Articles

Trying Dictation

Last week I mentioned that I wanted to try to dictation for my books, but I wasn’t sure if I could do it…well, for a lot of reasons. But I downloaded a couple samples of books about dictation by authors who use it a lot all the time, and I read the introductions.

I decided to give it a try. If it works, it’ll be a great tool. If not, then nothing lost, right? But dictating while walking really wasn’t going to work for me – at least not at the moment. Honestly, I enjoy just being out with the dogs and being *quiet* for awhile. It’s my downtime, and I didn’t want to give that up.

But I do have several short trips in the car every day as I drive to work, back home for lunch, back to work, and back home again. It’s basically wasted time. Why not use that for writing?

So as an experiment, last Friday after work in my car, I opened the Otter app on my cell and put my phone in the cup holder. As I drove home, I started talking. Rambling, really, like I was writing a blog post. From work to my house is about a 15 minute drive (give or take). I pretty much just rambled the whole time, and let the phone record. I got home, connected to wi-fi, let the audio file upload to the cloud and transcribe my ramblings. When I finally looked at the raw text file, I realized that it really wouldn’t be all that difficult to edit the transcription into a bonafide blog post.

I was kind of excited after that, because it took me around 11 minutes to write an entire blog post – around 1600 words. I was surprised at how little editing it needed, and how good the AI transcription services have become.

I decided it was worth a concentrated effort to learn the skill of dictation. Monday morning, I got in the car, I turned on my Otter app, and I dictated/wrote the daily email I send to my friend Carol while I was driving to work.

That worked pretty well. It needed some editing, obviously. But it was it was nice to have the the basic blueprint down, that I could just add a quote for the day to it and send it off on my break. Then on my way home for lunch, I turned the Otter app back on while I was driving home, and started dictating a short story.

I got about 800 words “written” on the way home. I continued dictating on the way back to work, and wrote about 800 more words. So by the time I got back to work after lunch, I had a little over 1600 raw words dictated and waiting to be transcribed and edited. That is more than I’ve written in the last few weeks, and it took me 21 minutes (10 minutes and 11 minutes, respectively).

Monday night I planned to use my normal writing time to edit the transcriptions for the day. I ended up needing to do some day-job work though, and then I needed to figure out a workflow for moving the transcriptions into the normal programs I use for writing/editing – namely yWriter (fiction) and Workflowy (non-fiction). So I didn’t have as much time as I’d have liked for editing, but I still got one scene edited before bed, and that 800 raw words became 750 edited/usable words. Not bad, really, considering it only took me 20 minutes or so to edit it down (and that time should get shorter as I get better at dictating.

I also dictated this post on my way home from work Monday night, and spent a few minutes last night editing it. I wouldn’t have had time to sit and write the whole thing out at the keyboard this week, so this post might not even have been written had I not dictated it on my short commute.

I bought two books about dictation (linked at the end of this post) which have been very helpful so far – one more of an overview, and one more focused on the actual nuts and bolts of the skill. One prevailing theme they both seek to hammer home is that dictation is a skill and a tool, just like typing or writing longhand. It’s not something you just “jump into”. There’s a learning curve, and practice time required, and it’s going to take some effort before you reach that point where it’s second nature (like sitting down at a keyboard to type, or picking up a pen).

But considering I’m still not very good at dictation, and my transcriptions require quite a bit of editing, I’m already seeing huge gains in word count and progress, and that has me very excited about what this skill/tool could mean for me in the long run. If I’m doing this much better *now*, and I still basically suck at it, how much progress is possible later as I get better? Seriously. This could literally be life-changing for me.

I’ve ordered a phone mount for my car, so I don’t have the phone rattling around in the cup holder (will also be handy when using google maps to get somewhere). I have Otter set to *not* transcribe in real time, both to save data, and so it doesn’t write out the words on the screen as I’m speaking – that would be a distraction. This way, the screen is just white, with a little bar across the bottom that lets you know whether it’s picking up sound or not. And that’s really all I need, at least for now. Start the Otter app before I start driving (and turn the radio off) and…talk as I drive. Simple as that.

I’m looking forward to tallying the amount of words I’ve written at the end of this week (for the first time in a long while). Stay tuned (if you’re interested, anyways).

The two books:

15 Minute Dictation: More Books, Less Frustration by Sean M. Platt and Neeve Silver

On Being a Dictator: Using Dictation to Be a Better Writer (Million Dollar Writing Series) by Kevin J. Anderson & Martin L. Shoemaker


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On Household Admin

A couple weeks ago, we had an unusually heavy “household admin” week in our household. Mainly because I bought my husband a shiny new smartphone to use for some tracking he can do to save some money on insurance. Sucks, but every little bit helps, especially given how much insurance costs.

That triggered a slew of organizational updates on my part. He offered to do the grocery shopping Saturday since my day was *jam-packed*, and asked if we could share the grocery list on my cell to his so he’d have it to shop with. The app I was using isn’t all that easy to share, so I went out and found one that is, installed it on both of our phones, and started re-populating my normal lists (enough that he could shop easily). The new app even has the option of item photos, so I’m pretty happy with the upgrade, and now we can both add/cross items off the lists. If you want to check it out, the app I settled on is aptly named Our Groceries. I did pay the $5 to unlock my side of it, which gets rid of ads and allows photo-adding. The unlocker isn’t required to view photos on the list, just to add them.

