Good News, Bad News

It’s crazy how much can happen in a week, isn’t it? More good news than bad, though, which is how it should be, methinks.

Good News: My new glasses came in last Tuesday, and I picked them up right away. I’m kind of missing the old bi-focals, because there was a clear demarcation of where the reading lens was vs. the rest of the correction, so it was easy to know where to direct your eyes. Now, I just have this sort of fuzzy area in between that won’t correct either way, and that does kind of drive me a little nuts. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, and I’m happy to have the stronger reading part (that does make a huge difference), even if it is kind of small, but it’s going to take a little more time.

Bad News: I think I mentioned that I missed budgeting the week before last due to poor planning on my part…and I definitely paid for that (no pun intended) last week. It was a very expensive mistake – one that I really couldn’t afford. So now, more unnecessary expenditures have to be temporarily dropped until I can make up the difference. Sucks, but this is a lesson I *will* learn, no matter how long I need to struggle with it.

Good News: Needless to say, I did get my transaction log downloaded early this past Friday, did my budgeting for the paycheck that should hit my account today, and as long as I’m careful and stick strictly to the budget, I’ll stay in the black. No finger-crossing necessary, just discipline.

I had Thursday and Friday off work last week – Thursday was my birthday, and I kept it all to myself. Friday was just for fun. My weekend was pretty low-key…household stuff, more new routines put into place (some money-saving), and I was more careful than normal with my time, so I got stuff done and didn’t have to rush about it. I am really going to strive to do that more often going forward. Weekends are so much nicer when they aren’t spent rushing to get everything done.

Yesterday wasn’t a vacation day, but a federal holiday, so I spent it writing and knitting. And playing a little, but I did limit close screen time because…

Bad News: I realized something a little depressing during the time I had off, which is that once again, I’m straining my eyes with all the “extracurricular screen time”. Mostly, playing games on my cell. *sigh* My eyes have been incredibly dry lately, and part of that is the extra heat running plus the cold air when we’re out walking, but part of that is my propensity for playing games in the evenings (Pokemon Go & Animal Crossing) rather than just watching TV and crocheting/knitting (or playing a game on the TV screen, which is far less taxing on the eyes than playing on my cell). The switch screen is bigger, and doesn’t seem to bother as much, but Pokemon Let’s Go is still engaging enough that I’ll sit there and stare and *not blink*, which is the killer.

So…along with breaks every hour or so, I also need to build in a few hours in the evening where I’m not visually focusing as hard. I’m using my Neo to write, which is a non-backlit screen with big letters, so that works well, and I’ll just have to make sure to put my cell down after we get back from walking and do something else while I’m watching TV (if not playing big-screen games).

Good News: My weight is slowly (oh, so slowly) dropping with the extra workout time I have with the new morning routine. I have time for weight lifting along with yoga four times per week (Mon/Weds/Thurs/Fri), and adding weight lifting in there has made a big difference. So hooray for that! I’ve lost around 9lbs since last August, and would like to lose another ten or so. We’ll see if the downward trend continues, but I’m cautiously optimistic.

Finally, I am a very small stack of comic books away from being completely caught up on my Harley Quinn backlog. Once that’s done, I only have a smallish stack of Amazing Spider-Man comics to get through, and I will finally be completely caught up with all my comic book series. *And* I got a gift certificate to the comic shop for my birthday, so…I see a restocking trip in my near future.

This week will be short, busy, and end in a haircut, which I really, really need.


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Of Money & Financial Matters

I guess maybe I should have made getting blog posts done a priority for the new year, eh? I’ve had a few very busy weeks, weekends, and some new routines I’m trying to establish, so blogging time still hasn’t found a permanent home in the new regime just yet. It’ll get there, eventually.

Obviously, since my finances are front and center in my mind this year, I’ve been trying to be a lot more disciplined in that regard. This particular pay cycle isn’t quite as fluid as I’d have liked, but that’s because I had to order new glasses, and my glasses are expensive (because I’m pretty much blind without them). Even more so this year, because I’m going back to “progressives” (or bi-focals, as they were called when I wore them in high school). People complain about them all the time, but honestly, I can’t wait to get them. I’m at the point where I can’t read close up things with my glasses on, but it has to be right in front of my face to read with my glasses off, so that perfect reading range is just out of my grasp either way you look at it.

Progressives will be a godsend, and I ordered them last Tuesday, so maybe one more week before they’re here. Can’t. Wait. I do have vision insurance now, which makes my glasses far more affordable. Very helpful.

