Career Identity and Uncertain Next Steps

By on July 10, 2017

This whole past year of being primarily a stay-at-home mom has provoked a great deal of introspection regarding my career identity. Who am I, apart from my identity as a teacher? It was such an integral part of my being for so long, I almost don’t know how to view myself apart from that identity. 

Surprising, how much of what I think about myself revolves around what I do. It’s a development I hadn’t anticipated when I walked away from teaching. Blinded by the thrill of quitting, of leaving a career I only halfheartedly cared about, I hadn’t realized how much of my identity I derived from that label: teacher.  (more…)


I’m Back…

By on June 26, 2017

So to say the least, it has been awhile. In the last year I have taught my first graduate class, or any class, since I taught ELL classes in South Korea in 2004. It was part side hustle and part “Am I ready to move to a new career?”.  I really enjoyed teaching the career class to future counselors so much that I decided to explore teaching full time at counselor education programs.

For those who don’t know, counselor education programs are graduate programs which train counselors for mental health, higher education, or school counseling positions. I limited my search to certain locations that met living criteria for my family: location, size of community, not too far from family, etc. Fast forward October to June: 12 applications, 6 phone interviews, and 2 on-campus interviews….say hello to a new job at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. I really took the changing our default to heart and decided to uproot my entire family.

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New Home Love

By on June 14, 2017

We’re feeling a ton of New Home Love around the COD place lately. There are so many things about the new house that are vast improvements over our previous house, and we’re enjoying it! To be sure, there are also negatives, but I’m not even going to address those here today. Mr. COD’s and my seventh wedding anniversary was this week, and it was lovely to be celebrating it in our new home. Nearly two weeks in, I wanted to record a collection of things we LOVE about our new Kentucky home!  (more…)


An Escaped Cat and Other Moving Adventures

By on June 8, 2017

I’m writing this in our new town in Kentucky! We moved last Friday and are settling in little by little. No Internet is set up at the new casa yet, so I had to come to a coffee shop to use their WiFi. (I’m not complaining…Mr. COD took Jr and Mini to a park and I’m soaking up the tranquility!) 

Bonus points if you can identify this coffee shop!

MOVING HELPERS

I still need to be rather quick with this, but wanted to update y’all on our progress. We left our home in Illinois on June 1st and closed on the new house in Kentucky on the 2nd. We utilized tons of help from friends, family, and neighbors throughout the process. My mom made the trip to our place three times in the final month in IL, and having her there for a couple of days at a time allowed me some precious packing, painting, and errand time. The last day in Illinois, I had three different local friends come over to entertain the boys at staggered times throughout the day. They were awesome, allowing me to continue packing, cleaning, going out for more storage bins, and all that fun stuff that accompanies a move. 

My amazing sister-in-law and her family showed up the night before the move. They had to drive four-plus hours from their home in Iowa to help us pack the truck, then do the entire long 7-8 hour trip to Kentucky the next day. They and their two kids were SUCH a huge blessing during the move! Ty, my nephew, mowed the lawn at the old house so it would look nicer for prospective buyers. Trista, my niece, kept an eye on the little guys for much of the time. Everyone pitched in to carry boxes, load up the monster moving truck, and finish up all those last-minute tasks we forget about until it’s time to go. 

We had (naively) hoped to be on the road by 10 AM, and of course we weren’t ready until 1:30 in the afternoon. Mr. COD and my brother-in-law, Jimmy, were especially beat from doing the bulk of the physical lifting and loading for hours on end. Then, we began getting the three felines into their carriers for the long trip. Sadie and Sasha went with minimal complaint, but then Kimchi was another story. 

AN ESCAPED CAT

Kimchi, cat number three, decided to pull a Houdini on us at the final loading time. We COULD NOT FIND HER. Keep in mind, our house was nearly completely empty by this point (except three or four furniture items we just couldn’t quite fit in the vehicles and can do without until the house sells). So you would think that finding one cat in a virtually empty house would be a pretty simple task. NOPE. She had just disappeared. 

