In Praise of A Homemade Sandwich

We went out to dinner last night.

It was a nice restaurant—not just a diner. The restaurant is situated at the end of a long working pier. The seating, outside, gives you the vantage point of a vast, glimmering sea or a quaint town depending on your angle of view. The town itself punctuates a winding rural road that is long and somewhat wild and by all standards, very beautiful.

The dinner, however, was mediocre.

I’m not picky, nor should I be. My own cooking skills are best summed up by an old roommate who claimed by Holy Decree, ”Irish mothers cannot cook.” I insulted my own mother with this little tidbit once, and karma being what it is, I find this a somewhat sensitive point in my own term of motherhood.

But, the blahness of this meal was undeniable—the not-so-hot fish taco, was given a full thumbs down by my husband. His face said it all, along with the words, ‘I can see why you didn’t like this fish taco.’

These were generous words from him. He actually has a knack for cooking that I’ve spent an entire marriage trying to please and sometimes, albeit rarely, do. He seems to have a way with food that I can only explain as kinetic and tactile.

No, it was definitely not a smiley face coming from him. I was pleasant about the meal because any dinner that is healthy and without a load of dishes is not really worthy of complaint.

But, still.

It reminded me of a similar meal years ago when I wanted to go to a restaurant in our town that is famous for its German-style cuts of meat laid out on rolls and served with au jus. We took the kids there one evening and the price was so exorbitant that I remember thinking I’d be better off buying more expensive groceries and making my own specialty sandwiches. Like, maybe some nice rolls and melted swiss cheese would not only be enough, but even better at home. It didn’t help that this restaurant always has a huge line and, of course, finding seating, bathrooms, parking, you get where I’m going with this. Is it worth it?

Even more, why do I constantly crave a meal out?

This spring I got more extreme in the sandwich department. I started buying up. Meaning, I bought the pricier brand of sourdough bread, the $5.99 package of humanely raised meats. I pushed myself by adding cucumbers and carrots. I tried my hand at making homemade sauerkraut and when it was ‘ready’ that too was heaped on. I used a lot of garlic on the mayonnaise and smothered the two together with avocado.When pumpernickel rye sourdough bread showed up at Ralphs it was game on. Something new!

But, before I get too crazy, this is not about the sandwich.

It’s about perception.

I believed that this restaurant was better than it was. The truth is, I haven’t been satisfied with the meals I’ve had outside of my own in quite a while. I’ve noticed that after covid, restaurant food—no matter the quality of the restaurant—tastes a little bland. Maybe those months (years?) of eating at home, particularly during covid, gave me time to refine my tastes. It just doesn’t seem worth it to me to spend the money on restaurant food. Maybe I’m going to the wrong places but what I’m getting is not really worth what I see as extreme spending—particularly for a family.

The other thing I could see was how my frugal ways in the grocery store were making me crave outside purchases that were less satisfying. I never did the math, but I can imagine that my imaginary sense of restaurant = better could lead to excessive spending that couldn’t be made up for in the grocery store no matter how many coupons I clipped or Kroger products I defaulted to. The alternative, a restaurant-style dinner at home, seemed the logical choice on all fronts.

In the end, I think I’d rather extend my borders at the grocery store—-purchase a nicer piece of meat or cheese or try a new fruit—rather than ”get the experience” of a meal that involves zero effort. This last meal at this fine dining establishment on the pretty pier was a nice reminder that I don’t necessarily need to go to great efforts to have something great.

Crosssection of a sandwich with hearty bread smashed avocado cucumbers sprouts lettuce finely sliced carrots and creamy...

Speaking of sandwiches, here’s a sandwich recipe I’d like to try: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/california-veggie-sandwich

What do you think? Are restaurants worth it?

Attitude

Yesterday didn’t go very well. I can’t say dramatically that the world ended or that I had some major disappointment.

It was a sideways not-doing-so-hot kind of day.

I dislike those days because inherently I know that I have full control over my attitude; nothing earth-shattering occurred that changed my existence. It was just a day that started out with me on the wrong side of the bed and then letting that lopsidedness inflict itself on everyone else.

I could have done any number of things to remedy myself, but perhaps the simplest would have been to stop and take a breath. I could have thought about my life for a moment and located the bright spots rather than focus on the shade.

Instead, I woke up worried and anxious about my job and the seeming impossibility of teaching a sixth grader to read so that she can catch up to her peers. Today—a different day and attitude altogether—I spoke with a colleague and we both agreed that we are probably accomplishing more than we think. We are in the same worry boat and it is what it is. We can do our best with what time and circumstances we are given.