I also re-subscribed to the Cozi calendar we’d tried sharing awhile back, and I’d gotten lax on using (I’ve been using ToDoist instead and will keep using for my general daily “to-do” lists). Transferred all my calendar items over there, and made sure the birthday reminders were still working, so now we can put that on his new phone as well, and he can have a copy of the household calendar and use it to schedule his own appointments. He already gets reminders via email, but now he can get them as phone notifications if he wants (that’s how I get mine). I know, this is old hat to most people, but some of us just have to take a little more time and ease into such things.

In any case, while I was revamping things and getting everything all moved and set up, I was thinking about how much time it takes to do just basic household admin tasks…like making a grocery list, updating a calendar, balancing the budget.

Technology like the apps we’re using makes it far more efficient, for sure – once I have a master grocery list set, it takes 10 minutes or so to go through and add what I need to that week’s store lists (as opposed to writing one long-hand from scratch every week…which never works for me because I *always* forget things – having a master list jogs my memory). The calendar app will set up automatic reminders so we don’t actually have to check the calendar once we schedule appointments, but we do still have to enter the appointments and set reminders.

I don’t really know of any budgeting software that balances itself properly. Even the ones I’ve used that will import from your bank need to be checked/confirmed, because they’re not always spot-on, in my experience. It takes me about twenty minutes to balance the budget weekly, which isn’t too bad, but add to that actually paying the bills, shopping list maintenance and calendar/appointment maintenance, and it’s a good solid hour per week I spend doing “admin” tasks for the household. And I only do the minimum – there’s a lot more I could be doing if I felt like spending the time.

Then there’s the mail. Five minutes or less to toss junk mail in the recycling bin, but what about all the other stuff? Shredding, filing, action items…I could probably spend another hour (or more) every week just dealing with mail items. And I don’t, generally speaking, which means it piles up in our mail center until it hits critical mass and we absolutely have to do something about it.

Needless to say, I was thinking about how older well-to-do families used to employ a secretary/household manager to take care of such things in earlier times. Maybe they still do (anyone out there?). But I wonder if someone could make a job out of that. Offering their administrative services in hour-long chunks to people who just need someone to update the calendar, make appointments, pay bills and balance the budget, shred/file mail, and make a shopping list based on a master list and what is/isn’t in the pantry/fridge. It’s not a huge time savings, but when you work all day and have other things to do…every little bit is more time to do what you want to, rather than what you have to.

Control freak that I am, I’m not sure I could hand those things over even though I don’t particularly want to do them myself (I can’t even bring myself to hire a house-cleaner for deep cleaning every other week, which would be a really smart thing to do and probably good for our allergies). But it’s kind of fun to dream about doing so.

Would you ever hire a household manager to take care of admin tasks? Or are you the kind of person who keeps up with them well enough on your own?


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Mental Loops & Twisted Feet

For those of you dying of curiosity, yes, my new skivvies and bras came in, and the old got thrown out, and life is much better/less painful now. And I have a line item in my budget for such things, so I can…well, not get in the same situation again. Or that’s the idea, anyways.

Bonus the menfolk might be appreciate: when you shop for bras online for a time and then open up your Facebook page, your ads are all women modeling bras. You’re welcome.

The jewelry armoire/vanity combo that I really wanted got me stuck in a mental loop. I thought it was the stuff inside the dresser that was the sticking point (and I’m glad I dealt with that), but the thing I just couldn’t let go of was that piece of furniture, and how nice/organized it would be to have. And since it’s out of my budget for the foreseeable future, it caused a loop of sorts in my head where I couldn’t really do much of anything but try to figure out how to obtain that particular piece, or how to circumvent needing one. I get like that sometimes, and it sucks. I can’t really focus on anything until I solve, to my brain’s satisfaction, the lack of whatever it is I’m obsessing over.

Bug, not feature.

So, I spent a lot of brain power on the problem, trying to decide how to solve it without paying $400 for a piece of furniture I really don’t *need*. Finally I dug an old bookshelf out of a closet, took the cardboard drawers out of my little cardboard dresser and put them in the bottom two shelves of the bookcase (for socks), found a lined basket and put that in the top shelf of the bookcase (for skivvies – keeping them in the bathroom messed with my morning routine too much), and basically turned that bookcase into a nicer looking dresser. I want to eventually get all matching lined baskets for the “drawers”, but I like it, and I think it’s a definite improvement on the cardboard dresser that was there.

Then I went through and cleaned out both my big jewelry armoire and a smaller jewelry box, and reorganized my entire jewelry collection so I’d have easier access to the pieces I want to wear more often in the armoire, and the pieces I just keep for sentimental value or occasional wear are stored in the smaller box. I got rid of a lot of stuff I’ll never wear and didn’t want to keep, so that was good too.

After that, my mind finally broke free of that “gotta have it” loop, thank goodness. Zero money spent (though I will eventually buy baskets), several problems solved. Whew!