Long story short, we had to leave without her. I know, I know! It sounds absolutely terrible. But we were already way behind schedule, were going to lose an hour on the drive, and had to close on our new house at 10 the following morning. So, we told ourselves that she must have gotten out during the moving hullaballoo, she still had all her claws, and she’d survive on her own. I texted our pet-loving neighbor two doors down to alert her to keep an eye out for our cat, and we set out on our way. Along the way, she called Mr. COD and I to let us know that escaped cat Kimchi was fine, but still IN the house! Fortunately, they got in using our old backup key hidden outdoors and brought her to live in their basement temporarily. (We’ll have to go back and retrieve the little escape artist in the next few weeks.) 

VARIOUS CRITTERS

Several large bugs and creatures showed up in the moving process. During our final walk-through of the house before closing, we found two dead birds. A third one appeared later on, when we moved the piano that came with the house. (Yay! Free piano!)

I encountered a nice wolf spider in the downstairs shower. Then, while fixing the A/C, my brother-in-law and Mr. COD met a spider they claim was four times that size! Ewwww. SOOO GLAD that I did not have to witness the thing! Jimmy had nightmares and trouble sleeping that night because of it. Teresa, my SIL, refused to go downstairs after she heard about it. 

Since then, no enormous insects have made their appearance. We do have a lot of dead bugs in the windows and corners, since the house was sitting empty for three months before we moved in. Now, the only bugs we’re really hanging out with are the variety that Junior and Mini COD are collecting on the porch and in the yard. They’re having a blast. 

inspecting lightning bugs with cousin Trista

Space to roam!

BIG PURCHASES

Unfortunately, a new house tends to require a few purchases. This one did not come equipped with a washer and dryer, so that was high on our list to get in there as soon as possible. We’d hoped to find a used one in the area, but nothing showed up, so to Lowe’s we went. In addition to the washer/dryer set, we pretty much had to get a big ol’ tractor-like mower for our ginormous yard. It’s about 1.25 acres and quite sloped, so a bigger mower is paramount. We found a marked-down one that Mr. COD approved of at Lowe’s. All three big items will be delivered next week! 

shopping helpers

Internet will cost quite a bit more as we’re somewhat rural now. We’ve definitely been missing our unlimited internet since getting into the house. We do have quite a few movies downloaded on Mr. COD’s laptop, so we’ve watched a movie a day during downtime. However, the plus side is that the boys have adjusted to less screen time. They have so much more space to run around now, both in the house and outdoors, so they’re not getting nearly as bored as they used to. 

Enjoying the playground in town!

I hope to update more on the blog once we have Internet again! What are you all up to this summer?

 


A New Job For Mr. COD!

By on April 25, 2017

A new job! Yep, IT’S HAPPENING! Mr. COD has accepted a university teaching job! He’ll be joining the counselor education department of the grad school. The CODs are headin’ south, baby!  (more…)


FOMO And Our One-Year Blogiversary

By on April 14, 2017

FOMO can be a total goal-killer. That Fear Of Missing Out can cause us to buy stuff we didn’t want until we saw someone else had it. It can make us join groups and organizations even when we’re already stretched too thin. We joke about it at our church, that FOMO is what drives people to uber-participation. Overall, it has power to convince us do things we don’t really want to do. (more…)


Job Hunting and Waiting

By on March 23, 2017

Job hunting is a huge hassle, amiright? It requires so much time and energy to research the right job openings, learn about the companies hiring, fill out applications, track down references, and participate in interviews. Plus, you’re typically doing all of this on top of your current job duties, attempting not to slack off there. I’m personally pretty happy not to be job hunting for traditional 9-5 jobs right now, but Mr. COD is in the thick of the hiring season for the 17-18 academic year. Right now, it’s largely a waiting game. 

Raise your hand if you love waiting! 

Nope, me neither. Patience isn’t a fun trait to cultivate. The only way to learn it is by waiting more. 

Job Hunting Process

As you guys knows, Mr. COD applied for some positions last fall and continues to send more in as more schools post openings. As his field is somewhat specialized and the programs he’s qualified to teach aren’t offered at every college or university, we know we might not be able to pick our dream locale for this first teaching position. The primary goal at this point: get Mr. COD out of school counseling and into teaching within a counseling master’s program. Our hope is that he’ll get an offer from one of these schools, work there for three years or so, and then have more experience with which to snag a job back in southern Wisconsin, closer to family. 

