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Year in Review – 2020 (Ugh)

I kind of feel like we’re all at the same point with the year right now…which is:

“Goodbye and good riddance. Go ahead and let the door hit you on the way out – you deserve it.”

Something most of us can agree on in a mostly disagreeable, disjointed, and socially schismatic time…yay!

Personally, my year started pretty well. I had a plan, I was ready to go, I was writing regularly, reading again, and feeling good about things.

Then I got sick (like, sicker than I’ve been in a long time) at the end of Jan/early Feb. Work was crazy, I couldn’t get rested, I wasn’t writing or doing anything else…and then just when I was finally starting to recover…pandemic! Civil unrest! Election year! Seriously. The crazy just wound right up and spun out of control and that was that.

Needless to say, many of my resolutions were pretty much left in the dust with my personal motivation and focus this year. Which sucks, but sometimes that’s the way it goes. I have been starting to claw my way up from the rubble, and I feel like I’m in a pretty good place at the moment. I have some health issues to address in the new year, and some book business decisions/issues to address, but nothing that seems insurmountable, at least not at this point.

Some good things actually did happen this year though, including a new fridge and stove, curtains instead of blinds for the living/dining room windows, and the promise of new, easy-care landscaping first thing in the spring. I’m writing again, and I’m taking a writing class at the moment which I think is really helping me to improve as a writer, so that’s exciting.

I’ve discovered new ways to grocery shop, including our local food hub, which is great. I discovered a few more local shops that have become favorites, and I started using Instacart, which doesn’t work for everything, but does work for main grocery shopping and saves me a lot of time each week. I will probably have to go back to shopping for myself next summer, just due to the amount of box and bag waste that not taking my own reusable bags creates. But at the moment, I’m enjoying having that time to do other things. If reusable carrying media was an option, I’d probably keep getting my groceries delivered indefinitely.

I’ve gotten a much better handle on my finances, and feel pretty good about being able to control them going forward. That was one of the goals (in a more specific way) that I did meet, and arguably one of the more important ones. I am stalwart in my weekly budgeting now, which is a very good thing. There are a few other things I need to get to that point with as well. One thing at a time.

All in all, aside from ten extra pounds I don’t need (and five more I should lose just for good measure) and the aforementioned health issues, I don’t feel like I’m in too bad of shape going into the next sun-cycle, but…time will tell, I suppose.

I’ll be setting my goals for next year later this week, and will post them next Monday to start the new year off on a hopeful note.

Until then, I hope your Christmas was bright and merry, and that the first day of the new year will bring feelings of peace and hope.


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2019 in Review

Ah, the end of another year. No, I’m not going to do an entire decade in review, because frankly, my personal timelines tend to get all tangled up in my head after a year or so, and something that happened 20 yrs ago feels like it happened last week, and another thing that happened a month or two ago feels like it’s been over for years. Honestly, I wouldn’t even know how to get 10 yrs worth of “life” straight in my head, much less on paper. Things happen. We learn stuff, do stuff, and hopefully keep moving forward.

I do know that I published my first book and established Brazen Snake Books in 2010. So that was pretty significant, I guess. Speaking of which, I really need to update that cover and blurb…

In any case, last year, I had three major resolutions to work on (and a lot of smaller goals). The big three were:

1) Pay off one major and 2 minor lines of credit
2) Institute a one-paycheck waiting period for all unnecessary, un-budgeted purchases
3) Publish two books

Finances were very much at the forefront of my mind because I’d just done some major overspending, I was way behind on my “normal” bills, and I was very much aware that I really needed to get a handle on both my spending, and the lackadaisical way I’d been handling money.

I’m happy to say, I did get myself in gear, got tough with myself, did my weekly budgeting whether I wanted to or not, and completed those first two resolutions. It was frustrating and annoying a lot of the time, and as soon as I finished paying off those particular credit lines, I was hit with a whole host of dog-related medical bills I had to pay, and then dental work I had to have done, so that was even more frustrating/annoying (because I was on a roll, dang it, and wanted to keep paying stuff off!). But, even though I’m operating closer to my personal margins than I’d like, I’m in a much better financial place this year, with money set aside to be invested when I have the time and a tiny bit of savings (which I haven’t had in a long while), so…those were very worthwhile goals, and I’m still very much motivated to pay several more credit lines off this next year. Which should be interesting because we’re actually taking a vacation in the fall (like, a fly-out-of-state vacation), but we’ll figure it out.