Yesterday, I only noticed how late my kids were for school—how they are always late. I heard myself sounding gruff and how that made the whole matter worse. Later, in a quiet moment, my mood was underscored by the yellow stain that started on one side of my turquoise blue sleeve and crept along the inside where it was worse than the other—no way to roll it or hide it. I found myself shrinking into my neck like a turtle, envisioning the gray hairs that have come to live on the back of my head, the darkened skin, no longer fresh. My terrible mind crumpled me further like a wad of blank paper sullied from storage and no longer of use. Everything I came into contact with affirmed this morose bent and by the time I ran into an old friend my nerves were shot and as she described her new home and life—one exceedingly different from the one she’d moved from—I was happy and small and petty and jealous all at once.

My attitude diminished me and I had allowed it to.

. I allowed a darkness in and that black ink seeped into my household and infected all of us.

This morning I took myself by the reins. I made amends with my son who initially did not want a ride to school because of yesterday’s ”drama” i.e., my complaining. We even drove his new friend who I’ve not had a chance to really meet until now. I did not fret over the clock as we got off of the freeway. “I’ll make it to work and it will be fine,” I silently told myself. Besides, my kids are my first, and most important job.

On the way to my job I thought about my sixth grader and I knew she would be fine. She is a very nice girl and I am only a small portion of her life—but I am on her side. I took my time at work and let time lay itself out as it has a tendency to do anyway. Instead of complaining about my allergies and the windy weather I decided to be thankful for medication that works.

Yesterday was a weird one—gale force winds and places to be, unexpected meetings and a negative attitude. None lasted, all were ephemeral.

Thankfully, today went very well.

July Passive Income Report

In my neck of the woods, it’s been a foggy, cool summer. I almost typed ‘winter’ in place of ‘summer’ there because it is a bit winterish. It has been a summer more conducive to work than play, I suppose—though I will admit to longer mornings spent resisting waking up and later nights checking out Netflix. This July I am really excited about my passive income report—particularly in the dividend department. Let’s see how we made out.

American Express

American Express never disappoints. This month I earned $47.39 in cashback rewards and I’ve made a decision about my accounts. I’ve decided to Marie Kondo the whole experiment and use my AMEX for all of my spending. At this point of the year, I’ve almost spent $6000.00 on groceries (I’m not quite there yet, but it’s getting close!) and that means that I will not be getting the 6% cashback on groceries. After the $6000.00 limit is reached AMEX pays 1% which is still nice. Other expenditures remain at 1% unless it’s fuel or streaming services—those are 3% cashback. There’s more…

TAB Bank

I’ve been waffling about TAB bank for over a year. I was very gung-ho in the beginning with this account because they offered over 3% interest. The caveat, however, is that you had to deposit money into the account monthly and make 15 purchases of $5.00 or more. TAB has had a number of shifts in the interest rate-lowering the rate to slightly above 1%. So, I’ve been torn. Should I find another bank with a higher interest rate? Or should I simply continue with TAB and take the interest—which is not horrible, just a little less than I expected.

Okay, let’s get to it. In June I made $13.73 in interest.

I am happy with the interest—however, I’d be lying if I didn’t question my behavior in relation to the nature of this account. Initially, I kept the account to save money for property taxes and bills that are due yearly such as insurance. I still think that separating your money in order to pay future bills is a great idea. But, I’m also noticing the spending element of this card—15 transactions monthly. Unfortunately, I’m feeling like there are times I’m in a rush and I purchase more just to make sure that I am getting the 15 transactions in—also, I notice I’m more willing to get snack foods for the kids in an effort to use that card. Looking at my July statement I notice an awful lot of Taco Bell and Subway. One charge was $23 for Subway! And, while I’m not opposed to having a treat now and then, it seems this card encourages me to spend a bit more each month than I ordinarily would. It’s also encouraging ”little shops” to get that $5 transaction and inevitably those are lower quality foods that we really don’t need. So, I’ll be dialing back my use of this card. I still intend on keeping money separate for future big bills, but I’m going to forego the interest and stop using this card for the small stuff. Honestly, I think I’ll end up saving more money than I will make in interest. So, those are my thoughts there.

What I’d really like to do—-instead of focusing on this card as a tool—is increase my commitment to my dividend accounts….

Dividends

I’m really excited this month because my dividend income was just over $300 in July alone. I really cannot believe it. All my scrimping and saving—and researching the market— feels like it’s paying off. Below is the breakdown for both my regular stock account and my Roth IRA account.