Like so many other things, I like to do my budgeting late at night when it’s quiet and I can properly focus. The only problem with that is, my credit union (or rather the processing company behind the scenes) shuts down their web site every night from right around midnight until 2am. Anyone who works in technology knows that there’s no reason for a nightly shut-down, and plenty of banks are up and online round the clock, so this annoys me far more than it probably should. But it’s the way it is, and I need to remind myself to download a copy of my transactions before 11:30pm or so, so I can do that budgeting thing at my leisure.

Last year, I signed up for YNAB (You Need a Budget) software. It’s online budgeting software that basically is suppose to help you learn to “age” your money (ie, not spend it as fast, and create a cushion in your account). One of the main tenants of the system is to only budget with money you already have, and to budget every single dollar down to zero.

It didn’t work for me in the long run, because I can’t force myself to hold off on spending money right when I get it unless I know it’s already earmarked for something (before I get it). I was always trying to play catch-up with the budgeting and overspending when I really probably wouldn’t have if I’d just budgeted ahead and known that I needed to be more circumspect with my spending. That way when payday comes around, all those upcoming transactions are at the forefront of my brain and in my mind, the money is already spoken for. Or, as in the case of the coming paycheck, that I have money earmarked for a toaster oven, so I can hit the “checkout” button and get that ordered as soon as the money hits my account without worrying about trying to figure out which bill gets shorted to pay for that later.

I tried out a few other budgeting software packages, and the one I like best so far is called “Simple Home Budget“. It’s a desktop application, not a web app, which I actually prefer. You can set up recurring transactions, both income and expenses, and then you can easily see what you will have for the month, and what you need for bills. You can set recurring transactions to either “clear” automatically or manually – I set mine to manual, and there are categories for pretty much anything you want to track (and it’s easy to set up new categories too). It is indeed simple-looking, but there are some pretty complex details that make budgeting easier (like color coding, and you can import bank statements to balance, too).

I’m in the trial period now, but unlike most online software, it’s not a subscription to license this desktop app. YNAB is $89 every year, where Simple Home Budget is a one-time fee of $30. No brainer, cost-wise. And I like it better, too, so I’ll be buying a license and canceling YNAB at the end of the month. YNAB refunds the unused months if you cancel early, so the money from that will just about pay for the SHB license. Very nice.

Now I just need to make sure I have a copy of my bank statement downloaded before my normal Friday night budgeting time, and I’ll be set for this week.

Maybe I’ll actually get a budget set up for the BSB/book stuff this year too! Sure would be easier than tracking it all down in February so I can do our taxes… *ahem*

One thing at a time, right?

So It Begins Again: Resolutions 2019

Happy New Year! Or I’m cautiously optimistic that it will be, anyway.

Today, I’m doing a little knitting, a little library house-keeping (boxing comics and cataloging books) and maybe playing a little Pokemon here and there as well. I have some Christmas gifts to put away yet, and I’m making a pork roast for dinner. Should be a relatively quiet, relaxing day, which is my preference over spending the first day of the year with a bunch of family and chaos.

But before I get to any of that, or even sleep to start it all off, I finished my resolution and goal list. For the uninitiated, my resolutions are priority goals – the ones that get the most attention and focus during the year. The other goals are just that…things to work on when I get to them, or when they’re needed to make the resolutions happen.

Like last year, I decided to focus on three main resolutions this year, with a larger list of goals to work on when I have the time/inclination. And since my “money matters” got more than a little out of hand last year, I’m making them my top priorities in 2019. It’s important.

Here are the goals I upgraded to “resolution” status this year:

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

The first one is pretty specific, and even more so in the extended goals list – right down to how much I need to budget/pay each month in order to achieve that goal and keep everything else paid up as well. It’s not going to be fun, and it’s going to require some serious willpower, but it’s necessary and important. If I keep that resolution, it’ll be a serious chunk of debt paid off by the end of the year.

The second one is obviously an attempt to rein in my impulse-spending. I get paid on the 7th and 22nd of each month, so waiting until the purchase is budgeted for in the next paycheck isn’t asking too much. Will I miss out on some sales? Maybe. Will I miss out on some things entirely? More than likely. Is that okay? Absolutely.

