but her advice is sound advice no matter your age).

Ashley asked me to be a guinea pig of sorts as she tested out her personal coaching business. It’s no secret that sports information directors (even if they have fancy titles like mine – Director of Athletic Communications) do NOT make a lot of money. Thus, my goals in working with Ashley were to learn where in the heck my money is going each month and what I can do to maximize what I am making while balancing grad school payments.

Oh, and my long-term goal? Own a house so I can have two permanent dogs. :-)

"What, am I not enough for you??"

“What, am I not enough for you??”

So how did the whole process go? It was really, really helpful. For the first time I feel organized in regards to my money (even what little I have); I know where my money is being spent and with Ashley’s help, I set up monthly categories for all my expenses. The goal is to stay within the max budget we set for each category. If I can do that, I’ll have more “leftover” money at the end of each month than I realized.

The key, though? Actually doing something with that “leftover” money rather than letting it sit in my checking account, destined to be spent at some point. And that’s another big thing I got out of working with Ashley; it prompted me to get cracking on the things I knew needed to be done but had been avoiding – opening up a new savings account, calling Verizon to see if I could get my monthly cell phone bill lowered, etc.

Does it take a little extra work to track and categorize my expenses? Yes. Is it difficult? No! Is it worth it? Yes!! I’m not old by any stretch but I’m not young, either, so this whole process came at a great time. My organization and saving habits remain relevant no matter how much money I go on to make one day (hey, a girl can dream).

An Update of the Very Best Kind

I had a few blog post topics rattling around in my head but at the end of my work day this afternoon, I got the best email I’ve gotten in a very, very long time.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I think about all of our fosters every day. And today, on the one-year anniversary of Cindy’s adoption, I got an email from her mom that brought (good) tears to my eyes.

Sweet Cindy.

Sweet Cindy.

I won’t go into too many details as Cindy (now Nellie) is no longer a part of our family but there aren’t words to describe how perfect her forever home is. She is (so deservedly) spoiled and loved. She has a plethora of soft, fluffy surfaces to sleep on and no shortage of people to pet her.

Her mother sent a recent picture; I didn’t feel right posting it on the blog but just picture a bed, a pile of pillows and Nellie on top of said pillows. Heaven for a dog who deserves nothing but everything her new family is giving her.

Today’s email made my day, my week. Fostering is hard – mostly emotionally difficult – but when fosters find homes like the one Nellie found, it’s worth it 100 times over.

Here is a very small selection of my favorite Nellie photos.

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Cindy's double bed setup.

Cindy’s double bed setup.

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Upside down turtle!

Upside down turtle!

Very Thankful

What a great week of vacation! Marty’s family rented a house in the Poconos and it was the perfect mix of active and relaxing, which is exactly what Marty and I want from any vacation.
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Yes, there were three decks!

Yes, there were three decks!

As always, we are very thankful that Marty’s parents’ invite us every year. Since we live a good 3 1/2 hours from his family in South Jersey, we really only see them 3-4 times a year so being able to spend a full week with them is something we’re really glad we’re able to do.

And the reason we’re able to spend a full week is because of the generosity of my parents. They are willing to watch Lucy for the entire week which is A: heaven for Lucy and B: saves us a ton of money by not having to kennel her.

"Yeah, I think I'll just stay with Grandma and Grandpa, thanks."

“Yeah, I think I’ll just stay with Grandma and Grandpa, thanks.”

In addition, most kennels require a kennel cough vaccine and Lucy does not have that vaccination. The kennel cough vaccine is controversial for short-nosed dogs; there is research that shows it can dangerous for short-nosed doggies like Lucy so I’ve avoided giving it to her since we’ve never run into a time when the kennel has been our only option.

So, while last Friday I had to drive 75 minutes past our vacation home to drop Lucy off and then drive 75 minutes back to the vacation home and then drive a combined 3 1/2 hours one week later to pick her up and head home, it was worth it. Lucy was happy and Marty and I were able to enjoy a full week of vacation.

I really don’t think Lucy wanted to come back home with me, though.

Refusing eye contact for making her leave.

Refusing eye contact for making her leave.

Ever since my mother’s stroke over three years ago, she can’t work, which means she’s home almost all day, i.e. Lucy’s version of heaven. She adores my mother and was spoiled by having someone home to lavish her with attention all day. Oh well, all vacations (for humans and dogs) have to come to an end at some point!

While We’ve Been Gone…

Lucy has been getting reacquainted with her bed while we’ve been on vacation and she’s been staying with my parents.

She doesn’t need to be crated at my parents’ house when it’s just her visiting. She knows the couch is off-limits but I wanted to bring her bed so she had something comfy on which to lay down. Or hump. Whatever.

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Lucy doesn’t have a bed at our apartment because she has free reign of the couch…and she likes to eat any bed we’ve ever gotten her. At my parents’ house, though, she seems to prefer humping it over eating it which is both hilarious and preferable over ingesting it!

Can’t wait to pick my little squish up tomorrow!

Vacation!

Marty likes to shriek “vacation!” at random times in the weeks and days leading up to vacation. And you guessed it – it’s vacation time!