Regular Account:

Preferred Apartment Communities, Inc. (APTS) 100 shares $17.50

B & G Foods, Inc. (BGS) 100 shares $47.50

Global X Superdividend ETF (DIV) 3 shares $.25

LTC Properties, Inc. (LTC) 10 shares $1.90

New Residential Investment Corp. (NRZ) 400 shares $80.00

O Realty (O) 60 shares $14.13

Invesco S&P 500 High Dividend Low Volatility ETF (SPHD) 50 shares $5.71

AT&T (T) 60 shares $31.20

Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO) $10.66

Verizon (VZ) $9.41

Total for this account: $218.26

Roth IRA

Global X Superdividend ETF (DIV) 3 shares $.25

O Realty (O) 60 shares $7.07

STAG Industrial (STAG) 12 Shares $1.21

Invesco Mortgage Capital (IVR) 250 Shares $22.50

LTC Properties, Inc. (LTC) 10 shares $1.90

Annaly Capital Management (NLY) 137 Shares $27.50

New Residential Investment (NRZ) 100 Shares $20.00

Total for this account: $80.43

July Total Passive Income: $359.81

Wow! I am really amazed at this number as it gets higher each month. The snowball effect is in place and I can attest to the fact that the more you see growth, the more interested you are in saving. I sometimes joke with a friend that investing is so beautiful because it feels like shopping, but it is actually saving. I also notice that the more I analyze my earnings, the more I am noticing details about stocks and dividends that help me improve my investments in the future.

Have a great week!

June Passive Income Report

June is the official month of summer and we’re enjoying every minute of it. I live near the coast, so we’re in the middle of June Gloom which is not unlike a warmer version of deep fall. Motivation is at an all time low with the lack of warm sunshine, though we do see a glimmer of the fireball here and there just to remind us. It’s a tease.

But, let’s get into this month’s totals….

American Express

I’m not going to lie—my June cashback is embarrassingly high at $100.12. Blame it on those expensive summer camps and the gallons of sunscreen we needed despite the fog. Summer is a little too luxurious— less time working and a lot more time spending. Still, I’ll take it. June’s cashback amount pays for the yearly Amex fee. Next month, I’ll have to throttle back on the extras in order to keep my budget under control.

TAB Bank

I didn’t forget to make a deposit this month to my high-interest savings account and I found ample budget-busting opportunities to spend so I was able to get the higher interest rate for the month. TAB’s interest rate payout for this month was $12.77

Investments

Cashback, savings account interest, and income help me contribute to my investment accounts. Though I joke about the ”spending of summer” I am actually extremely frugal—and very serious when it comes to investing. Below is the breakdown for dividend income in both my regular investment account and my Roth IRA accounts. I share this because I believe everyone should have access to the freedom of life—but let’s face it money is really what ”buys the ticket.” I haven’t added up my earnings yet, so after I type in the numbers I’ll be excited to see where I stand this month.

Regular Investment Account

Wells Fargo (WFC) 10 shares $1.00

Pfizer (PFE) 15 shares $5.85

Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) 10.555 shares $11.12

Unilever (UL) 10 shares $5.16

Global X Superdividend US ETF (DIV) 3 shares $.25

3M (MMM) 20 shares $29.60

McDonalds (MCD) $58.05

Monmouth R.E. Inv. Corp. (MNR) 10 shares $1.80

Newell Brands, INC (NWL) 356 shares $81.88

Realty Income (O) 60 shares $9.40

Viatris (VTRS) 1 share $.11

Kohls (KSS) 10 shares $2.50

Flowers Foods, Inc. (FLO) 30 shares $6.30

Schwab US Dividend Equity ETF (SCHD) 5 shares $2.70

Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) 10 shares $6.75

LTC Properties, Inc. (LTC) 10 shares $1.90

Invesco S&P 500 High Dividend Low Volatility ETF (SPHD) 50 shares $6.04

Total for Regular Investment Account: $230.41

Roth IRA

Wells Fargo (WFC) 85 shares 8.50

Global X Superdividend US ETF (DIV) 3 shares $.25

3M (MMM) 10 shares $14.80

Newell (NWL) 101 shares $23.23

STAG Industrial (STAG) 12 shares $1.21

LTC Properties, Inc. (LTC) 10 shares $1.90

Total for Roth IRA: $49.89

Total Dividend Income: $280.30

All told, June went beyond my expectations with a total of $393.19 in passive income. I’m definitely encouraged most of all by my dividend stock payouts. Having the discipline to save and invest even though it is scary and nerve wracking at times, really pays off. Just keep putting in a little bit here and a little bit there—it all adds up in the end.

Have a great week!

May Passive Income Report

Summer is in full swing and I’m itching to get into my passive income report. This is the time of year that my kids and I have a little more flexibility time-wise and somehow I end up slacking off a bit more than I intend to. The combination of warm weather, longer days, and freedom are fertile grounds for some financial analysis—and some daydreaming about the future. But enough sitting poolside, let’s get into the hard numbers.