Nothing in this category will be something necessary – if I wear a hole in my shoes and need a new pair, fine. If I want a new pair of boots because they’re on sale and I’m bored with my old (perfectly serviceable) pair, that purchase needs to wait, even if I have to budget full-price for it at a later date. Need and want are too completely different things, and by the end of the year, I hope to have retrained the emotional part of my brain to respect the difference and act accordingly, rather than giving in to the impulse to order/buy it right that very minute. I used to be far more practical when it came to purchasing “things” and I need to get back to that mindset again. For my bank account’s sake, among other things.

As for the third…well, it’s time to fish or cut bait, so to speak. I gave myself a lot of leeway when our Lucy-dog was sick, and again when we had to put her down, and again when we adopted the Murph. I’ve gone far too long without releasing anything book-wise, and it’s because I lost my writing confidence somewhere in all that “leeway”. So my third resolution is really more of an ultimatum to myself. Either get something done enough and publish the damn thing, or consign the business side of writing to the trash bin and quit pretending you’re actually trying to make something of it.

I’m not cut out for full-time writing (not until I retire, anyways), and I know that. Mostly because I don’t care to live without a steady paycheck if at all possible. But writing isn’t just something I do, either. No matter how good or bad I am at it, I can’t really stop, because writing stories is very much a part of how I process the world. So the question isn’t whether I should stop writing or not, but whether I should stop bothering to publish what I write. And that is what will be answered at the end of this year, depending on how I do with my third resolution.

So…a pretty hefty “big three” this year, but I feel very strongly that all of these will make my life better in the long run, even if I have to take a hit (or several) in the short term.

Other things on my list include incredibly mundane tasks like brushing my teeth and emptying the basement garbages as well as somewhat more interesting projects like starting a genealogy database for our family histories and continuing to catalog my collections. No matter what I get done (or don’t get done), it should be an interesting year with at least some forward progress by the end.

Here’s to a good year with a lot of determination and willpower. And maybe a few fun surprises along they way, too.

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…

Wishes & Talismans

Merry Christmas or Bah Humbug, whichever suits your mood better today…or Good Morning if neither of those quite fits.

Bet you didn’t think I’d post today, did you? And you’d probably be right, except I just gave one of the dogs (Mica) half of a probiotic treat in the hopes it would help his gassy stomach. With him, you pretty much never know what will help, and what will send him out to the backyard alternately throwing up and eating grass for the next twelve hours. I stopped taking him to the vet after the third time…and just accepted that he has an extremely sensitive stomach. Needless to say, we’re always very careful about what he eats, and apprehensive about letting him try new things. He can handle these probiotics, but not often and he’s never had one so far after his regular meal (he did just have a snack).

So, that’s why I’m still up on this very early Christmas morning (was the eve just 13 minutes ago). I was seriously considering bed, and then just knew that if I went now, Mica would need to go out about the time I was just falling asleep (and just as I wrote that, he had to go out…excellent timing). Now we’ll see how he does by the time I’m done with this post.

For those of you wondering, we managed to get a tiny bit of snow on Christmas Eve…and some really incredible fog to go with it as we were driving home. It doesn’t get foggy like that much here, so it’s kind of fun, especially with all the lights shining through the thick white cloud hanging low over everything. It’s still snowing a little, big, fluffy flakes that if they continue, could end up giving everything a slightly more white sheen, at least.

So, I got my Christmas wish, which is pretty amazing considering it’s not something that can be controlled.

We did Christmas Eve at the in-laws earlier – MIL likes to open presents early, rather than on Christmas Day. The gifts we gave went over well, and the ones we got were actually on point as well (and not so many, which is a nice change too). I only asked for one thing (MIL hounds us for a request), and she got me the cabinet I wanted for my spoon collection. There were a few other small things as well, but my favorite was a silver bracelet with many colored book spines all over it – like a bookshelf with books going every which way.

I haven’t worn bracelets in awhile, though I do like them quite a lot. This one feels like more of a talisman though. Something that when I look at it and feel it, I’m reminded of how much I love books, both reading and writing them. I think perhaps that’s the one gift I needed this year to send me into the next one with more focus.

Last year, a friend gave me a small, smooth stone with the word “Possibilities” (or Possibility – I can’t read it anymore – the color in the word has worn off) stamped into one side. I’ve carried that in my pocket nearly every day this past year, and whenever I feel it in my pocket, it reminds me to look for the possibilities in whatever situation I happen to be dealing with. So I suspect it will be with the bracelet this year. A wearable reminder of just how much “story” means to me, and a reminder to keep writing, daily.