Job hunting has led to several (maybe 4 or 5?) phone/Skype interviews so far, and Mr. COD has done one in-person, on-campus interview. One more is to come in another week or so. (Yay! That in itself is a success.) The two campus interviews are at schools he feels pretty confident he’ll like, and both towns have some great benefits that are important to us, like parks and natural outdoor beauty. 

We understand the possibility exists that Mr. COD won’t receive an offer of employment with either of these two second-interview schools. It’ll be disappointing if that happens. We’re definitely at the point where, if he does get an offer, he’ll take it. (Of course, should he receive offers from multiple schools, we’ll have a decision to make.) 

It’s a little scary to be this close to making such a huge change in our lives. I mean, we’ve been talking about this move for as long as we’ve known each other. It’s been almost nine years of waiting and saying, “maybe in another two years”. Now we’re so close to taking this big step! It’s not quite as big as taking the step into early retirement, but it has a lot of the same earmarks (leaving the status quo, changing schedules, etc.).

This teaching at university or graduate level, for Mr. COD, has been a longtime goal of his. He’s worked for it. He’s given up leisure time for it. He’s furthered his education for it. He’s done a lot of stuff he didn’t really have to do, all in service of stepping out of his reliable-but-somewhat-boring job. He’s ready for a challenge, ready for change. That’s why he’s doing all of the fun job hunting work!

If and when we do this, it’ll be a pretty major change for our family. If he takes either of the two options that appear most likely at this point, we’ll be moving in a matter of months. Leaving the area that’s been home to me for nearly 15 years. For him, it’s been nearly ten years. Pretty significant lengths of time, if you ask me. 

Proximity to Family

The proximity to our families is still a high priority for us. The main reason we want to move to Wisconsin is to be closer to Mr. COD’s family (and not much farther from mine). Unfortunately, no job openings have appeared for that area. Either direction we move, we’ll be farther from a lot of family. No one will be drop-by-for-Thursday-night-dinner kind of close, so I guess at least we’re used to that. It’s just a bummer that all of our parents and siblings are so spread out. 

We’re hoping to convince our most-flexible sibling and family to follow us wherever we go. (Come on, Jimmy and Teresa!) Selfish? Ha, perhaps. But if they could also find work near our new home, that’d make it that much more like home for us. 

Hassles On Our Minds

-House (selling or renting ours out). So many little things need to be fixed! Plus, we’ve never been landlords…)

-Pets (3 cats, which is way too many to bring with us. Yes, this sounds terrible, but it may be a necessity to decrease our cat total if we end up renting an apartment.)

-Preschool. Junior COD should be in one next year (he’ll be four by then). A lot of our friends have recently registered their kids the same age for the fall, but of course we can’t do that without knowing our location. 

Positive/Easy Stuff 

-Well, one perk of my SAHM gig is that it makes things much simpler with only Mr. COD looking for a traditional job. I am not planning on working next year yet. I could do it if needed, but since we may be waiting for quite some time before we know what his job status will be, it’s nice not needing to look for a job in an as-yet-unknown location. I’ll just be pluggin’ away in the freelance world!

-Another benefit of my not working: I’m free to travel with Mr COD on interview trips. Scouting out the areas where we may live is important to do as a family. Gone are the days of worrying about taking too many personal days from work. No more planning for substitute teachers, either (oh, lord, what a pain)!

-Both potential new locations seem to have a fairly low cost of living and lower property taxes. That’ll help a lot with our transition. 

-Both new places would save us a bundle on our health insurance. Yay! Insurance…just one of the myriad ways that Illinois…well…sucks. The new job will be a pay decrease from Mr. COD’s current salary, but the insurance savings alone pretty much even it all out. (Yeah, insurance costs are ridiculous here. This is when we don’t even go to the doctor, except for our kids’ wellness checkups. Good grief!)