American Express Card

American Express did not disappoint in May. This month I earned an amazing rewards payment of $83.20. This month my spending could have been lower at $1,403.87 since most of my charges were at the grocery store. I’m going to have to tackle those coupons once and for all. As I’ve said before, American Express Blue Card is the best card for groceries as it gives you 6% back on groceries (up to $6,000 per year and 1% thereafter). Logistically, if you’re trying to stick to a budget of $500.00 or less per month on groceries, this is a great card for that. As usual, I’ll shamelessly include a link below for the card which gives both you and me a bonus if you are approved. As a side note, the card does have a yearly fee of around $95.00. Amex is well worth it though if you spend over $1500 on groceries per year. It also gives 3% back on gas and streaming such as Netflix and 1% on everything else.

Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you’re approved!

http://refer.amex.us/ANDREPiddJ?xl=cp15

TAB Bank

If you’ve been reading my blog you know that I’m very wishy-washy about TAB Bank. During 2020 they lowered my interest rate twice and now it hovers just above 1%. Well, May was once again an epic fail as I forgot to deposit money into the account. TAB requires one deposit and 15 debit card transactions over $5.00. This month I made an abysmal 42 cents. I’ll blame my forgetfulness on the chaos that occurs as summer looms. Okay, on to the next.

Dividends

Ah, for the love of dividends! I have two accounts—a regular investment account and a Roth IRA. I’ll list below the stock, ticker symbol, the number of shares and the dividend I earned this month. Combined, my dividends earned me $

Regular Account:

AT&T (T) 60 shares $31.20

Verizon (VZ) 15 shares $9.41

American Express (AXP) 10 shares $4.30

Enterprise Products (EPD) 12 shares $5.40

Global X SuperDividend US ETF (DIV) $.27

Green Plains Partners (GPP) 200 shares $24.00

Realty Income (O) 60 shares $9.40

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (SKT) 100 shares $17.75

Diversified Healthcare Trust (DHC) 531shares $5.31

LTC Properties (LTC) 10 shares $1.90

Invesco S&P 500 High Div Low Volatility ETF (SPHD) 50 shares $5.70

That brings my regular account to $114.64 in monthly dividends.

Roth Ira

General Mills (GIS) 10 shares $5.10

AT&T (T) 6 shares $3.12

Enterprise Products (EPD) 50 shares $22.50

Global X SuperDividend US ETF (DIV) 3 shares $.27

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (SKT) 6 shares $1.07

AbbVie Inc (ABBV) 5 shares $6.50

Stag Industrial Inc. (STAG) 10 shares $1.21

Diversified Healthcare Trust (DHC) 68 shares $.68

LTC Properties (LTC) 10 shares $1.90

My Roth IRA earned $39.35

Combining all of my passive income I earned a total of $237.61 during May. Not too bad when you consider that this is pure income that I can either roll over into more stocks or keep aside and use to keep my expenses low.

Let me know how you’re doing financially and if you have any suggestions for a high interest savings account!

Have a great week.

April Passive Income Report

Here it is June 1, and I realize I forgot April! Spring just whooshes. I don’t know if you feel the same way but I notice that spring typically presents me with unusual challenges and this year has been no different. Most of my slowing has been due to a certain lack of prioritizing on my part, but I suppose that this is the time of year that everyone gets a little more revved up and people and activities seem to come out of the woodwork. Well, enough about that. Let’s get to my monthly report.

American Express Card

During April I made a whopping $96.26 in rewards cash. During that statement period we had some residual vacation expenses, but the overall bill was not horrendous at $1,463.00. American Express pays 6% cashback on groceries and 3% on gas so you can see how those points added up as we brought food to our cabin for our stay and we drove over three hours each way.

If you’d like to apply for the American Express Card you can go to this referral link:

Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you’re approved!

http://refer.amex.us/ANDREPV3An?XLINK=MYCP

Right now American Express has a special referral package that I’ll post below. (I copied and pasted this directly from the AMEX website.)

Each friend can earn:

$150 back after they spend $3,000 in purchases on their new Blue Cash PreferredĀ® Card in their first 6 months of Card Membership. They can also earn 20% back on purchases on Amazon.com made with the Blue Cash PreferredĀ® Card in the first 6 months, up to $200 back. The cash back will be in the form of statement credits. Your friend will be able to choose from all available American Express Personal and Business Card offers. You can receive your referral bonus no matter what Card your friend is approved for.

  • I should note that there is a yearly fee of $100 for the Blue Cash Preferred American Express card. However, their offer more than makes up for that fee because of the $150 back on $3,000 in purchases (which you’ll also get 6% cash back on groceries, 3% on gas or streaming services like Netflix, and 1% back on everything else.)

TAB Bank

I’ve been waffling a lot when it comes to my TAB Bank account. After they lowered the interest rate twice in 2020, I lost heart. The original interest rate was around 4% provided you made a deposit monthly and had 15 transactions during that month. During April I resumed using the card and I made the required deposit and I was pleasantly surprised with the resulting $12.40 interest earnings. My account hovers around $10,000 and that money is set aside in that account for emergency funds as well as year-end tax bills. I’ve said before in other posts that there are other banks that offer a higher interest rate and I am still considering opening up another account. However, I don’t like to be spread too thin and as I make my way through this journey of getting control of our spending, saving, and earning. As of yet, I haven’t felt comfortable enough to sit down and make that move but when I do, I’ll let you know.