I think perhaps next year I’ll look toward the small but ultra-meaningful gifts rather than the larger ones. Not everyone will appreciate that approach, but perhaps I’ll be able to find some things that speak to others the way these two tiny gifts have spoken to me.

Mica has gone to bed, and considering I have two more obligatory Christmas meals to attend tomorrow, I believe I’ll do so as well. Merry, happy or humbug, may this Tuesday be as mellow and carefree as you want it to be.

Pokemon, Guilt & Renewed Motivation

So, last week I was on “vacation” (in reality, I was liquidating vacation hours that I’d be forced to take before March anyways – still have one more week to go after Christmas). The Friday before that, I got paid, and instead of being the responsible, fiscally practical adult that I probably could be if I tried really hard, I ordered a Nintendo Switch console, and a copy of Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee.

I did buy a refurbished unit, straight from Nintendo itself, so that was a good $25 less than a new one, and about a hundred bucks less than the branded Pokemon console/game/accessory pack. So I wasn’t as irresponsible as I could have been.

Just sayin’.

Still, it’s the time of year to buy stuff for other people, not one’s self. And I also have been doing an insanely poor job of paying down debt this past year, despite a resolution to do just that. Needless to say, I spent the first four days of my vacation feeling incredibly guilty, budgeting tightly to cover the overspending, and watching YouTube videos on Pokemon Let’s Go game play.

Then the console showed up on Wednesday, and I spent the next three days spending whatever time I could (minus dog walks/drives & meals) playing that new game to the point where I could connect it with my mobile Pokemon Go game to get a special pokemon you can only get in that particular manner. I reached that point around 3am on Saturday morning, and felt a pretty distinct sense of accomplishment.

Then I put the switch down for the weekend, went out and played Pokemon Go for an hour or so on Saturday, and spent the rest of the weekend working on all the stuff I’d originally planned to finish that week. I actually did get a fair amount of it at least half to three-quarter’s done, which I was kind of impressed by, honestly. And when I was whining to my mom last week about feeling guilty for playing so much instead of getting stuff done, she reminded me that that’s what vacations are for: doing things we wouldn’t normally do to take our minds away from the normal “stuff”. So, there’s that.

But, I didn’t really treat it as a relaxing break. It was enjoyable, but the more I played the more I wanted to reach the goal before my vacation was over, so instead of just taking my time and working through it like a normal person would, I rushed, and took shortcuts, and raced through. Now that I’ve hit my goal, I fully plan on going back and taking the earlier parts slower this time. I was really enjoying it a lot before I got all goal-oriented and started rushing.

My guilt for spending the money now instead of after the holidays like I’d planned was probably part of that rush-rush feeling. Probably some sort of need to justify the purchase, though I’d already thought long and hard about it, and decided on that specific console due to more than just the Pokemon game (I have a list of games that will keep me busy for quite some time).

In any case, while I still feel bad for spending the money early, I’m happy I got the console and the game, and I managed to kept the budget balanced regardless, which feels like a pretty big win overall (especially considering I decided to switch the dog’s food up to a higher priced delivery service at the same time).

Friday is payday, and I’ll be solvent again, and I definitely have a renewed interest in working toward paying off debt next year with a vacation-away-from-home as a carrot/prize dangling out in front. So the new year will definitely see a new plan of attack when it comes to my finances.

One week to Christmas, and another to the New Year. It feels like this year has blown by like a big rig on the highway. Weird, since it felt excruciatingly long just last spring.

My only wish now is snow on Christmas eve & morning. It’s dry and brown, and it never feels like Christmas without snow, dang it.

Santa, are you listening?

Elevators & Returns

This past weekend I watched five movies (it sounds far more impressive than it actually was). Saturday night we watched Gnome Alone, which was hilarious and a nice break from the serious stuff we’ve been watching/playing. Then later when I was doing my nails (around 2am or so), I watched The Holiday Calendar on Netflix, which was cute (and predictable, but holiday romance movies all are). Then Sunday while I was setting up the tree and decorating the front window, I watched three “love-in-an-elevator” themed movies. The first two weren’t too bad, the third should never have been made. And they all three made me wonder a couple of things:

– Did Aerosmith get royalties for the whole elevator meet-cute idea?
– Who hangs mistletoe in an elevator? Because I’ve never seen that in my entire life…but then again, I tend to use the stairs when I can.

Regardless, I have to say, if I were single, I might ride the elevator more during the holiday season. Just to see if there was mistletoe in there. And Jason Momoa. As you do.