At some point that same weekend, I stepped on one of the dog bones in the living room in such a way that I twisted my foot, ankle and knee. I didn’t realize how bad it was at the time, but the next day, the top of my foot in the center and the sides of my ankle hurt like crazy. The day after that, my knee hurt too. For almost an entire week I walked around on a sore foot and ankle, until finally I decided I’d better treat it gently for a few days to let it heal. So, I limped a bit when people weren’t looking, keep pressure off it as much as possible, and now it’s down to a manageable level of soreness (still healing). Just a bad twist? Hairline fracture? Hard to say, and I have no intention of getting it checked out as long as it keeps healing.

However, having to baby that foot and then getting sore arms and a stiff back simply by hauling a turkey around on Thanksgiving Day (seriously!) has forced me to acknowledge three things.

1. I’m not young anymore, and it takes longer to heal/recover than it used to.
2. I really, really need to get back to daily yoga and alternate-day weight training, because my body is just as happy to sit and atrophy if I let it. Which is painful in the short term, and really bad news in the long-term.
3. I really should pick up dog bones on a daily basis.

My workouts have fallen off since Halloween, when we were working out pretty well just getting everything put out and then hauling it all back to the basement. But then everything was just piled into the workout room, and due to a couple busy weekends since, I haven’t gotten it all put away again just yet. I don’t even have room to do yoga in there at the moment, and I haven’t been moving fast enough in the mornings to get my yoga time in anyways (I just need 10 minutes, but I’ve been staying up too late, which makes me move slower in the mornings…bad cycle).

But, due to the rearranging in the bedroom (see above mental loop situation), I have room to do yoga there. I tried it out Sunday and Monday nights, and I tell you what – three rounds of sun salutations, and my back was feeling *much* better. And since I’m more awake and organized at night, I’m going to make a point of doing yoga right when I go into the bedroom to change into sweats at night – usually after I walk the dogs. That should get my body back into a more pain-free state.

This weekend I’ll get all that Halloween stuff put back into the storage room, and vacuum the workout room so I can lift two to three times per week, starting next week.

And as of this week, I’m adding “pick up dog bones” to my early morning routine. It will take two minutes, and potentially save me a lot of pain, so…worth spending time I don’t really have on, methinks.

Of course as soon as I got out of the mental loop above, I got stuck in another one, and have since spent more money than I should have on bras and boots. My wardrobe is driving me nuts again all of a sudden, and I need to get that under control before it costs me any more money.

Just before Christmas is an excellent time to clean out the closets and visit thrift stores, right?

Stupid loops…


Resolution Check-In
Sleep 6 hrs: Yeah…no. I mean, close, but I’m missing the mark way too often. And that screws up my mornings, so, gotta get it under control.
Goals check-up: Well, I suppose the whole working out thing and sleep thing tie into this year’s goals, but no formal check-in. It’ll definitely happen before the end of the year, though!

Writer’s Notes – none this week.

Untwisting the Knickers

A popular euphemism, yes…but I have actually been thinking about underwear lately. Specifically, the fact that what I have is wearing out, or doesn’t fit right, or both, and that my storage “solution” at the moment currently…ah, isn’t. I’m not fond of shopping for clothing, and that includes underwear, so I do it as little as possible. But, the time has come…

It is kind of symbolic, in that I’m finally starting to get several pieces of my life organized that had sort of fallen by the wayside during the “brain fog/midlife crisis” years when my proverbial knickers were pretty twisted, so to speak. Seriously. If I’d known then what I know now about minerals and magnesium… *sigh* But, live, learn, and clean out your underwear drawers, apparently.

In any case, men, you can read along or sit this one out, as you wish. I know plenty of guys who could not care less what their underwear drawers look like, but just as many who I suspect would tell me (if I asked them) that they keep their skivvy drawers far more organized than I ever will. Actually, those same men probably keep their whole houses cleaner than I do…but whatever.

In any case, after dealing with ill-fitting bras (and the resulting discomfort every single day) for far too long, I finally forced myself to go looking online for information on how to figure out what exactly my problem was, and how to buy a better bra to fix it. After several videos and articles explaining how to properly choose a bra (yes, I’ve read them before, but obviously did not do it “right” last time…also, bodies change over time, and…gravity, damn it), I think I figured out how to choose a better-fitting bra for my body, and ordered a couple to try. They should be here sometime this week. If they fit better and are comfortable, I’m going to order a few more. I’ve been living with just two (boring, nude) bras that “work okay” for years, and since I refuse to spend a million bucks on one bra (seriously – I do *not* get why the supposedly high-end ones are so frickin’ expensive. It’s not like they’re whalebone corsets, right?!), I’m thinking I should own more than two so I can rotate them and not wear them out as quickly. Like shoes (which I should also buy more of and rotate, but whatever).

While I was doing that, I decided, heck, I should just order some new skivvies too. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but the majority of mine are coming apart in some way, or they don’t fit right. Before I purged my sock & underwear drawers yesterday, I had enough skivvies for one week and one day (like I said, I hate to shop). After “the purge” I have enough to get me one day past when the “grab bag” of 20 pair I ordered from Amazon is scheduled to get here, and then three more pair are headed for the garbage.