Dividend Interest

In the month of April I earned $108.64 in dividends in my regular account and $3.38 in my Roth Ira account for a total of $112.02. Here is the breakdown:

Regular Account:

Global X Super Dividend ETF (DIV) 3 shares .27

Realty Income (O) 40 shares $9.40

Preferred Apartment Communities, Inc. (APTS) 100 shares $17.50

LTC Properties, Inc., (LTC) 10 shares $1.90

B&G Foods, Inc., (BGS) 100 shares $33.25

Invesco S&P 500 High Dividend Low Volatility ETF (SPHD) 50 shares $6.32

New Residential Investment Corp. (NRZ) 200 shares $40.00

Roth Ira Account:

Global X Super Dividend ETF (DIV) 3 shares .27

LTC Properties, Inc., (LTC) 10 shares $1.90

Stag Industrial, Inc. (STAG) 10 shares $1.21

Total Combined Income

Combining Interest income, credit card cashback, and dividend income, I made a total of $220.68. My hope is that I can take this monthly passive income and continue to invest in the stock market. I’d like to grow our savings in a thoughtful way, however, and as I learn and consider my options, I’ll continue to write about it.

Have a great week,

Andrea

Let’s Talk About That…Or, No Let’s Not

Each year, around this time, I struggle with the same problem. It rears it’s ugly head. I flounder, I flop. In previous years I’ve given in and compromised. Each year it’s the same old thing. Worst of all, I talk about it, whine about it, and generally drive those closest to me to the brink of insanity.

Let me explain.

In a previous life, I was a teacher. I taught for 6 years, not long, and when I had my first child, I left teaching to stay at home with him. The decision was not difficult for me.

The truth is that I’d never loved teaching the way I wished I did. I wasn’t that person who jumped out of bed to ”go to school.” I wasn’t born to teach and, even more honestly, I counted the minutes and the days before weekends, and holidays, and of course, summer. Some days I had a hard time staying energized, and at the end of the day, literally and figuratively, I felt tapped out.

The only real thing I loved was organizing my planner with an extra sharp pencil. Yes, there were kids I liked and times that weren’t a drag. The consistent paycheck was great and the regimentation made life pretty straightforward: Get up, Drive to Work, Follow the Organized Planner, Go Home, and yes, Repeat.

Did I say how much I wish I loved it?

Right before summer, I start to think about the next school year and I think about whether or not I will go back. For some unknown reason, I feel that I should suck it up and get back into the real world. Since I’ve been home with my kids (15 years now) I have continued to work in the school system in some capacity for most of that time. I’ve worked ‘lunch duty,’ I’ve been a sub, I’ve worked as a paraeducator, and a crossing guard. I even worked outside of school as a tutor. This pressure to return is not just coming from me—I know that those around me wonder ‘what my plans are.’ I feel them eye me as they mention ”what they did when they had kids, and, oh, yeah, they were working then.”

I feel that my husband and I are doing just fine financially—and as I’ve said, I have continued to make money in various ways, but since my income is low as of yet, and because it doesn’t have the cache of a title, an approved application process, and involve clocking in and clocking out, I’m not truly legit. Basically, it seems that you’re not Real unless you’re walking out the door in the morning wearing click-clacky heels and you’ve got every dinner loaded in the crockpot. Some variation of bringing home the bacon and frying it up in the pan. Cooking and bacon—it figures.

And each year I say to myself and those closest to me that it is the last year. That I need a break. After years of child rearing and school-related work, I just want some quiet time to rethink the next chapter. Or even more ridiculously, to take a breath and enjoy this last 15 years. If I mention selling on eBay or writing articles (both of which I also do) I am met with the kind of blank stare that says oh so clearly how far around the bend I’ve gone.

The truth also, to be fair to myself, is that I’ve been almost solely responsible for my kids while my husband has worked—and while I feel both guilty and grateful that he has provided for us, I also have been doing more than my share without any breaks or time off. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about this at all (though I’ve had my moments).

What is the solution? How do I resolve this?

The funny thing is, after all this talk about it, after all these years and thousands of circular discussions, I finally got the best advice. Finally, good advice! It came from my mom, of course—and, it is this: Just Don’t Talk About It. Simply declare the subject, “not up for discussion.”

This may be that thing that I don’t really ever resolve. It may be that one aspect of myself that I’m uncomfortable with. Like a little aberration underneath the skin, sometimes it hurts, but mostly it’s just there, a reminder that you are not perfect, but you are human. You make mistakes and errors along the way. You may not be who you think you are—maybe you’re a little less. Maybe your reluctance to face yourself prevents you from seeing the goodness of who you really are. No matter, you must accept who you are in order to thrive.