 We are so nervous about this potential move, believe me! But it just feels like it’s time. Time for a significant change in our work and our lives. We’ve already put in a year of my default change to stay home with munchkins. Now it’s Mr. COD’s turn! It’s pretty darn exciting!

What big moments in life are you waiting for? Are there any fun waiting disappointments or success stories you’d like to share? 


Feeling Stuck

By on March 21, 2017

I’ve been feeling stuck in a bit of a rut lately, so I haven’t posted in awhile. Hello there! I think this is the longest absence I’ve taken from posting on this blog since we began about a year ago. Lots of other blogs I read have recently celebrated their one- or two-year blogiversary, so we’re in good company! (I am nowhere near the prodigious amount of writing of Picky Pinchers or Our Next Life, but we all need someone to inspire us, right? Check out the stats on how many posts they’ve published in their blogging lives! It’s insane!)  (more…)


Valentine’s Day and Risks

By on February 14, 2017

The COD team hopes that you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! Of course, if you’ve been reading this blog, you already know we subscribe to the goal of simple and meaningful for all of our holidays, and Valentine’s Day is no exception. You’re probably wondering why the word “risks” is in the title. Read on to find out!

A SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY 

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Uber Frugal Month Is Done!

By on February 7, 2017

Like many of you (I think over 10,000 at last count), Mr. and Mrs. COD joined the Uber Frugal Month Challenge inspired by the Frugalwoods. The purposes of this little experiment: to spend as little as possible and to reset our spending defaults. Let’s look deep into the January 2017 COD expenditures…Can you stand the excitement?!

UBER FRUGAL GROCERY SHOPPING

The biggest reduction we hoped to see was in grocery spending, and we definitely kept that lower than usual. Woohoo! We didn’t quite squeeze by under that $300 mark I was eyeing, but that was a long shot anyway. The mere thought of our Uber Frugal Month was motivation enough to help us exercise restraint in our shopping excursions. (Plus, we have you guys to hold us accountable!) 

Ways we limited the grocery expenses this month:

  • A hallmark of the frugal mindset: shopping in our fridge, freezer, and pantry before heading to the market. We roasted a big ol’ turkey to use in soup and other meals. We finally ate a few of those canned vegetables that have been lying around forever. We cooked one of three (three!) rotisserie chickens we also had frozen. FYI, brining chicken in simple water, salt, and garlic rub for a few hours, then grilling it? OMG, perfection! We kept snacking on it long after dinner was over because it was oh so good. 
  • Keeping track of each trip to Aldi or elsewhere, plus having a running total as the month went along. This was a bit tricky, as I like to be in control, but Mr. COD went a couple of times to pick up items I’d forgotten or neglected to buy. 
  • Checking on what we already had before each shopping trip and writing a list down. This helped limit spur-of-the-moment buys; I knew we could get by without stocking up on every single thing. 
  • Eating quite a bit of soup, eggs, and vegetarian meals. We can eat for pretty cheap if we bulk up soups with beans instead of meat.

UTILITIES THE UBER FRUGAL WAY

We’ve continued with our adjusted default house temp of 65 (down from 70-71 a month earlier). I know some frugal folks keep it way lower, but that’ s where we landed without feeling like we’re living in the tundra. The newest bill hasn’t arrived yet, but we know we saved something by lowering the thermostat. I can tell I’ve changed my default because when at my parents’ or anywhere else, it seems really warm. Mr. COD and I are now used to wearing multiple layers in the house, too.