Of course after I found that “grab bag” for a good price (with good reviews, mostly), I saw an ad on Facebook (because when you spend an evening shopping for bras/underwear online, the FB algorithms figure you need more help) for Knotty Knickers, which, between the name and a pole-dancing unicorn made me snicker. So I clicked the link, and by golly, it’s a subscription service for undies – a Canadian business. You can seriously get almost anything in a subscription service these days.

In any case, they looked like fun (I mean, they have seasonal skivvies!), so I signed up for a bi-monthly subscription. Because…why not?

Anyways, now I have all these knickers coming, and I decided it was time to clean out and maybe even organize my sock/underwear dresser (which is a small cardboard dresser covered with contact paper by the vanity table in my bedroom). There’s no way all those underwear were going to fit with all my socks in that little dresser, so I decided to go completely off the reservation and store my skivvies in a drawer in the bathroom, so they’re right there after I get out of the shower. Genius, right?

Yeah, well. The bathroom vanity drawers were…um…basically glorified junk drawers, so I spent all afternoon yesterday cleaning them out (and decided to use a smaller one instead of a bigger one). Two large garbage bags later, I had more storage than I need, and no time to make the drawer dividers I want for the “drawers drawer”. But, I’ll figure that out later.

Then I purged my socks (because hey, I was on a roll, right?), and still ended up using all four drawers in that little dresser. One for fuzzy socks, one for thin/fun socks, one for lightweight work socks, and one for heavyweight/wool work socks. And then I was sad because I couldn’t figure out how to wear more lightweight crew socks with fun patterns on them, because there’s a subscription service or three for those too, and i want more fun socks (mine are all mostly boring black/gray), but have no idea what kind of shoes I’d wear them with for work, especially in the winter when I wear the wool socks because…brr! *sigh*

You want to know what actually started all this? Someone was selling a vanity table on our local rummage sale that had a set of drawers attached to the left side – smaller drawers on top for jewelry, and slightly larger drawers on the bottom that would work for “unmentionables”. I didn’t get the vanity, but it got me thinking about how my own vanity, jewelry and skivvies were organized, and…well, here we are.

Perhaps one day I’ll pony up the big bucks for a new vanity table like that…or just another large jewelry/lingerie armoire (I have a med. sized one, but it’s full). But for now, I’ll have new undies, and more organized drawers. Which is good enough, I suppose.

When was the last time you “untwisted” your knickers, literally or proverbially speaking?


Resolution Check-In
Sleep 6 hrs: Most nights last week, actually. Though I didn’t sleep well, but that was a temporary thing.
Goals check-up: Nope. Forgot all about it, because I moved to a new calendaring system and need to set up the reminder. Will do that this week.

Writer’s Notes

Fair Time, Hobby Restart & Comic Book Catch-up

It’s county fair time! Which was more fun when I was in high school/4-H, but I still enjoy going to the fairgrounds to eat fair food, check out the exhibits and take in some free side-shows along the midway. We’re going tonight, so that should be fun.

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I had an idea on how to get back to the hobbies (and my comic book TBR pile). Well, I’ve been working on implementing that and another one, with some good success. Sometimes whining is productive, once you realize that at least some of what you’re whining about just isn’t true, when you really think about it.

I set myself up for success this past weekend, in that I did what I could to make my hobbies more accessible to me, and also to change my perspective when it comes to hobbies like stamp collecting and fiber arts. This is one thing that my personality does not serve me well with, and I end up putting too much pressure on myself to “do and learn everything right away”, and “participate and interact regularly with other hobbyists” with activities that should be fun and relaxing, rather than stressful. I tend to treat it like a job and knock myself out trying to learn everything about it all at once, instead of taking it easy, figuring out what I enjoy about that particular activity, and then focusing on that. In a more moderate manner.

So part of getting back to my hobbies is to acknowledge that I don’t have to do “all the things” associated with that particular hobby, and I don’t even have to do much in one sitting just to make a little progress & enjoy myself. Saturday night after I cleaned my office, I got my two stock books out and put several hundred assorted worldwide stamps into glassine envelopes for passing to other collectors. They’re stamps I got in the big assortments that beginning collectors get when they’re first starting out. Those packs are great ways to sort of figure out what draws your eye and what you’re personally interested in collecting, but I’d kept far more than I was actually interested in keeping just for the sake of “building my collection”.

Years later, I have a better idea of what I like and what I’m not really interested in, and I feel like I can pass along the stamps I’m not interested in, and just keep what I really like and want to know the history of. That will make collecting easier as time goes on too. Before, I’d get shipments and keep a lot that I kind of liked, but didn’t really fit anything else in my collection. Now I feel more okay with saying “no” to things that just don’t interest me – and I think that will make for a healthier collecting attitude/environment, and make my collection easier to maintain.