It’s been quite a busy start to vacation. My mom has extended family in the Kutztown (Pa.) area and she and my aunt were having dinner with them on Thursday night in Kutztown. My aunt wondered if I was free to meet them for dinner as a surprise for my mom and I was! It meant a two-hour drive each way but it was worth it to surprise my mom.

I got back to Selinsgrove around 10 p.m. on Thursday night and then after work today (Friday), I packed up the car (and Lucy) to drive 2 1/2 hours to my parents’ house in New Jersey since they’ll be watching Lucy while Marty and I are on vacation with his family.

"Don't forget me!"

“Don’t forget me!”

I’m grabbing dinner at my parents’ to avoid rush hour traffic before hitting the road later tonight to drive BACK into Pennsylvania for vacation. It’s ok, though, because it’s vacation!

Lucy will be vacationing with my parents.

Lucy will be vacationing with my parents.

Lately

To be completely honest, there isn’t much to write about (at least dog-related stuff) lately. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s been a really nice and really relaxing summer so far. Work-wise, it’s actually been less relaxing than normal but outside of work (which is a real 9-5 job during the summer months!), I’ve been doing lots of nothing besides work for class and relaxing.

Later this week, I’ll be starting my “real” vacation with a week in the Poconos with Marty’s family. I wasn’t able to go last year because we still had Cindy and I was juggling two classes. This summer, Buddy is at his forever home and I’m taking just one class so I’m relatively free to take the week off!

Oh, and I've been practicing with my new camera, too!

Oh, and I’ve been practicing with my new camera, too!

The only reason I’m free, though, is because my parents will be (more than generously) watching Lucy while we’re gone. They are SUCH a huge help with Lucy during days/weeks like the upcoming one. Lucy adores my mother, is still scared of my dad (but might actually warm up to him by the time I pick her up at the end of the week) and is, from what I’m told, very well-behaved when she’s there. It’s really nice to not have to worry about paying to board her at the kennel.

Of course, I miss her tons while we’re gone but taking a week to get out of town is totally worth it.

Lucy relaxes by eating sticks.

Lucy relaxes by eating sticks.

After vacation we’ll re-evaluate fostering again. I know I want to foster again and quite frankly life seems boring without a foster but on the flip side, life is also much easier without a foster! I’ll be the first to admit, though, that the start of the academic year at work (which is sadly not that far off!) makes me incredibly anxious and while adding a foster would seem counter-intuitive, fostering makes me happy and forces me to see the bigger picture. Helping a dog in need is an actual valuable use of my time; worrying over a video display on the ginormous videoboard at our football field, for instance, isn’t such a valuable use of my time and thus fostering forces me to put all that in perspective.

We’ll see!

A New Hobby?

A new hobby would imply that I have an old hobby. Which I don’t. Unless you count fostering dogs. Anyway, for years I’ve been taking photos for work (I work in college athletics so I take lots of headshots and action photos) with a DSLR and I sometimes, ah, “borrow” my work camera to take pictures at Marty’s races, of the dogs, etc.

I also took an online digital photography course through my professional development account so that I could actually figure out what the hell I was doing with the camera (rather than point, click, and pray for one or two usable pictures. Spoiler – I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing). My dad knew I was doing some research into DSLRs for myself and thought a DSLR would make for a good birthday gift.

He was right.

So this week we took a trip into NYC to make a day of lunch and camera shopping and I came home with a brand new Canon EOS Rebel T3i with an 18-55mm lens and a 55-250mm lens.

My parents

My parents

I poured over the manual and have been clicking away since we got back to my parents’ house in NJ.

Quality-wise, not so good. Subject-wises? Phenomenal.

Quality-wise, not so good. Subject-wises? Phenomenal.

A mid-walk picture break.

A mid-walk picture break.

Sidenote: Isn't my mom beautiful?

Sidenote: Isn’t my mom beautiful?

This is a dog blog, though, so of course Lucy will be the unwilling subject of my photo-taking as I try to learn what the hell I’m doing. I got back to PA this afternoon and took advantage of the sunny conditions to grab a few photos of Lucy.

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Like I said, I still don’t really know what I’m doing but it is going to be a lot of fun figuring it out!

Birthday Weekend

This weekend I turned 30. I never wanted to be one of those women who hated getting older. But I kind of am. I think it’s mostly because I’m not where I thought I’d be at this point in my life. I thought I’d be married. I thought I’d own a home. I thought I’d have kids. I thought I’d be in my forever job. I’m 0-for-4. Not exactly a stellar batting average.

Now, it’s not like I haven’t accomplished anything or even have any real room for complaints. Life’s been pretty good. I just think it could be better. Fortunately I have the important things – family, friends, Lucy, a job, a home, etc. Looking forward to the next decade. Sort of.

Anyway, we had a very low-key weekend, which was perfect. I even busted out the “real” camera today to snap a few pics of Lucy now that’s she’s feeling better (thanks to everyone for the well wishes, by the way!).

Her favorite stick.

Her favorite stick.

She has ups for a bulldog.

She has ups for a bulldog.

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Concentration.

Concentration.

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A man and his dog.

A man and his dog.