The last goal was an ultimatum to myself to either “publish or perish”, so to speak. I really, really struggled with writing time for the first three quarters of the year. At the moment (and by “moment”, I mean “moment relative to the rest of my life”) my schedule…my life is just not really conducive to sitting down and composing/typing a bunch of words late at night (and there is no other time…oh man, did I try to find another time). I can’t think well enough early in the morning, and my brain was done being creative about three hours before when I sit down late at night after everyone else has gone to bed and the house is finally quiet enough that I can think.

I really thought I was going to have to consign this one to the “perish” bin, as in, don’t bother publishing anymore until after I retire. If I can’t get a first draft down, there’s nothing to edit, and ultimately, nothing to publish. It all starts with the draft.

Late this fall, I decided to try one more thing: dictation. I figured I’m awake and alert in my car, I’m alone, I can have it quiet, and I’m often thinking about story lines or things that would make a great story while I’m driving. I honestly didn’t think it was going to work, because while I talk to myself, I don’t generally “dictate” stories or tell them out loud, and it was exceedingly weird the first couple of times I tried it. But I reminded myself that no one else was listening (and who cares if the other drivers think I’m nuts), and that no one else ever needed to listen to the audio version – the whole point is to dictate and let the program transcribe the dictation, which I can then edit into something readable.

I can edit even when my brain is tired. Editing is much easier than drafting – it’s all critical voice, and that is what my brain is best at – being critical and fixing things. It can do that sort of thing in its sleep (and often does). So the more I dictated, the more comfortable I got with it, and I found that while I struggled hard to come up with even 250 new words late at night, I could dictate a thousand or more in the car just in 2-3 fifteen minute trips to work and back! And then when I uploaded the transcripts at night, I could sit down and edit, a task that wasn’t nearly as much of a struggle late at night after a full workday.

It’s a lot more work to write this way – because the transcription has to be edited into a “first draft”, and then a second round of actual editing to get it ready for copy-editing. But I can do it with the time and energy I have available, when I have them available, and it feels good to be making forward progress on stories again. I’ve written more in the last quarter of 2019 than I have in a long time, thanks to dictation.

So no, I didn’t publish any books this year, though I did write and edit a flash fiction story to send off with my Christmas cards. But I am going to keep writing and have a goal to publish some books next year, and maybe get this whole writing business back on track. I’m optimistic, to be sure.

As for my smaller goals, I got a few of them done, but I never put in place the infrastructure I needed to really be successful with them. I need to make calendar reminders and routines and in some cases, buy something small to make the goal easier. This year, I’m doing that.

More on that in tomorrow’s post on resolutions and goals for 2020.

Happy New Year’s Eve!

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2018 Year in Review

It’s that time again, to take stock in last year’s resolutions and goals, and figure out what worked, and what didn’t. As a reminder, I only set three hard and fast resolutions for 2018, and then had a longer (unpublished) goal list I wanted to work on.

Here are the three resolutions:

– 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.

Of those three goals, the first is the only one I had real success with. I may not have managed exactly 6, but I’ve gotten a lot more than 4.5 (which is what I was getting before) a majority of nights last year. Getting to bed is still kind of a major hurdle for me, but I did pay very close attention to how many hours I was getting based on when I went to bed and set my alarm accordingly so that if I went to sleep 15 min. late, I got up 15 min. late.

Tuesdays are still an issue for me, as I have to get up an hour earlier for work, and I can’t go to bed an hour earlier just because my routines are so ingrained. But I have been getting 6 hours of sleep on Friday nights, and I’ve made a point to work things around so I can get 6 hours some Saturday night/Sunday mornings too.

All in all, that goal has been a success, and it won’t be difficult to keep going with that.

As for the second goal…well, I had to give that up a few months in because all the eggs were aggravating my gall bladder. Once I stopped eating eggs every day (I still eat them, just not more than a couple times a week), my gall bladder quieted down and all is still well so far. That was a fail, but only because my body made it so. Can’t help that, unfortunately.

The third goal was a partial fail. I tried, really I did, but my reminders kept not working (I’ve since gotten a better reminder system), and by the time I’d remember it was late and I was tired, and I rushed through and didn’t really give my goals list and progress analysis the attention it deserved.