I tell you what – it felt good to sit there for an hour last Saturday night and just look through stamps, deciding which to keep and which to pass on. It was relaxing and fun. I have an hour on Monday and Friday nights set aside for working with my stamp collection, so last night, I went through a couple more packets of stamps I bought ages ago. Put some into my newly cleaned out stock books to be put into albums later, and put the rest in a pile for trading/selling. Another enjoyable hour.

My issue with fiber arts (crochet/knit/weaving) is similar but different, in that if I’m just making stuff and not worried about what/who it’s for (or if it’s for myself), I’m having fun. If I’m working on something for someone else and that’s the whole point of the project, that’s work, and no longer fun. I wish that wasn’t the case, because I’d love to make things for people, but that’s how my brain perceives it, unfortunately. I need to just “make stuff”, with no particular purpose, and then if I happen to have something on hand that will work as a gift, so be it! If not, no problem, I’m not going to knock myself out to get projects done on a deadline, or to specific sizes/colors/etc. I have to take the “work” out of it in order to enjoy it…probably because it needs to be a relaxing endeavor in order for it to “earn” space in my already tight schedule.

I need some new dishcloths (for myself), so that’s where I’m starting this week. Simple, easy, no pattern needed (so I can easily watch TV while working on them). I have an hour on Tuesday and Thursday nights set aside for crochet and knitting projects. It’ll be Thursday night this week, since tonight is fair night.

I figure with two nights per week set aside for each hobby, I’ll feel good if I actually get one night for each. That gives me two “chances” to work on things, and if I use it, great, if not, well…no biggie. I can’t complain about not having time for these things if I actually have time built into my schedule. It’s unlikely that all four nights in a week would be preempted for something else. And if that happens on a regular basis, then maybe it’s time to give priority to whatever’s doing the preempting.

These hobby hours intersect with our normal “TV hour” between 9-10pm, so they won’t get in the way of dinner or walking the dogs or working out or whatever. I’ll be splitting focus those four nights, but Monday/Friday nights are hit or miss on the TV thing anyways, as the hubby often works out late on those nights (he did this week, so focusing on stamps was easy enough once the dogs settled after our walk). As long as I’m working on easy things I don’t need to follow a pattern with, Tues/Thurs should work fine for knit/crochet/weaving. Keep it simple.

As for comic books – I mentioned last week that I’ve been reading one issue every morning when I get up. Last weekend, I hung a magazine rack in the hallway between the bedroom, the office and the bathroom, so I can grab the next issue as I’m headed from the bedroom to the bathroom to shut off my alarm, and then when I’m done with that issue, it goes in a pile on the bookshelves in the office for archiving later. Routines are all about flow, and a simple magazine rack on the wall makes the morning flow that much more efficient. Plus, it’s a visual reminder to grab an issue – not even just in the morning, but whenever I have time.

So…good things happening around here, plus the writing is finally picking up a tiny bit of speed, finally. Naturally, I’m wondering what kind of a curveball life will throw at me next to knock all this new organization/prioritization out of my hands, but until that happens, I’ll just enjoy being back to “normal” for awhile.

That’s really all we can do, right?


Resolution Check-In
Sleep 6 hrs: Did pretty well for the weekdays, but worse on the weekends.
1 push-up per day: Did 5 on 3 non-consecutive days, and that’s it. Need to work on that.
Goals check-up: Completed Sunday, with a few changes to a couple hobby goals.

Writer’s notes for this week

Stamps, Focus, & Accountability

I miss my stamp collection. Just thought I’d throw that out into the “void”, so to speak. I haven’t had time to work on it in the last few years, and I miss it. I miss getting random stamps “on approval” that I can look through and either send payment for, or send the stamps back. I miss going through my albums and organizing stamps and first day covers, and learning about the postal history for each.

This seems like a problem I should be able to fix, but I’ve said that before about other things I’d like to do more of, and I never seem to figure it out. I always feel like I should be able to rearrange my time so I can fit in more of the “fun stuff” I want to do, but it never seems to work out. Or I never seem to be able to work it out, rather.

It’s all about priorities, I know, even though I hate that reality more than I can tell you (and I hate it when other people spout it back at me even more). It’s also about scheduling, and between making my dogs and health and writing priorities, and having to keep my weekends flexible (because my husband is a spontaneous sort, rather than routine-driven like I am), I just can’t seem to get what time I do have organized for better flow.

And there’s also the little issue of my lack of multi-tasking abilities. I can’t watch TV and read a comic book (now that there are no commercials in the majority of what we watch). I can’t focus on looking at/cataloging stamps in that environment either. Heck, I can’t even follow a knit or crochet pattern while watching a commercial-less show, because I can’t focus on both the pattern and the show at the same time. With commercial breaks, I can switch focus for a few minutes here and there and not miss anything. Without them, I can focus either on the show, or whatever else I want to be doing. I can’t do both (and I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing – being able to focus on one thing and really take it in is good, IMO). If it’s a show or movie I’ve seen before, that’s one thing, but something new? No way.

Basically, I need either a show I’ve seen before (or sports, but we don’t watch much of that), or quiet time to indulge in any of these activities. Two things that are rather hard to come by on a day-to-day basis, sadly. And before you say “less TV”, I watch about two hours per night, sometimes less. Half hour while we’re eating, an hour when we both finally settle in after dog exercise & workouts, and half-hour for the news. Not like I can do anything while I’m eating, either.

