Wednesday, April 23, 2014

on quitting my job, enjoying the present and saving for the future.

i had pictured this blog post to be somewhat informative, short with bullet points but alas, it's a long and rambling one. i apologize and thanks in advance for reading along. it's a topic i've been trying to articulate for a long time but i'm not sure if i did a good job. i may come back at a later point and reflect, but in the meantime, here is my first go. 

i've mentioned a few times on the blog how i don't work full-time. i quit my job at the end of july last year and i have been enjoying my "time off". the other night yangkyu looked at me and said "jane, do you really not want to go back to work?" i must've had a pout on my face because he quickly followed up by saying "no, what i mean is, you look so happy now. it's good to see you like this. if you're happy you don't have to go back to work." 

in this post i talked about the case of life. it was mostly about having financial security in the long run and asset building {buying a home, etc.}, but i also worry about whether or not i have to go back to a full-time job. before i write further about it, i have to say that i am coming from a place of privilege when i talk about this topic because i know many folks don't have a choice but to work. i know i am lucky to be in a position where i am married and have someone who has a good job with health insurance and earns enough to help support the both of us and our dog. i realize this and i hope this post doesn't come off pompous or out of touch. 

i spent 13 years post graduation in the non-profit field. in the past 5-6 years i built a niche in communications - traditional media and digital communications - and have enjoyed it very much. i loved being part of a team that created stories of people -- agents of social change -- and the issues that mattered to us as a community. but as time went on i became jaded and disappointed {expectation does that.. darn those expectations..!}.

when i was working i felt like i was always working. getting up early, working the usually hours from 9-6 pm, coming home, eating a quick 10 minute dinner and then working again. there were campaign proposals to be completed, grant reports to be written, press releases to be drafted and work of others to be reviewed. there was literally no time in the day to get anything done because half of the day would be spent on meetings, meetings and more meetings.

this part of work was stressful but there was also adrenaline which i liked {but not so much the consecutive days of working long hours}. the thing that i didn't like was people stress. i think i'm probably more on the sensitive side, but i never understood people who were rude, judging, assuming, bossy, fake and pompous. and i had my share of working with these types of people and it drove me up the wall. i would spend my time with pent up frustration and i would explode at home. yangkyu would have to listen to me night after night. i would vent, i would self-doubt, question myself to see if maybe i was in the wrong and then get worked up all over again wishing other people practiced self-awareness {you see.. expectations..}. me and yangkyu hardly ever had conversations about what made our day good and sometimes we would find ourselves arguing. he would always say, "jane! say the things you are saying to me directly to those people!" but because i hated conflict, i never did. i was just making things worse for me, but at the time i thought i was keeping peace. i also knew that i wasn't perfect so who am i to tell someone to be a certain way when i was sure my behavior and personality was irritating someone else? 

in retrospect i wish i would've been more vocal, but still a part of me wishes people would have some basic etiquette {but there i go with my expectations again}. at times i did find myself arguing more because i felt that was the only way i was going to survive, but this was making me feel worse. i didn't like who i was turning into and i didn't like that i needed to be "strong" {aka bitchy} in order to let people know they couldn't walk all over me. all i wanted was to just be in a good supportive team-oriented work environment where i could just do the job that i loved doing. 

so when yangkyu said to me the other night, "you look so happy now," i couldn't help but feel that i am very content with where i am in my life. my career isn't a driving factor for me anymore. there are sacrifices yangkyu and i have to make since we now only have one income coming in, but i would rather make those types of sacrifices than to go back to a work environment that wasn't a good fit for me. and yangkyu is so very supportive of this decision.

i think many people will say, well that's life. suck it up. and i understand this argument. but  i guess it's just plain and simple for me now. i've decided i don't want to continue sucking it up and live a miserable life. 

when we had two incomes coming in we had so much more leeway with money. we were saving more {almost bought a house last year}, i was buying more things because i thought it was making me happier. now that our income has shrunk we live with much less. and we have to be creative in the way we save. but this actually isn't all that bad. 

yangkyu has always been the "financially smart" one between the two of us {and he hardly is a spender} and from the day we got married he created a budget system which he manages on an excel chart on google drive and shares with me {although this role is slowly becoming mine now}. we track every single penny that we spend. no joke. and we have a set limit on how much we spend on food, on ourselves, piri, on our home, etc. we do this so that each month we're also saving {for that house, our future and also for emergencies}. some months we do better than other months. but the bottom line is, if we don't have the money to spend we just don't spend it {unless we absolutely have to, such as emergency vet visits, etc.}. 