I did go through the list occasionally, I tried to pick a new “top three” goal and never really settled on a good one, and I did modify the larger list a few times to give myself a better chance. One of the items on my list was to read a comic book every day (trying to catch up with a little over a years’ back-log). I achieved that goal with flying colors, and I’m caught up on a few different series, nearly caught up with my Harley Quinn’s, and still have quite the stack of Spidermans to get through.

I worked a lot on getting healthier this year, which sort of backfired in that my body threw a bit of a temper-tantrum, but the doctor I established as my first “primary care doc” told me not to worry about it, so I shan’t. I lost five pounds, a lot of that doing intermittent fasting. Even though that doesn’t seem like it will work for me long-term, it still had the great benefit of showing me just how few calories I actually need during a day. So I’m eating less, and have managed to keep the 5lbs off. Go me!

Most of the other goals on my longer list are household and financial goals, and I simply spaced most of the household/cleaning goals, and as for finances…well, yeah. No. Finances were more than just a fail – I wanted to pay down debt, and ended up with more than I had at the beginning of last year. It was a combination of not following through with my budgeting goals, lack of impulse control, and using the wrong budgeting system for my personality type.

Needless to say, finances are at the top of my priority list next year, and I’ll discuss that more tomorrow.

It was an odd year, and I’m kind of glad to just be leaving it all behind and moving forward. Writing was…not even close to what I wanted it to be, and left me wondering if I should even keep trying to write. I did finally start establishing some good writing habits over the past couple of months, and in just the past week, I’ve started blocking out more time for that as well (by shifting nightly routines up a bit). So, maybe next year will be better. I hope so. I need to either publish stuff, or close down the business side of things and just write for myself. By the end of next year, I should have a decision reached in regards to that.

Tomorrow, the new year begins, and a new resolution list commences. Stay tuned…

2017 in Review

Well now. That was kind of a bumpy year, wasn’t it? Mercifully, it seems like it flew right by, but man. I had such high hopes and…well…I didn’t accomplish nearly as much as I’d hoped to.

I basically have three sections to my resolutions every year: Personal, Writing/Publishing, and Work. Out of all the items I had for those three sections, I accomplished exactly 1 item on each list. Like many others, I got caught up in watching politics, work was busy, writing was…moving forward, but it took most of the year to find a daily (nightly) “flow” again, and I ended up not publishing anything and slightly behind on my bookkeeping, though not as bad as in years past.

The three things I “accomplished” were really only partial accomplishments, but it’s something. In my personal resolutions list, one goal was to give myself a pedicure every week along with my manicure. This goal stems from the fact that my toenails grow insanely fast, and the bottom of my right foot is crazy dry, cracked, peeling, etc (so not nice). And I’m really not good at foot-care, which doesn’t help.

I don’t do a full pedicure every week because it takes forever, but I do soak, file and moisturize my feet every Saturday night now, which means I notice when the nails are too long and cut them before they can start causing problems. I’ve also started moisturizing them more often on other days, which means that while my right foot is still pretty messed up, it’s far better than it was. At least when I don’t pull strips out of the callus like I did last week (ouch).

The point being, I am taking better care of my feet, and the fact that this “better care” hasn’t solved the problem completely has led me to look at other potential issues, which will play into next year’s resolutions. Healing from the inside out, so to speak. But I’m also taking better care of myself in other ways, and much of that has stemmed from just focusing on better foot care.

As far as writing/publishing go, the one thing I actually sort-of accomplished was setting aside time for business-work: bookkeeping, promotion, site updates, etc. I haven’t been good about keeping up all year, but I did a heck of a lot better than in years past, and that will make doing my taxes next year less of a chore. I still need to work on refining this over the next year…a lot of things have changed with my schedule and what I want to accomplish in that area, so it’s a work in progress. But I feel like I did pretty well, considering the business work is my least-favorite part of writing/publishing.

I don’t post about work goals online, for obvious reasons, but I did accomplish one of two goals for last year, and I feel pretty good about that.

The other thing I did wasn’t even a goal, but it was the simplest and also hardest thing to accomplish, and it took me all year. I finally got back into the daily writing habit, and have been writing just about every weekday for the last several weeks. It took me *so long* to find habits and routines that would support that after losing the habit a couple years ago. But I’m back on track now, and it feels really good. Mentally stabilizing as well.

So, definite progress forward this year, and I’m actually quite looking forward to 2018. It’s gonna be a good year, methinks.

Monday, I’ll post my resolutions for the new year, and my plans for making them happen. Now it’s time to take down Christmas, restore my house to its normal state, and shovel about a ton of snow…