I even found this picture of Buddy left on the camera. What a cutie.

His sun spot at my parents' house.

His sun spot at my parents’ house.

So, a great weekend if we can just forget about the whole 30 thing. :-)

The Best Laid Plans

It’s Saturday morning and I’m currently blogging from my couch which is not where I was supposed to be this morning. I was supposed to be cheering Marty on at his triathlon and providing my professional amateur photography skills.

Instead, I’m sitting next to this (sick) squish.

Cute, even when sick.

Cute, even when sick.

I had a group conference call/assignment for class last night (I know, on a Friday night) and a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call. I managed to get in bed by 9:45 and fell asleep at…11 p.m. And was then awake at 4:10 a.m. I gave in, got up and came downstairs to the distinct smell of poop.

For the first time since she was 10 weeks old, Lucy crapped in the house. I took her outside where she proceeded to have projectile diarrhea. Honest to goodness, first time I’ve ever seen that.

Not feeling well at all.

Not feeling well at all.

I quickly cooked up some bouillon and rice (my go-to for upset doggie tummies) to see how she’d handle it. Not well because a few minutes later I was cleaning up puke. My travel to the race was a no-go. :-(

Lucy had a hard time keeping down just bouillon but a half hour ago managed to keep down a teeny tiny scoop of rice so I’m crossing my fingers it continues to stay down. I hate when she’s sick and I hate that I couldn’t be at Marty’s race but there just wasn’t any way I felt comfortable leaving Lucy alone.

I adore having a dog, especially one as cute and fun as Lucy, but man, dog ownership is stressful and on days like this, it’s also really, really disgusting.

Buddy Found His Forever Home

This evening I dropped Buddy off at his forever home.

Sebastian (L) and Buddy (R)

Sebastian (L) and Buddy (R)

As is the norm, I didn’t say much of anything leading up to his adoption because until the foster dogs are actually in their homes, I don’t like to count my chickens before they’ve hatched!

On the way to meet his family!

On the way to meet his family!

Buddy is a very lucky boy, though. His family actually lives in the same town as us! I know, the odds of that are practically zero because I live in the middle of nowhere, but he is literally a 90-second drive away. His family is also a “pug family.” Their current pug, Sebastian, is a 10-year-old rescue pug (and looks like Buddy’s dad!). Their previous pug (I think her name was Sassy) recently passed away and the family was looking for a buddy for Sebastian. So Buddy will now be Sebastian’s buddy!

Like I did with Snowy, I wanted to make a list of sorts about what I want to remember about Buddy:

- He is a Velcro pug. Wherever we (Marty and me) were, so was Buddy.

It's my bed but it's Buddy's world.

It’s my bed but it’s Buddy’s world.

- He LOVES his walks. At least twice a day I took Buddy for a walk. I’m going to gain approximately 10 pounds now that he’s gone.

Always up for a walk.

Always up for a walk.

- On a similar note, Buddy would only poop on a walk; I think once in the months we had him did he actually poop in our yard.

- Also related, Buddy would spin around and around in a circle, maybe 4-5 times, before pooping. At least he gave us warning. And it was as hilarious as it sounds.

- Buddy was/is a barker. Barks at the TV. Barks at the train that goes by. Barks when no one is paying attention to him. If he were sticking around we’d definitely do some behavior training with him but his new family can now address that issue if it bothers them!

- He and Lucy got along but I wouldn’t call them best buddies. It’s hard to describe. They didn’t not get along and a lot of times they would cuddle. But they also didn’t really play together. It’s almost like they were just aware of each other’s presence and liked having company, but that was as far as it went.

Ok, they were really cute when they cuddled.

Ok, they were really cute when they cuddled.

- Buddy enjoyed car rides but only if he was given free reign of the car, meaning he hated car rides with us because we made him ride in his crate. Otherwise I would have spent every car ride keeping Buddy off my lap while I drove; not safe, not fun.

Buddy looking deceptively happy in his crate; trust me, he was not happy.

Buddy looking deceptively happy in his crate; trust me, he was not happy.

- Buddy’s cough. He sounded like a goose and it was only bad when he got excited. Alarming at first, normal after a while.

- The way he usually left some breakfast or dinner on his chin.

- His sweet, sweet eyes. He really did have the most soulful eyes.

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Man, we’ll definitely miss Buddy. Unlike Cindy and Snowy, he wasn’t a mill dog and knew exactly how to be a pet. He was house-trained, knew what toys and walks were and was used to life in a home. For that reason he was definitely our “easiest” foster but certainly not easy to say good-bye to. I just love his personality and little quirks. I’ll miss his big eyes staring at me when he wanted to be on my lap and I’ll miss having a shadow follow me around the apartment.

I’m going to be a wreck, as usual, for more than a few days. He even tried to run out the door after us when it was time for us to leave. :-( It’s so sad to say good-bye and I’ll be thinking of how he’s doing every day. Even now I think about Cindy and Snowy just about every day and wonder how they’re doing (even when I know they’re doing spectacularly!).

What next? This time I’m going to try and take a serious break from fostering to make our lives a bit easier for a while but I know we’ll be back at it after not too long!