It’s not up for discussion.

So, let’s not talk about it.

What about you? Is there a problem that you’ve had that is best solved by not discussing it?

Sometimes You Lose Your Cool

Okay, instead of the word ‘cool’ in the title, I wanted to use a different word that starts with ‘sh’ and could be replaced by the poop emoji.

I decided against that in case my dad reads this. Or my kids. Or even my mom who curses like a sailor. It just seems a little coarse. But, you can translate in your head and use any word you want because it made sense to me to use a stronger word in my mind. For some reason, using the word ”sh” word seemed to lighten the mood ever so slightly.

The truth is that today I lost my cool. Since I’m probably not the only one who loses it from time to time, I thought I would rethink my actions (while typing, of course), rework my perspective, and hopefully rewire my mind a bit so that next time….ah, next time, ugh.

Oh those feelings things.

I kind of like it when people refer to them as The Feels, as if they are lovable relatives that stay in your amazing guest house that you and your spouse, child, friend (pick one, or more, it really doesn’t matter) built together from a Home Depot shed and filled with creative and adorable upcycled items. The Feels stay in a cozy shed/home with a solar chandelier and wake to fresh eggs from your home flock of free range hens.

My Feels today were more like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Definitely don’t Airbnb those Feels if you did build a really cool shed-house.

It was in the shower where my feels came to a head and then started to level off. My mind was mired in the negative and at the peak of my anguish I really wondered if I could possibly NOT feel. The word ‘absent’ presented itself in a romantic, Edwardian way. Could I skirt around the edges of life, perhaps in an elegant dress and hat, and absent myself from those annoying everyday confrontations that led me to Lose My Poop Emoji?

As much as it sounded appealing and even possible in that moment, I realized I was alone in a very small room and so the idea of becoming invisible was pretty farfetched once I ran into the general population. After meditating on the soap for a duration, I realized that In all practicality there are better ways of dealing with The Feels besides locking them inside the discount shed that looks great on YouTube but in real life keeps Aunt Darla and Uncle Jim from coming to your house to visit. We all know that, while Uncle Jim was game, Aunt Darla put her foot down at the outdoor shower.

The First Better Way: Assume It’s Not About You

Don’t take it personally. Whatever you find yourself in conflict with, whether it is another person or a frustrating situation, remember that it is very likely not personal. This is actually a really tough one to understand. I think its commonly said, and we all understand ”what it means” but we really don’t know how to wrap our head around it and often we really don’t believe that it is true. It is such an immense challenge to recognize that other people, even those really close to us, can see life through a completely different lens. It is often devastating—even if just for a short while—that another person does not make the effort to communicate with you or understand you. By nature we are built to connect with others. When that connection breaks down—even momentarily—we panic. Anger is a way of forcing engagement. Experts warn that it is this disconnect that causes extremes of behavior, such as mass shootings, suicide, or violence.

I am not an expert on this, but the articles I have read on the subject often point out that having empathy with someone else, even while you are having a difficult time emotionally, can help bridge that communication gap. Taking a moment to pause and really listen to what is being said, before responding, can prevent a tense communication from becoming a complete blow-out.

On the reverse side of this, is my own two-cents. Maybe having a little less empathy is warranted. Some of us extra-feels people need more boundaries, not less. Taking an interaction less personally may mean refusing to take on the emotional tenor of your friend, partner, or the cranky guy next door. You don’t have to cater to everyone’s emotional needs or bend over backwards to appease the loudest voice in the room. You also don’t have to be the one to insist on the ‘right’ perspective when butting heads with another. In those cases, a little bit of ”absenting” may be a solid choice.

The Second Better Way: Notice What is Going Well

Something I learned when I was teaching elementary school and relearned over and over as a parent is to Notice what is going well. I think (and this is my opinion) that other people want positive feedback. We are social after all. Kids just want to please their parents and peers. Eventually they internalize these feelings and it strengthens them to choose healthy pursuits and essentially, ‘stay out of trouble.’

But, even as an adult, who doesn’t shine under a compliment? By the same token, a rebuke diminishes even the hardest among us. That’s not to say it’s good to be a pushover, but I’ve often noticed how good I feel—how good it feels to me—to notice the good. Wow. It is so mindbogglingly easy to only see the negative.

How many times do I catch myself seeing that one thing that my daughter didn’t do, meanwhile many, many things that are great manage to pass right by unnoticed as if they, by their mere positivity, are unworthy of my acknowledgment.