I think I mentioned going on a virtual shopping spree last week. Well, the thing about “sprees” is, they’re unfocused, and shopping like that tends to lead to a lot of returns (I don’t do it often). I now have three packages that need to go to a post office just as soon as I can remember to pick up some packing tape to affix the return labels with, and one more package on the way that I’m certain I’ll have to exchange two items from (because in my Black Friday shopping haste, I ordered the wrong size…and realized it too late to get the orders changed). Dang it. I hate returning stuff, so this is a good reminder to shop more carefully next time.

One good thing from my “spree” – I found a pair of ankle boots that I absolutely adore. And they’re in European sizing, which means one size fits *both* of my feet! That’s exciting, because they’re expensive, and I couldn’t afford to buy two pair just to fit both feet like I often have to do. I’m going to budget for several more pair over the course of the next several months. This particular brand (L’Artiste) has a bunch of fun and funky styles and colors. They’re fun, and maybe if I have several I won’t feel compelled to keep wearing them with holes in the sole like my last pair (I discovered the holes when I tossed them after the new ones got here).

So what did we learn last week?

– Gnomes are always cute, and sometimes heroic
– Beware of mistletoe in elevators, unless you’re single and looking for mistletoe pretty much anywhere
– I should always buy UK shoe sizes
– Shop with purpose, rather than blindly
– That craving for butter cookies isn’t just going to go away. Just buy the tin, already. Do it! (I haven’t yet, but payday’s Friday.)

T-minus three and a half days until my December Week of Debauchery (or “vacation”, whatever) begins…

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

Go Vote, and Writing Related Decisions & Distractions

It’s Election Day! I’m off work, because federal election days are “holidays” around here (every two years), but I voted absentee several weeks ago. Hopefully if you haven’t voted yet, you’ll get it done today. Even if you think your voice is too small to count, do it anyways. It counts more than you know.

Whether to vote and how to vote are just two decisions you’ll make (or have made) in any given day. I was thinking about that the other day, and remembering something I read once (I’ve long since forgotten where) about how the decisions we have to make every single day are some of the biggest thieves of time in our lives.

This is particularly poignant for me at the moment because I’ve been trying (and failing miserably until very recently) to find a set time every weekday that I can use for writing. Not just any time either, but a chunk of time that I can actually “protect” as bonefide writing time without allowing anyone else to derail or interrupt me. Time that I can count on as not being beholden to any other person, pet or priority. It’s a difficult ask, because my days are very full and because I have other priorities for myself that tend to take up the spare time in my evenings. Things like working out to keep my body healthy longer, and sleeping a full six hours in an effort to keep my brain healthy longer. If I’d give up either of those things, it would be easy enough to grab more writing time, but I think they’re important enough to my long-term health that they need to take priority.

Most of my other time belongs to work, my dogs or my husband. That’s just…how things are, and how they need to be.

Back to decisions. When I was trying to find any little snippets of time in my day that I could co-opt back for writing, I found a lot of fragments, but they were scattered throughout my day/night, and none of them long enough to actually do anything with. So then I went looking for anything in my day that might yield some “flexible” minutes that I could capture, collect at the beginning or end of the day, and then use those for writing.

I realized that a lot of the places I “lose” the most time in my day are indeed the times I spend making decisions. What to wear to work, what to make for lunch, what to make for dinner, what project to work on next, what hobby to work on in the evening, what draft to work on that day, what workout to do after I walk the dogs, whether to have Murphy walk with Mica and I or take him for a ride and just walk Mica by himself, whether to watch a TV show or movie on Netflix or Amazon, and which one (you’ve all been there on that last one, right?).

There are so many times in a day where I’m spending 5, 10, 15 minutes making a decision that, if it were already made, I could get that task done and move on more quickly, and in some cases, plan ahead so that doing the actual task takes less time as well.

The only problem with being that organized is that most people recommend planning a week or month ahead on those types of decisions. When I’ve tried that in the past, it never lasts longer than a couple weeks (if that – a week is pushing it) before I go off the “plan” and do something different because I just didn’t like the decision I made three days ago for that particular meal, outfit or project. I think that’s fairly common, really – while some people can make and execute a monthly meal plan or whatever, I think it’s more likely that people will create that monthly plan and then start deviating from it after a couple of weeks just because that’s how life tends to work overall.