SPENDING BREAKDOWN

  • Groceries $356.43. Totally stoked about this! We’ve been more in the $500/month range, so it’s a fantastically low number. Let’s keep that uber frugal train rollin’!
  • Dining out: $135.30. This is abnormally high for us, which is ironic during an Uber Frugal Month.  Sigh. We finally had enough of these 3-month droughts between date nights. Time to connect with each other, without kids, is vital. We’ll spend a bit to make it happen. Add in a couple of times out with old friends, and that’s how this total came to be. Not bad when combined with our lower grocery bill!
  • Babysitter for one date night: $36. See above. But at least our first date of the month was when the in-laws could watch Junior and Mini COD! For free😁. Yay for grandmas and grandpas!
  • Gas for vehicles: $89.39. This is one of those expenses that are hard to break down by month. (I know we also filled up on December 31st, but that number isn’t included here.)
  • Household items: $457.32. This is a bit high, as it includes a bunch for paint for some touch-up work and items needed for redoing our floors (DIY house beautification in case of rental or sale this summer). Also included: thrilling things like toilet paper, cat food and litter, etc.
  • Gifts: $31.93. This included $8.93 for takeout lunch for a friend of mine. In addition, we picked up a few birthday presents in advance for Mini COD (turning two in February) and a DVD for car rides. The resale place had decent prices, so for $23 we got two board games, a large toy truck, and the movie. We don’t expect to spend any more on his birthday, as I’ll make his cake myself and we won’t have a big party
  • Miscellaneous: $16.99 for WeeSprout Double Zipper Reusable Food Pouch – 6 Pack – 5 fl ozreusable baby food pouches, $38 for my ticket to an upcoming women’s Christian conference, $28.02 for a jewelry purchase to benefit an organization that helps refugees.
  • Ultra Miscellaneous: $550. New laptop. Grrr. So remember that computer screen Mr COD had to replace a month ago? Yeah… It’s still not working. The motherboard might be replaceable, but that’ll take time to learn. He has to have a reliable computer for doing work-related tasks  at home (and completing job applications), so it was pretty much a necessary expense. Quite the un-frugal bummer!
  • I’m only documenting expenses that could possibly be limited or frugalized somehow. Things like our mortgage and internet use, I’ve left out as they aren’t things we’re changing anytime soon. 

a favorite cheap date activity: walking around the university campus (where Mr. COD earned his doctorate)

 

 

UBER FRUGAL MENTALITY: A LONGTIME PHILOSOPHY

The psychology of this mission was fascinating to me. It was awesome to increase our frugal mindset. I felt like we had been living so frugally the past few months that now would have been the time to let go a bit. But the pressure/encouragement of Mrs. Frugalwoods’ daily emails kicked up my motivation. It helped me to avoid Dunkin’ Donuts when I really was dying for an excuse to take the kids out. It helped me decide to bring my own coffee to the library for some “me” time one evening. It prevented a bunch of little shopping trips that inevitably lead to buying more than planned. 

When you live without overspending, it affects your mentality every day. I fancy myself a fairly frugal gal, but this past month I managed to push myself a bit more than usual. Practicing a frugal mindset enables us to put our frugality on autopilot, where saving money is actually easy and spending unnecessarily is super painful!

STUFF WE DID THE FRUGAL WAY

  • No haircut. I haven’t gone anywhere for one since last March, so I’m totally breaking all the salon rules. It’s beginning to bug me slightly, but I held off at least for this month and saved that money. (I don’t have any appointment set for anytime soon, either.)
  • No little “treats” like a cafe bagel for me and the kids to brighten up weekday mornings. (We make muffins at home all the time anyway.)
  • No Redbox rentals. Not that we do that very often anyway, but we stuck with our plentiful entertainment options like Netflix and Amazon Prime shows, plus have started checking out movies from the library! Frugal win!
  • Plenty of free fun for the munchkins. We visited the library, went on walks, and even hung out at the pet store a few times. Our public library even shows free movies about once a month or so, but we haven’t had a chance to partake in one yet!
  • Junior and Mini COD on a recent excursion to the park

AN UBER FRUGAL SLIP-UP

  • When a friend came into town for dinner, we took our whole family out instead of inviting him over to our home. (Face palm!) Not only was it more expensive to eat out, but our kids also aren’t exactly at a great age for sitting quietly in a restaurant. One of us had to take Mini COD outside to walk around for most of dinner. At home, we can cook, and the kids can run around the house all they want, so we should have just asked our friend to come over! 

Need some uber frugal motivation? Check out the Frugalwoods’ tips for making frugality your default mindset!

How’s your frugal mindset these days? If you did the Uber Frugal Month, what did you learn from the experience? Was it harder/easier than expected?