This is where not only those around me lose out, but so do I. I miss those amazing things—the excellence in the everyday feats—to instead focus on one dish or a dirty sock. Really? We have so much room for improvement here. We must see the incredible that is in front of us and stop, just stop, trying to control the minutia. Maybe your spouse never mows the lawn, but does make dinner every Sunday. Or maybe your son is not so diligent with homework but he senses your defeat and quietly goes on to assemble the chicken gate that was giving you trouble (true story). Maybe your daughter is so sensitive but she is also so fair and caring. Maybe your mom listens patiently to ‘what you just said to so-and-so’ and she says straightforwardly that what you said was harsh and that you overreacted…and then you write this blog post because you suddenly see that you are temporarily blinded and you have sorting out to do.

Include yourself in this too and remember your own positive contributions and traits. This little blip doesn’t mean that all of your good traits go unnoticed.

A Third Better Way : Give yourself an out.

Or, an ‘outing.’ Exercise is considered the best medicine for calming the beast. Taking a walk, looking at a beautiful view, hiking in nature are all great ways to recharge and see that life is not all that bad. This is, of course, assuming you can get up and leave for a good 20+ minutes. But, even if you can only jog over to the restroom to escape you might prevent an anger eruption. Taking a break gives you control over the situation. If you’re at work, you may have to talk to other people along the way—you may ending up smiling and engaging in a more positive interaction. This boosts your confidence and changes the anger cycle. I think it’s like a tally, in a sense, you score a couple positive points and then the losing side starts to fall apart. The losing part being the part of you that was losing it, if you get my gist.

Finally, if you do lose it get back on the horse quickly and do a Big Erase. When my kids were little we started a thing called ‘the do-over.’ It is so great. A do-over lets you just stop and say, ‘can I have a do-over.’ It’s like the game etch-a-sketch in that you simple erase and start anew.

A do-over acknowledges your humanity, that you are fallible, and that you value and recognize the importance of being civil and above all, kind.

I will leave you with this quote by James Baldwin:

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Have a Great Week

March Passive Income Report

Another month has passed and I’m a little behind in posting my passive income report. This month my family and I finally took a vacation to the snow, and though there was little snow to be found, the small cabin and mountain surroundings were a nice respite from the day-to-day grind that we love so much. We haven’t traveled as a family in so long, and everything was surprisingly expensive—particularly if you buy ordinary items at a mountain liquor store—next time I’ll be more prepared! We are generally so frugal that paying for a trip seemed exorbitantly expensive, yet somehow really necessary. No matter what angle I looked at it, I was glad that I am fortunate to have real income beginning to trickle in.

So without further ado, let’s get into it.

American Express

This month I made $56.27 in cash back. It was another heavy-use month on my dark blue card. It was a bit more spending than I’d like, but the beginning of the year is often an expensive time for us as we pay the bulk of our insurances during the first three or four months of the year. That cashback is such a nice bonus. You know I love the American Express card with its 6% back on groceries!

Tab Bank

Right now, my ultra high-interest savings account at Tab Bank is not so ultra-high. This month I made a grand total of .44 cents but there is an explanation. For one, I have not been spending on that card, nor have I been depositing money into the account as is necessary for the higher savings rate. Tab requires a monthly deposit and 15 debit card purchases of $5.00 or more to sink in that high-interest rate. Now, the thing is, during this part of the year I am using some of my savings to pay off insurance and federal, state, and property taxes so this is not the time that I’ll avail myself of the higher rate. Unfortunately, their interest rate has dropped as well—when I signed on with Tab over a year ago, the interest rate was 3%. It’s dropped to a little over 1% which is still good, but a bit of a disappointment. I’ve spoken before about searching for another bank with a higher rate, and they are out there, but right now I’m organizing my accounts and mulling over whether I’d like to put more cash into the stock market—or at the very least have it in my stock account ready for use in the event of a significant drop. I’m quickly seeing how lucrative the stock market can be, at the same time, we all know the dual nature of the stock market and the potential for havoc that it can bring.

Dividend Interest

This month I made a good bit on dividends and it really helps give me some perspective on why I am investing and how grateful I feel to have taken the initial risk to get this far. Below is a list of my regular account, along with the number of shares of stock I own, and the dividend payment for this month.

Wells Fargo Bank (WFC) 10 shares $1.00

Pfizer (PFE) 15 shares $5.85

Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) 10 shares $10.53

Global X SuperDividend US ETF (DIV) 3 Shares $.28

3M (MMM) 20 shares $29.60

McDonalds (MCD) 45 shares $58.05

Monmouth Real Estate Investment Corp. (MNR) 10 shares $1.80

Newell Brands (NWL) 356 shares $81.88

Realty Income (O) 40 shares $9.83

Unilever (UL) 10 shares $5.14

Flowers Foods (FLO) 30 shares $6.00

Schwab US Dividend Equity ETF (SCHD) 5 shares $2.51

STAG Industrial, Inc. (STAG) 10 shares $1.21

LTC Properties Inc. (LTC) 10 shares 1.90

Kohls Corporation 10 shares $2.50

LTC Properties, Inc (LTC) 10 shares $1.90 

Invesco S&P 500 High Div Low Volatility ETF (SPHD) 50 shares $7.05

The total income from dividends in my regular account was $223.47.