So, last week, I decided to try just making a daily plan. I figured that if I made a plan every night right before bed that only covered the very next day, that maybe I could make decisions that would be “close enough” for me to just stick to, even if they didn’t feel perfect at the time, and that would save me enough decision-making time during the day to gain some extra time every night just before I did my next plan to write.

Needless to say, Mon – Weds were total failures, because…Halloween. But Wednesday night before I went to bed, I made a plan for Thursday. It included my wardrobe, meals, and the projects I wanted to work on – including which draft I wanted to write in that night, and how many words. Thursday I followed the plan and was pleasantly surprised that by 11pm, I actually could sit down in the office and just write for 45 whole minutes. Friday, I had slightly less time, but still, plenty of time to reach my word count for the day.

I think the key to this for me is that I can’t try to think or plan any farther ahead than one day. Because that’s when it gets too big, and my mind doesn’t focus on the present, it focuses on the future. So the present gets “short-changed”. When I’m constantly looking with an eye to the future, my head isn’t in whatever I’m doing at present, so that particular task takes longer, too.

So, last Thursday and Friday, I did this. I made a plan for just one day ahead, and then stuck to the decisions I’d made the night before, no matter what. and I had time to write, but more importantly, I had head space to write. When doing creative things, you need to have a relatively uncluttered mind that isn’t constantly worried about what else it should be doing, which is another big problem for me. But by making all those decisions early, I freed up my mind, and I found sitting down to write much, much easier.

None of this will work for me on the weekends just because weekends have to be flexible by design. But I made sure to create my daily schedule for Monday on Sunday night, and wouldn’t you know it…Monday went well, I found one small “bonus” writing time chunk early, which helped me reach my word count, and still got everything else I needed to do, done.

I did one other thing last weekend to help myself out, and that was to take my old Samsung NC10 netbook that came standard with Windows XP (long since dead), and reformatted it to a Linux machine. I hooked it up to our wireless, but I didn’t put a copy of my password manager on it, and I have zero access to email or social media on that little computer. The only site bookmarked is Novelize, which is the program I’m currently using for writing. It does have Libre office on it, in case I need an offline word processor, but that’s about it.

The keyboard on that is tiny, but still better than my laptop keyboard, and not quite as good as the keyboard on my Alphasmart Neo. The Neo is a great little word processor and the keyboard is awesome, but the screen in mine seems to be going out, and it has trouble keeping up with my typing speed.

I rarely write for longer than an hour at a time before taking a break (often 30 – 45 min.), so the tiny keyboard won’t be a problem. That netbook is now my dedicated writing computer – I do nothing else on it, and last night, it worked great to ensure I had no distractions while writing, it’s not the speediest little machine, but it keeps up with my typing speed better than the Neo, and I can work directly in my writing program, which saves me download time each night. The screen is big enough for writing, but that’s about it (it’s a 10 or 11 in, I think…tiny).

As you might have guessed, distractions are my other major issue. If I sit down at my normal laptop to write, I’ll be getting notifications from email and Facebook, or checking “just one thing”, or I’ll remember a bill I should pay “super-quick” or something I need to order just then, or I’ll check my sales stats for “motivation” (that never works, incidentally)…

Yeah. While I like to think I have good willpower, I really don’t when faced with all that other “stuff” I could/should be doing. So having a dedicated writing machine of some sort makes perfect sense. And I can’t really afford the technological “upgrade” to the Neo that is the Astrohaus Freewrite just yet, so an old repurposed netbook will work just fine, at least for now.

So, I think after months of floundering around trying to figure out how to work myself back into a regular writing routine, I’ve finally got something workable. This does, of course, mean less time on social media (less distractions!), and I still need to work out time for the publishing aspects on the weekends, but publishing time doesn’t matter if there’s nothing to publish. The writing has to come first.

I tend to downplay the role that writing has in my life, and I need to stop doing that. It’s not just “a hobby”, even though I’d like it to be, it’s more something I need to do, whether I’m good or not, whether I sell books or not, it’s just something I need, like exercise and sleep. I’m sure that sounds hokey to some, but I need to care less about what others think, and more about what I need. And make sure I get to do what I need to do to be happy.

Do you know what makes you happy? Are you allowing yourself to pursue that, and finding ways, however small, to feed that part of your soul? If not, why not?


Resolution Check-In
Sleep 6 hrs: Doing better, recently. Forcing myself to make it a priority.
Goals check-up: Yep – moved a few things around, and switched up my priorities a bit.

Writer’s Notes