This year has been a whirlwind. A divorce, a cross-country move, my son’s first preschool experience, a brand new job, ANOTHER brand new job. But despite the life upheaval, I can honestly say that all the choices were good and the changes were needed and a step in the right direction.
I thought I’d write a bit about what I’m thankful for this year, given that it’s easy to get caught up in the stress and frustrations of daily life as a single parent, when I should be giving gratitude to a life going well.
My son, Henry
It’s hard for me to write about my kiddo without getting overwhelmingly sappy, because he’s really wonderful. Even on his hardest of days, he’s still easier than a lot of children. I’m so grateful that he’s a solid sleeper which allows me to be the best mom and person possible.
This year has been incredible, because he’s been growing as a little human. He’s not really a “baby” anymore (shut up, he’ll *always* be my baby) and he’s developed an adorable little personality. He’s strong and independent, yet cautious. He’s so adaptable to new people and situations. He’s a spitting image of me when I was his age — precocious, smiley, talkative, inquisitive.
I’m so thankful that I’m his mom. It’s truly the greatest job I’ve ever had, and I love my new “mama” identity.
Moving to Austin was a difficult decision, but I’m grateful that it seems to be the right one. I’ve met some new friends (Austinites are really nice), and I’ve gone on tons of adventures. I’ve rekindled my love for hiking (it has supplanted my ability to be outdoors riding horses) and I’ve checked out countless hikes and State Parks. I’ve eaten great food, and seen so many neat things.
I was worried about moving to Texas due to the Conservative nature of this state, but Austin is a great little haven where I feel surrounded by people who think the way I think. I’ve met lots of moms for potential playdates for Henry. He’s going to a wonderful outdoor preschool and his teachers love him a lot. I’m really truly happy here, and still have so much to explore!
My return to the game industry
This is a huge one for me. Earlier this year, I heard that my contract at Riot was going to expire and I needed to job hunt. I decided to try out working in non-games, and took a position at You Need a Budget. That company was incredible. I love the product, the team is amazing, and it was a fantastic experience. It was the first time I’ve gotten to work from home for a fully-remote company, which was a nice change. It was flexible, which was great for my move.
However, I found out that something was missing in my life. That role was a Community Manager role, and prior to having my son I was a Director of Community. This role was more junior, great for the flexibility but it turns out that it wasn’t what I needed in my life.
I had thought that returning to games wasn’t ever going to happen. After all, the discipline that I’m in (production) is rarely supportive of family life, especially that of a single mom. When I had the opportunity to pursue a Senior Producer role at Zynga, I entertained it but didn’t believe that it would even be feasible. It turned out, the slots studio that I’m at *really* values work/life balance. One of the other producers is also a single mom as well! Many people have children here and no one really stays that late. I’m able to work 9-5, and I can do extra work at night from home after my son goes to bed (if I need to).
I now feel like I’m back on the career ramp that I was on before. I don’t feel like pregnancy and motherhood made me step back in time too far. I get to prioritize my career again and work with games. And despite me questioning what working in slot machine games would be like, it’s been a ton of fun. I love my team, I love the role, and I’m pretty hooked on our games as well. It’s been really great for my mental health to be back in a rigorous and challenging onsite role. I think I’m balancing things quite well, all things considered.
YNAB, or You Need a Budget, has been a life-changing software for me. (Note: I did work there for 7 months or so this year, but I was a fan before working there and I still love the software like crazy!)
You see, prior to my divorce, I had gotten into this comfortable zone of being in a double income household that didn’t really have to think too much about saving. We paid our bills and then pretty much squandered whatever was left in our account after doing so. It wasn’t until living on my own, paying for my bills and caring for a baby, that I realized just how much I didn’t understand about money management. I did some Googling, found /r/personalfinance on Reddit, and kept hearing smart financial folks talking about this little thing called YNAB. What the heck was it?
So let me try to explain YNAB in a nutshell. With normal budgets, you map out all of your expenses ahead of time and then you pay your bills when you get them. With YNAB, you only map out expenses that are paid with the money you have right now, which sounds simple but it’s actually a pretty difficult concept to grasp.
With a tool like Mint, you get a very basic budget where you can see where your money spent in the past has gone. You can also say “this month I want to spend $400 on groceries” and then throughout the month you can watch your bar meter tick closer and closer to that magical number.
With YNAB, you take a look at the money you have in your account and ask yourself – “what does this money have to do before I get paid again?”. It’s a very simple question but it’s actually a pretty challenging concept to grasp.
Today I just got paid. We’ll just say it was a $2000 check for simplicity’s sake. I asked myself – “since it’s the 15th, what do these $2000 dollars have to do before I get paid again on the 30th?”. I know that my internet bill is coming up, so I assign $60 of it to the internet category. I know that I’m going to need to have $1100 for childcare on December 1st, so I put $500 of this $2000 toward that so that I’ll “fully fund” the category with another $600 during my next paycheck.