Below are the dividends I earned in my Roth IRA account:

Wells Fargo Bank (WFC) 85 shares $8.50

3M (MMM) 10 shares $14.80

Global X SuperDividend US ETF (DIV) 3 shares .28

Newell Brands (NWL) 101 shares $23.23

The total earnings in March for my Roth IRA account was $ 49.92

My March totals are as follows:

American Express Cash Back: $56.57

Tab Bank: .44

Dividends: $223.47 and $49.42

For a Grand Total of: $329.90

To say that I am shocked by this amount is a real understatement. I never thought that I could change my income so drastically by the simple choices I make. I also need to emphasize that I am not a financial expert in any way—just a regular 53-year-old looking out for my family and our financial future. There are definitely other ways of approaching your retirement and other ways to invest, but I always love hearing how other people are doing it—especially the exact details. Give me numbers! In that way, I feel that I want to share how my investments are working for me.

Have a great week,

Andrea

February Passive Income Report

Most of February was spent preparing our taxes for the accountant. Honestly, this is the time of year when I walk through life with my head in the sand. We were audited by the IRS a number of years ago—combine that with a usually hefty tax bill and you can guess our stress level is really high.

This month I did not make significant gains in bank interest, mainly because this is also the time of year when I use our savings to pay property taxes and car and home insurance. The rest of the year I put money into our savings account in preparation for those expenditures. In addition to that, my savings account continues to have an annoying lowering of interest. As of this writing the interest rate is at an all-time low of 1.5 percent. I opened the account with a 3% interest rate. At the moment I am considering changing banks in order to get a higher rate. A number of other factors have made me question the use of my savings account as well. For one, I am no longer spending as much on non-essentials. My savings account requires using the debit card 15 times or more during the month in order to qualify for the interest rate. Not surprisingly, this has made me question whether I am simply ”spending the interest” to capture the interest. Not so smart really. At this point I have not had time to ‘do the math’ so I am not putting more money into that account, nor am I using the debit card enough to get that interest. Now that my taxes are done, I intend on taking a look at my finances and make a decision. Part of me is holding back because I have my eye on the stock market as a ‘richer’ investment and I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be wiser to hold more of my savings in stock instead of playing it safe and keeping it in a savings account. Right now, I’m undecided, but as you’ll see by my dividend income for February, the possibility that stocks hold is tempting—and real.

Dividend Income

70 Shares B & G Foods (BGS) $33.25

15 Shares Verizon (VZ) $6.28

60 Shares At&T (ATT) $31.20

10 Shares American Express (AXP) $4.30

4 Shares Enterprise Products (EPD) $1.80

3 Shares Global X SuperDividend US ETF (DIV) $.30

Green Plains Partners (GPP) $24.00

100 Shares Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (SKT) $17.75

40 Shares Realty Income (O) $9.38

531 Shares Diversified Healthcare Trust (DHC) $5.31

10 Shares LTC Properties Inc. (LTC) $1.90

50 Shares Invesco S&P 500 High Div Low Volatility ETF (SPHD) $7.26

Total is $133.57

Roth IRA Account

10 Shares General Mills (GIS) $5.20

50 Shares Enterprise Products (EPD) $22.5

3 Shares Global X SuperDividend US ETF (DIV) $.3

10 Shares Tanger Factory Outlets (SKT) $1.07

5 Shares Abbvie Inc. (ABBV) $6.5

10 Shares Stag Industrial Inc. (STAG) $1.21

68 Shares Diversified Healthcare Trust (DHC)$.68

10 Shares LTC Properties Inc. (LTC) $1.90

Total IRA Account: $39.3

You can see that the more dividend stocks I accrue, the more money flows into my account. Even if you were to simply reinvest the dividend income, we can see that incrementally the account would go up. Add to that any extra cash that you put aside from your job or side gig and you can slowly get the momentum rolling. It does beg the question: How much do I need to put in a savings account and how much can I trust in the stock market? This is an individual question and definitely one that needs heavy thought.

So, February also gave me credit card points in the form of cash. American Express is my favorite because of that amazing 6% cashback on groceries. This month I earned $85.88 and my bill was just over $1000.00.

I have been more mindful of my spending, however, and the next time I sit down for an extended period to do my bookkeeping, I plan on looking at my spending—particularly my American Express statements.

As 2021 gains speed, it’s important to remember we’re not done with this marathon—it’s not good to get overly confident. I think we have a long ways to go and we need to keep ourselves in reserves so that we can end strong.

Have a great week,

Andrea

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