It kind of sucks. But, as much as it may sound like it, I haven’t given up yet on figuring out how to make time for the things I love. One of these days, I’ll hit on the “magic formula” (or be old enough to retire – still a long ways off), and life will be good. Or richer, anyways.

Regardless, I will get the new Scooby Doo stamps soon. Because Scooby. Seriously!

Which reminds me – I have new issues of the Scooby Apocalypse comics waiting to be read at home.

Ooo…all this whining has given me an idea. Sometimes whining can be productive, if you focus on it hard enough. It’s early in the week, so if my idea works, I’ll report back next week. If not, we’ll just forget I ever had it. Deal?

On a somewhat unrelated note, for accountability’s sake, I’ll be posting my resolution progress (or lack thereof) at the bottom of each post here until the end of the year, and also a link to my writing-focused blog for anyone who cares to see how that’s going from week to week. It’s mostly for my own edification, to push myself to keep my goals forefront in my head, and to keep up with the writing blog too. Because posting in public is motivating. Even if the audience is small.

Now, back to catching up on my budget (or rather, starting over, because it’s a mess). Having money won’t do me any good if I can’t manage it well, right?

*Note to self: buy lotto ticket tonight. And one for my hubby, who is 54 yrs old as of today and would like to retire soon!

Resolution Check-In
Sleep 6 hrs: Missed it by at least 10 minutes every night last week. Dammit.
1 push-up per day: Missed one day, did at least one all other days. Highest daily count: 8.
Goals check-up: Completed Mon. night, adjusted some goals to fit current routines/desires.

Writer’s notes for this week


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Resolutions 2018: What Kind of Person Do I Want to Be?

This year, it’s not about what I do, but who I am. Am I the kind of person who puts things off and lets them go just because the time isn’t optimal, or due to rigid social/societal structures? Or am I the kind of person who treats life and time as fluid and finds creative solutions in order to meet her goals and stay mentally balanced and healthy? I’m sure you can guess which kind of person I’d rather be…but I’ve been slipping on that a bit lately. Or a lot. I’ve let a lot of good habits go by the wayside just because I can’t do them on the schedule I want to or because I’m tired and not making good use of my alone-time to recharge, and I’ve let some stumbling blocks in my daily life completely derail me from things I really want to do.

I’m a creative thinker. The things that have been derailing me just…shouldn’t, because I’m perfectly capable of figuring out different ways of getting things done. I’m also perfectly capable of finding a compromise point when necessary, and that’s where the flexibility comes in. Often to get things done or change a schedule, the only person I need to compromise with is myself and my own rigid thoughts and routines.

When it comes to resolutions, I’m changing my thought patterns a little this year. I normally have a fairly long list, with several resolutions and then a detailed plan for how I’ll accomplish each one. A “resolution” for me is just a very strong goal…something that I really want to focus on and work at making happen. The thing is, I don’t remember those long lists, so I end up only accomplishing one or two things instead of a good chunk of the list. And I’m not good at remembering to check the lists every so often and remind myself what I’m supposed to be doing, which is something I need to work on.

So, this year I’m doing something different. I still have my longer list with the detailed plans, and I’m going to put monthly reminders on my calendar to look back, take stock and see what kind of progress I can make on that list. That’s the yearly “Goal List”, and those items are important, but they take a back seat to the “Resolutions List”.

The Resolution list is the highest priority, has three items on it, and only a few ideas on how I could possibly implement these “major goals”, rather than a detailed plan that may or may not work. This is to leave my mind room to work on creative solutions so I can find the one that will work best with what I’m trying to do through trial and error, rather than locking myself into something that may prove untenable in the long run.

The resolutions are deceptively simple, but will require a ripple of changes to multiple routines, schedules and mindsets to meet them on a regular, daily basis. They’re seemingly small things that will have profound impacts on my life…hopefully for the better.

So, my resolutions for this year are:

– Get at least 6 continuous hours of sleep 6 nights per week
– Eat at least one egg per day, 6 days per week
– Read through my goals list once per week, and note any progress or lack thereof. Adjust as necessary.

And that’s it. Those are my three hard and fast priorities for the year – the things I want to do no matter what else happens. Why these three in particular?

Sleep is something I hate wasting time on, but it’s incredibly important for a lot of things, not the least of which is overall long-term brain health. I read a study last fall (and mentioned it here, so apologies for the repeat) on how if you get less than 6 continuous hours of sleep per night, your brain can’t properly perform basic “cleaning functions” it needs to keep the pathways clear of amyloid deposits (among other things). These deposits have been linked to causing dementia and Alzheimer, and the more often you go without that minimum amount of sleep, the more your brain actually loses the ability to perform those important “scrubbing” tasks no matter how much sleep you get.

So why make it a resolution? Because for me, sleeping for 6 continuous hours means completely redoing both my night and morning routines, and becoming more efficient at what I need to get done before and after work just so I can have 6 hours free to do…brain maintenance. This resolution affects a very large swath of my life, and while I’ve been working on it for a couple of months now, I tend to “fudge” the schedule here and there, and I’m still working to find a good way to handle my manicure nights on Saturdays (when I’m often up until 4-5am doing my nails).