this system has frustrated me from time to time because i couldn't buy things i wanted when i wanted. but now i live by this system. some people can't imagine how we only have $100 each to spend a month {or some folks think it's more than enough - i thought so too but am always surprised at how how that $100 can be spent so quickly}. but having $100 to spend is doable if we don't buy things on impulse. this was hard for me in the beginning but now i keep a wish list and go back to it a few weeks later. if i still want it or feel that i need it, that's when i decide to buy it or hold off on it a bit longer. after purging our closet and our house and realizing that we have bought too many things we don't need, coupled with the wish list method, living off of $100 a month is easier than i thought. 

for food, i have started meal planning and literally make everything myself -- korean side dishes, cookies, smoothies, muffins, you name it. our weekly grocery bills never goes above $100 and we don't have leftover food that goes bad. some of our friends wondered what in the world we eat {do you guys eat pasta all day, everyday?}, but we eat a variety of hearty meals. i also get up every morning at 6 am and make yangkyu's breakfast and lunch for him to take to work. sure we do go to restaurants as well but not every day. we also don't drop by starbucks or other bakeries on a daily basis. again, we don't buy unless we have the money to buy. credit cards are tempting but also kinda scary.

there are other ways we were able to cut unnecessary spending -- i iron all of yangkyu's work clothes instead of taking them to the dry cleaners, we cut our cable and now depend on npr every morning for the news and netflix for shows. we also got rid of our landline and text messaging service, and instead use a free app called kakaotalk. i canceled all my magazine subscriptions except real simple. and earlier this year we also paid off our car which relieved our bank account just a teeny tiny bit. 

we still get to plan for big international trips. we have been planning to go to korea and japan later this year and gave ourselves 20 months to save up for plane tickets, hotel, spending money and also presents to take back to our family members. we're well on our way to meeting our goal even though i quit my job and kept our monthly vacation saving $$ the same.

we also keep our tradition of finding 10 causes and issues to donate each year. i wouldn't want this to change one bit. 

this past year, what i realized was that the more money we made, the more money we spent. since we were so tired from work we were always eating out. we weren't planning our meals and instead buying anything and everything we wanted while grocery shopping. and because we were so tired to even cook, the food went bad. we were constantly buying and using services to make our lives more convenient. but now i do all that. and i don't mind doing it at all.

in the beginning of this blog post, i mentioned how i am enjoying my "time off." the responsibilities i have taken on in the home doesn't compare really to what yangkyu does in the office. i don't have to worry about the long commute, i can iron his shirts, wash the dishes, clean the home regularly, do the laundry all while watching my favorite shows. i can always take a quick break while playing with piri. but nonetheless, i don't consider myself totally on break. i feel as though this somehow is my new job. my new role. 

sometimes i wonder if some of my friends think i'm a nut. jane has turned into an official homemaker. but i don't really see it that way. i enjoy finding recipes, spending time in the kitchen and making all our meals and snacks. i enjoy keeping our home tidy. i love that i get to spend my whole day with piri and make sure he gets his morning, afternoon and evening walks. i like how i keep this blog a part of my daily life and finding diy and crafting projects to share. i have been looking for other ways to bring in income, but for now i am finding lots of joys in my life and this is really important for me to have. 

after our dinner last night, yangkyu took out his guitar and we sang and hummed along to "you are my sunshine" and "edelweiss". i was leaning against his leg and had piri in my arms. the sky was dark because it had just rained but the sun was also out. its rays were shining through our window. it was the perfect way to end the day. and i liked it very much. this is what life is supposed to be like. at least for me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

a girl and her dog: cornelia + frieda.

why hello!

today i'm so happy to welcome cornelia and frieda from berlin on the blog to tell us about the special bond they share in our monthly "a girl and her dog" series. 

i connected with cornelia's instagram account a few months ago and absolutely fell in love with her pictures --  especially the moments she captures, which she does so beautifully and poetically. when we began to exchange emails i also realized that she has an amazing videography portfolio. you can take a look at her work at sing sing film and at hearts on tape where she is also a part of a wedding-videographer team. this explains how she is able to tell such a warm story using just images. but she also knows how to tug at the heart using words as well.  

here is their story. 
the girl: cornelia cornelsen
the dog: her official name is frieda but she has a dozen nicknames like: frido, fidolino, fridi, fridchen, kleine ratte. she is a wire fox terrier. 
cornelia's favorite snack: weekdays, it's hot & vegan ramen and during the weekends, crisps. 
frieda's favorite snack: weekdays it's carrots, and during the weekend, croissants. 
from: berlin, germany 
find them on instagram: @foxteufelswild

frieda is an adventurer, i guess that's a characteristic for a terrier. she doesn't like to cuddle, but she loves to play and to run and to find things i hide for her. she jumped out of the window (1st floor) when she was a puppy. nothing happened to her, but i have a fear of heights since that day. she is a very clever girl (of course) who has a special fondness for elderly persons. i know most of the people in our neighbourhood because of her. she seems to have her own circle of friends and some shopkeepers buy treats only for her. at the weekend we travel halfway across town to visit her favorite lake. my husband told her to swim and was proud like a dad when she finally had the heart to cross the water on her own.