The net effect of this is that I never look at my actual bank account. I look only at my YNAB app. In the image above, the person has $730 available in their ‘grocery’ category, which means they’ve already allocated $730 of their hard-earned dollars that are already in the bank to that category. So instead of looking at my bank account and thinking “I can spend $3,000 on groceries if I wanted to”, I’d know that I actually can only spend $730 because the rest of my money is already allocated to a job.
With the YNAB method you never overdraft (if you’re doing it right) because you’ve only assigned dollars that you already have. You also realize the benefit of not squandering an extra $200 at Target just because you have it, but instead flipping forward to the next month and “pre-funding” one of your categories there.
For example, in my $2000 paycheck..maybe it only has to do $1500 worth of jobs before I get paid again. The previous me would think that I could go spend $500 on whatever I want, because the money is there in my bank account. But instead, I flip to December 1st and I put $500 into next month’s groceries. BAM, now my entire grocery budget for next month is already paid for — with money I normally would have wasted on a new video game console or a Sephora trip.
YNAB has made me think about every dollar I spend. It’s created a buffer in my finances, where I’m living off last month’s pay. It’s made me more secure in my purchases, more frugal with my choices, and also is allowing me to pay off credit cards and loans faster. I’m a huge fan of YNAB and I highly recommend checking it out!
Ah jeez, it’s been a minute hasn’t it? Or you know, almost a year…..
You know what’s interesting — despite not having a ton of time to play games (I literally sometimes go weeks without playing a game), I still follow the MMO blogosphere religiously. I read just about every post (except ones about EVE, sorry Ancient Gaming Noob…love your WoW posts though) and I’ve been skimming ones about Destiny (sorry Bel). I still feel like I’m part of that “community” even though I’ve been blogging a bit elsewhere (and here too, sporadically).
I’ve recently (as in, last weekend) came back to the wonderful World of Warcraft and therefore….I’m here again. There’s something about playing an MMO that makes me want to chat about it on the internet.
“For the Horde!”
So the last time I played WoW it was over a year ago. I dinged 110 promptly on a Night Elf Druid so that I could play with my friends, but then I ran one dungeon with them and never logged her in again. I should have known I can’t stick with an Alliance character.
So now I’m back, and I picked up my main since 2004, Treetopsy. She was a wee level 100 and now she’s a wee little 102. I’m going Resto naturally, but I took the feral affinity for questing. So far I’m pretty happy with that choice! I like that I can heal dungeons proficiently yet also quest at a decent pace. Well, let’s be honest….I’m sure it’s slow as hell but I don’t have anything to really compare it to so it feels fine.
I’ve finished Val’sharah and I’m headed off to Highmountain next.
My perfect game
I was talking last night on Twitter about how I’m not sure why I even play any other MMOs ever. WoW is my perfect game. I have all the history here, I love the story, the graphics, my characters, the world, the casual-friendly mechanics, everything.
What’s just amazing to me is how much game I actually have left. The last 4-5 years, I haven’t really played that much. I’ve missed out on so much and I could play every night for a decade and not finish it all. I never finished the holiday achievements needed for my proto-drake. I have so much pet collecting to do, it’s not even funny. I never did Suramar, or world quests. I don’t even know what Argus is (I mean, I do in lore but I don’t know anything about the new zone release). I’ve never done a Timewalking dungeon. I own almost zero heirlooms. I haven’t even leveled my fishing back up to max in Legion yet! I want to level cooking. I’ve never even started Archeology. There’s dozens of transmog items I want, mounts to collect. Not to mention ACHIEVEMENTS. There are just so many things to do. That’s if I don’t check out the new raids or jump on that gear treadmill.
Time is not on my side
Unfortunately, my life is still crazy. I’m still a single mom. I moved to Austin, TX and I love it, but I don’t have much free help here since I don’t have any family. My son is 2 years old and in his difficult toddler times, and his naps aren’t as long as they used to be. I’m also working full time as a Senior Producer at Zynga, which occupies much of my time and mental energy.
So the reality of making my way through this stuff? Probably pretty slim. But while I’m trying, I figure I can write about some of it here. I like going back and reading my posts.
At this point, I don’t have a guild. A few people have told me about their guilds and I’m considering joining. I miss the days where I’d talk on Vent/TS with guildies, doing karaoke and shooting the shit. You’d really get to know people. I even met up with some in LA in like, 2006! Fun times.
I’d like to find a guild like that eventually. But first I need to see if I actually stick with the game for awhile. You never know, with me.