Focusing on getting 6 hours of sleep will force me to adjust and change (improve?) a plethora of other things in my life, which makes it a good resolution, methinks.

As for the eggs – I’m working on getting healthier (a constant thing). Losing weight, getting strong, eating healthy. Lots of recent studies have de-villified the egg as a cholesterol issue, and they contain a lot of really great vitamins and minerals that support healthy thyroid and metabolic function. Plus, good protein! And very versatile/easy to incorporate into daily meals.

Focusing on eating one specific food every day will force me to think about my meals in advance, and also keep me in the mindset of eating foods that support my overall goals of getting healthier and getting back to a healthier weight.

Lastly, the checking in on my major goal list once a week will help keep those fresh in my mind, and give me a weekly opportunity to think about what I could do to make progress on them, or go over what isn’t working and adjust the goal accordingly. This also will require that I adjust my weekend routines to make time for this weekly check-in. I’ll probably need an hour, at least.

So, that’s the resolution list and plan for this year. I’ve already started moving things around in my routines to get to bed on time, and planning out how to fit a daily egg into my diet (this week, cupcake-sized egg muffins for breakfast…made this morning and cooling for the freezer). Just need to figure out when I’ll do my first goals check-in next weekend, and I’ll be off to a good start.

Here’s to a year of focus, flexibility and forward progress!

Housework, NaNo Update & Other Stuff

*yawn*

It’s Sunday night as I write this, and I am *tired*. I planned to put away Halloween yesterday, and just…didn’t. I mostly sat around and thought about doing stuff, with the exception of going grocery shopping and then out to dinner and a movie with my husband (Thor: Ragnorok – very fun, can’t wait for the next one!).

In any case, that meant today was the day to do “all the things”, including all my housework (which I was already behind on from last weekend) and putting as much Halloween away as I could, given the snow outside. But with the extra hour (I do love fall-back-to-standard-time), I got up earlier and subsequently finished earlier, which is nice because I’ll be able to get to bed on time (which almost never happens on Sunday nights).

Yes, I should have been writing. All weekend. My NaNo word count so far is a measly 1700 words…which is about what I should have for one entire day. But my house was a wreck from all the festivities last week, and there was no way I could focus without doing something about that.

Why is my word count so low, you ask? Well, I got a decent start on Wednesday, but not fast enough. Thursday I thought I was doing well, but I ended up starting my writing session late, and I’m just not willing to give up sleep this time around. So I went to bed. And Friday was a horrible Tuesday-clone all the way around, so I honestly just didn’t feel much like writing. Or anything else, for that matter.

I want to write this story…badly. And when I am working on it, it’s flowing really well – better than any other story I’ve written so far. I think it’s due to the fact that I know so much of the backstory. It really makes everything, including the character motivations, more clear in my head. I think this coming week the word count will go better, or I hope it will, anyways.

But this time, I’m not willing to give up sleep, or health, or my normal priorities just to make a specific daily/monthly word count happen. I’ve done it before, and while I could do that again, it’s just not worth it to me. I do have this coming Friday off work though (in observance of Veteran’s Day), which means I’ll be able to work on the story on and off all day (bliss!). And since I got most of the Halloween stuff put away today, I should be able to grab a few longer writing sessions next Saturday and Sunday as well.

So, way too early to give up on NaNo. Plenty of time and opportunities to raise the word count without compromising my health-related priorites.

Of course, there are some other things I’d like to do this month, like cleaning up that old sewing machine and getting it running, and starting some knit and crocheted Christmas gifts. Maybe this week will be the week I get my schedule together and figure out how to work on those at the same time I’m working on the NaNo novel. Wouldn’t that be cool?!

I live in hope.

Now, since I have everything all wrapped up early for once, and I have an hour until bedtime…maybe I can make that word count a little more respectable before I sleep. To everyone else out there “writing the good write”…many words to you!

 

Halloween Craziness & NaNoWriMo

Yes, I’m running late with blog posts this week. Our Halloween yard haunt takes up a lot of my time, and since the hubby is out of town this year, I’m finishing things up myself. But I have a couple hours to wait while I get the windshield and back window replaced in our truck (finally – they’ve been cracked/broken, respectively for over a year now), which seemed like a good time to catch up on a little posting.

Our theme for the haunt this year is a 13th anniversary celebration, which seemed fitting since our own 13th anniversary was back in September, and we’ve put up at least some sort of graveyard every year since. I’m kind of scatterbrained though, and planning for both the masquerade party we went to and the haunt got my mental wires a bit crossed. Which is to say, I forgot about the “bad luck” part of the theme I was going to include with the yard haunt, and after the truck is done, I need to go pick up some horseshoes to hang upside down (so the luck runs out). I’m not sure where to find three-leaf shamrocks this time of year, or small hand mirrors to break…*sigh* But I should be able to bring a ladder out for someone to walk under. Hubby asked me if I wanted one last Saturday, and I couldn’t think of why – that’s how discombobulated I was (we were getting ready for the party that day).