she is terribly afraid of wind and storms. you will find her hiding and shivering in our bathroom till we close very single window and get some cheese to elicit her. as i'm a freelancer working at home, she is the one i spend most of my time with. she has been with me for nearly seven years now and knows all of my secrets: when i am watching tv (or on instagram) instead of finishing that annoying job. how many crisps i really ate and all the dispensable rags i order online.

before we got her, my husband was afraid of dogs. now he calls her Köter (pooch) and tells everyone that fox terriers are the best dogs in the world. there is a letter from neil gaiman to his dead dog, that says it all very clear: "i'm so glad I knew him. i'm so glad we found each other. i don't imagine i'll ever have another bond like that in my life. i wish dogs lived longer."

thank you so much cornelia + frieda. 
you can see more of the life they share on instagram at @foxteufelswild.

photos via cornelia. 

read more "a girl and her dog" stories here

Monday, April 21, 2014

snapping a little family photo session is really the only thing i remember from the weekend.

 // left: piri thought he'd get in the picture, too. that little boy was pretty cool about it. right: she made a heart with her arms all by herself without me asking her to. so cute. // 

why hello! is it monday already? 

the weekend felt crazy long with warm weather like i had hoped {yay}. our friends from new york visited us and we included a little photo session. we were originally supposed to go to the national arboretum for their session but we actually never made it out! so we ended up taking a few pictures inside our apartment and also outside our complex. i also didn't get to try out a few poses i had thought of but i've learned a long time ago that some things just go according to plan and you just have to go with the flow.

there were some misses with some shots but there were also definitely keepers. i have to go through a bunch and edit them this week but these two pictures caught my eye as i was skimming through the thumbnails. 

i had taken pictures for my best friend's baby shower before, but a photo session was a first for me. i definitely learned a lot, not necessarily shooting techniques but more along the lines of how to go about shooting families and kids. i'm thankful for friends who trust me to take these precious pictures for them. i can't wait to get the editing process done and also develop some prints for them {i think i'm going to try out artifact uprising's signature prints}. 

hope you had a lovely weekend! what do you have going on this week? for me, i'm looking forward to making those homemade pretzels i didn't get around to last week and gathering some ideas on some possible diy projects for the home. 

have a good week ahead! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

have a great weekend!

back in my non-profit days i attended a training on management and organization and it was the only training that i've attended in the 13 years i've been in the field that was truly helpful.

one of the big takeaways for me was this super effective "to-do" list they developed that helped people get through their day by completing their set goals and tasks. i had so many variations of to-do lists before this training - the checking off box style, using various online programs, scribbling on random pages in my notebook and sticking post-its everywhere. nothing worked. but the one the trainer taught me really changed the way i worked.

it was a mix of the way the "to-do" list was laid out and what you actually wrote down {aka - being realistic}. i hope to share more about this at a later time, but my point today is that i have resorted to a similar type of to-do list in the past couple of weeks and my days have been so very productive. i don't work full-time anymore so my to-do list looks much different now, but i realized how i began to veer off track, lose track of time and kept pushing off certain tasks for a later time because i kept forgetting or i just didn't want to get it done. but i'm back to being focused and i like this feeling of being organized. moreover, welcoming the weekend with this mindset feels so much more refreshing and exciting. 

do you have any plans for the weekend?

i mentioned in this post how we have an informal family photo session. thanks so much for your encouraging words and photo tips. i hope it'll turn out to be a fun session. and i hope it'll be warm too! i can't believe how the temperatures dropped toward the mid and latter part of this week. brrr. 

have a great weekend - and happy easter weekend to those who celebrate! 
 // these were our flowers for the week. we picked them up on sunday at trader joe's and it was the only bouquet of ranunculus that had a mix of all the different colors. i loved how that looked. // 
// have you ever tried mandoo? it's my favorite. i also made some here. i feel like i make a batch annually. it's a little bit of hard work to make the stuffing, fill them and store them, but definitely worth it. we used to buy them frozen at our local market, but i like making things from semi-scratch now {semi-scratch because making the mandoo skin from scratch is still a bit too hard core for me}. // 
// i baked these blueberry muffins on a rainy day while talking to my best friend on the phone. they smelled incredible coming out of the oven and was so soft and moist. i realized though that after this and also our dinner on wednesday night {sujaebi - hand torn noodle soup}, that we ran out of flour and so i couldn't get around to making homemade pretzels like i had intended to. but next week for sure. can't wait. // 

hello! we're over here today!


today, i'm over at the othermix blog talking about running - the reasons why i have included it in my life, battling weight gain {and loss}, self image and some cheesy inspiring cheesy songs that have made me feel like i was flying on the treadmill {although it's always not the case - some days running can be a little tougher}. 

come by and read the q & a {which by the way is the first of the "running high" series on the othermix}.