Plans for the blog
I promise I’ll stop rambling with this post soon. But I’d like to transform this into a general “me” blog, much like Stargrace and others have done. TV, movies, pop culture, news, general hobbies, thoughts on whatever. I don’t promise much for posts, but I’m going to try.
Here, have a cute kiddo pic to close out the post:
My 15 month old toddler is napping.
If you don’t have kids, you don’t understand how wonderful this is. You might think you do, much like I did pre-baby when I thought I knew just how hard parenting would be. But until you’ve been in the trenches, day after day, giving your entire being over to another tiny helpless human’s existence, you don’t really know.
I remember reading posts from parents talking about how precious naps were, how excited they were to have time to themselves. I remember thinking, “Gosh, why do these parents hate spending time with their children so much? I want a baby so bad, I’ll relish every moment and will never think a single negative thought about being by their side!” (Insert Judging Here).
Now I understand. From 7am wakeup until 7pm bedtime, I am “on”. Mom-mode. Changing diapers, prepping meals, feeding meals, running mom errands, playing with the baby, tending to his tantrums, engaging in the 100th game of peek-a-boo per day, cleaning up after his messes, entertaining him, taking him to places, making sure he’s warm enough, isn’t hungry, is feeling good, snuggling him every time he bonks his head on something. Thank god for my weekday nanny so that I can, you know, work a job.
So right now, he’s napping. I have anywhere from 40 minutes – 2 hours to spend however the heck I feel like. Sweet, precious time. I obsessively check the baby monitor, hoping that today is a long nap so I can really enjoy a break. How should I spend it? Here’s what today (a typical day) looks like. I could:
Play a game. After all, I hit 110 in World of Warcraft and promptly never played again. I haven’t even unlocked world quests yet. I could play a little bit of Overwatch with my friends like I’ve been doing the past few nights. I could snuggle on the couch and play Skyrim SE, which for some masochistic reason I decided to tackle again. I could play a game I bought in previous Steam sales, one of the hundreds I haven’t played yet. I could log into League and try to remember how to not feed.
Watch TV. My Netflix queue is a mile long. I’m years behind on movies. I have more shows to watch than anyone I know. I’ve never seen The Walking Dead. I haven’t finished S3 of Black Mirror. I want to catch up on Bates Motel. I have a few documentaries I want to see. I want to catch up on This Is Us. I have shows to start that sound awesome that I haven’t had time for, like Atlanta and You’re the Worst. I never finished the latest season of Transparent, or Orange is the New Black. I have the Sense8 Christmas special waiting for me. My god, I haven’t watched the Gilmore Girls reboot. WTF is wrong with me?
Take a shower. Since my son was my alarm clock at 6:45 this morning, I didn’t get to shower. I’m wallowing in my own filth today. I miss the days when I could take a shower whenever I wanted, slowly. I remember when I had time to shave my effing legs! Hooboy.
Clean up. No real cleaning happens while my kid is awake. Sure, I pickup after his toys a billion times a day, but I can’t really make any meaningful progress on keeping my house clean. I could use this time to switch the laundry, fold some clean laundry, sweep/mop my floors, do the dishes, take the trash out, dust something. Thankfully I don’t have to clean my bathrooms and scrub the toilets, because that’s how I spent yesterday’s nap. Although, they’re probably all dirty again. FML.
Read a book. One of my goals for 2017 is to read more. I’m currently tackling The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck and I can already tell it’s going to stick with me. I need to give a lot less fucks. I have a Goodreads list that I will never get through, even if I live to be 4,000. I have some educational books I want to read. I have a few fantasy books I’ve started and never finished. I want to re-read all the Harry Potter books. There’s a bunch of parenting books I want to devour. I will probably never do any of these things.
Learn something. There’s a few online MOOC and certifications I’d like to tackle sooner rather than later. Google Analytics certification, for one. Content Marketing stuff. Some SEO things. All sorts of stuff to make me smarter, a better person, better at my job, etc. Who knows if those things will happen. This is so far down the priority list that sadly, it will probably never come to fruition.
Meal plan. Later today, I have to go to the grocery store. If I don’t want to end up relying on frozen crap, I should probably plan out what’s on the menu.
Prep lunch. When he wakes up, he’ll be hungry. So I should probably have something nutritious planned for him instead of just a peanut butter & jelly sandwich.
Side gig stuff. Little known fact: I sell LuLaRoe clothes on the side. It’s a fun hobby that costs me more than I make, but I do enjoy it. I have invoices to send, shipping to do, clothes to organize and package. But I usually save this until the nighttime when Henry is sleeping.
Well, looks like this naptime is done. I spent this entire nap writing this blog post, because he only gave me an hour of “me” time. No shower I guess. ^_^