In any case, lots of work yet to do on the yard, which is why I have today (Monday) and tomorrow off work. So much to do, so little time…

Then on Wednesday, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts. I’m not even close to being ready…I mean, I have the novel I want to write and the basic plot, but getting 1667 words per day (which is what you have to write to “win” with 50k words at the end of the month)? Yeah. I’ve been lucky to get 500 words down a few days a week lately. I don’t think there’s any possible way I can win this year, but I really do want to write this particular story, so I’m still going to give it a good try. The Matter of Misty Mardeaux has been rolling around in my head for over a year now – just shortly after I started my tattoo sleeve, and it’s time to at least start getting it down “on paper”. So, we’ll see.

The party was great fun, as always, though several other couples chose the same costumes we did (Red Riding Hood & the Wolf), so that was a bit of a bummer. Next year we’ll have to pick something more original. Or try, anyways. Still, always fun to go see everyone else’s costumes!

I think next year’s yard haunt will be more fun too, with hubby here so we can work on it together, and we’re finally going to do the creepy carnival theme we’ve been thinking about for years. Plenty of ideas swirling around for that already! We should be a bit more on top of things next year.

Now, break time is about over, and time to get back to work…

Happy Halloween, and for anyone else doing NaNo this year, many words to you!

Ruminations on Priorities & Sewing

I’ve been re-examining my priorities lately…for about the 70-billionth time. I generally do that when I really want to do something I’m not currently doing, and have no time to “work it in”. But I live in hope that some day, I’ll list out all the stuff I want to do and magically have time to do every last bit of it. Preferably with a reasonable amount of proficiency.

Gotta love a good fantasy, eh?

I also tend to reevaluate when I want to make sure that the things I’m making a priority really are important enough to keep the spot they currently hold. Writing is actually one of those things I’m constantly questioning. I haven’t published anything in two years (or more), I’m never quite sure if what I’m writing is something I want to publish, and I often wonder if I really should be spending so much time and money on something that isn’t really doing much for me in return.

Aside from…you know…providing a creative outlet that keeps me from going all nutty and such.

In any case, bringing home another antique typewriter last weekend was just a plain enjoyable event, because I have no real intention of actually using it. I just love to have old typewriters around, and have that little nostalgic piece of history to look and marvel at. I find them inspiring.

But buying the antique sewing machine sent me into another mental frenzy of “how am I going to fit restoring and using this lovely piece of equipment into my already packed schedule?” If it were already in good shape and all I had to do was use it or not, that would be one thing…I can accept it as an antique piece to enjoy and maybe use “sometimes”. But I can’t just leave it in the condition it’s in. It really needs to be shined up and oiled and brought back to something lovely. I *want* to do that.

And of course having a sewing machine in the house that actually works (albeit needs some work, but it does work currently) makes me want to do some craft projects that require a sewing machine. I’ve had a couple of sewing machines in the past, but always cheap, portable, electric models that required me to clean off space to work, near a plug-in, and put up with noise, and try to keep up with the machine as it outpaces my brain by a mile…needless to say, I gave both of them away. This one…this one is virtually silent. The speed is more easily controllable. It has its own table (that looks really nice as a piece of furniture), and needs no electricity. Unlike those other machines…this is a machine I actually *want* to use.

Of course I can’t really even start restoring it (aside from washing the casing) until I order a few inexpensive parts and some oil. I’ll do that tonight (today is payday – yay!). So next weekend, I’ll have what I need to work on it…but it will also be one of the busiest weekends of the year for us, with two Halloween events and then my husband flying out for a work trip and me trying to finish up props for the yard and candy bags for the kids.

Ah, Halloween. Our favorite holiday, and my poor husband will be stuck at a conference and on a plane for much of the actual day/evening. Which is just all sorts of wrong, really. But, we’ll look forward to next year.

Anyways…I will make time for the sewing machine restoration, even if just in bits and pieces. And eventually, I’ll figure out how to make time for the small sewing projects I have in mind. It seems like something important enough to make time for…because of the impact it will have not just on my life, but on the lives of my family when I make things for them.

And I’ll continue to make time for reading and writing, because it’s good for me mentally. And crocheting/knitting, because it’s good for me to get away from the screen and do something with my hands. Weaving will also make its way into the rotation.

My stamp collection is just going to sit for awhile…I just don’t have time to put any kind of meaningful work into it. The jigsaw puzzle on the table is probably going back in the box un-solved. Social media…well, that’s just going to have to be minimalistic too. Because in the evenings after I eat and walk the dogs and before I sit down to write, I need some time to just chill…away from all screens except the TV. That’s my crochet/knitting time, and it’s time when I don’t have to be social, chatting, talking, using my brain and straining my eyes. I’ve been slipping back into that more lately, setting the yarn aside for my laptop, and while I stay more connected to people that way, I lose the time I need to just wind down and be inside my own head for awhile. And that’s an important thing to protect.

Priorities are important. And knowing when to put things aside is important too. I think I’m starting to get better at identifying what I need to make a priority at this point in my life, and what can wait until later. Which is a very good, freeing thing.