Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Since I didn't spend that much during the holidays (a whopping $15 for two 4 by 6 inch picture frames) I didn't break my budget overdoing the peak consumer season.  However, my finances are in disrepair from a year of happy spending (house toys, my best friend's wedding, lots of trips and travels all while Jeff was on and off employment status) and so the upcoming year is going to be my big year of saving.

With a few notable exceptions, I have kept my plans for the upcoming year to a minimum.  I wanted maximum flexibility for spontaneous plans with friends or adventures in the wildernesses not too far from home.  Now that a new opportunity has sprung up, I'm doubly happy I gave myself plenty of space.

A pared down calendar is synonymous with less spending for me.  This coming year will be a time for me to focus on saving, paying down debt, and taking advantage of my skills and passions to earn extra income for the previous objectives.  Sure I have a couple of more elaborate plans during the course of the year, but they may not pan out either.  I'm keeping things open to possibilities.

Fortunately, we received a lot of gift cards to the movies for Christmas so that gives us something to do for free (other than the gas to get to the theater).  We also got some Amazon bucks to get some pretty toys or time wasters.  I may just use mine for household items that have been on my wishlist for awhile, like curtains for the bedroom or living room; or maybe more jars for canning deliciousness.

To earn some extra cash, I'm planning on throwing a yard sale in a couple weeks.  This means I'll have to buckle down and turn my living space into a chaotic staging area before things can be moved out front.  However, it'll be good to go through all our junk and make a bit of extra money.  Ten percent of whatever we make will be spent on something fun, another 10% will go into savings, and the remainder will go towards any past due household bills or credit card debt.

Also, I'm slowly whittling away at my existing commissioned yarn projects.  I completely missed my self-imposed deadlines, but I'm closing in on finishing.  I will working on smaller projects that I can mass produce easily for sale.  I may not get everything up on Etsy before the next holiday season, but I'd like to build some stock to take advantage of the buying season.  Income from this will be handled the same way, 10% fun, 10% savings, and the rest to bills.  All other crafting time will be focused on making stuff for the debut performance of Piper.  With her parentage, she's guaranteed to be the quirky and outrageous show-stopper.

I won't be pursuing yoga teacher training this year, but I intend on maintaining my once a week class schedule.  I may look at offering an additional class at night during the work week, but I'll base this off of demand.  Some people asked for bellydancing classes, but this is a big maybe.  I'm also playing with the idea of asking a bit more for classes, while offering a "discount card" deal.  During the first four months of me opening my home to classes, there were a lot of last minute cancellations.  I don't mind this at all, life happens.  But I hope by raising a single class price while offering a multi-class card will help encourage attendance and allow me to continue to invest in my own growth and training.  All income will go towards my own continuing education with a professional teacher, investing in props for students, and maintaining the space (like paint and carpet cleaner).  If I offer bellydancing classes, the income breakdown will work the same.

I have one more trick up my sleeve, but it hasn't quite panned out yet and I'm not ready to jinx it yet.  However, I hope to share more about it soon!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

And A Happy Holidays Were Had By All

I had a remarkably peaceful and relaxing Christmas weekend with my family.  It's my third Christmas season with Jeff, and we have a pretty comfortable and predictable schedule we've settled into.  It involves mostly time with my family, but it's usually pretty low key so it works.  

Although now that we have a program to stick to, I'm entertaining the idea of sneaking off next Christmas and having a quiet retreat instead.  

I know I said I wasn't going to do presents, but I ended up doing a couple things for my folks.  When we went to Disneyland in November with my family, we had a family photo done at Goofy's Kitchen.  My brother, however, decided not to show and was obviously not present in the photo.  In an act of stubbornness, my mother refused the photos because he wasn't in it.  Knowing my mom (after all, it's where my brother and I inherited our own stubborn, thick heads!), I waited for my parents to leave the restaurant and saved the photos from being doomed to the garbage bin.  Surprise, surprise, my mom apparently spent a lot of time a couple weeks later trying to hunt down the photos (they are supposed to make them available online).  I spent $15 at Target getting a couple of cheap frames and placed the now framed photos between two relevant cooking magazines (both my parents love to cook) and wrapped with dollar store wrapping paper.  One package per parent.  

For my brother, I made up a batch of my popular spicy peanut sauce.  I didn't think he'd be interested, but he seemed excited to experiment with it.  Maybe I was fooled, but I'm glad he seemed to like it.  

And since I think would be murdered if I didn't share, half of the peanut sauce batch I jarred up for my bestie and her hubby.  The last jar will also be gifted to friends.  Although these gifts have more to do with my love of sharing rather than the holidays.  I would have done it if I made it on a Tuesday night in February.  In fact, I'll probably make it again the first week in January.  Maybe I should start asking for my jars back.  Those things get expensive!  Oh well, I digress!

For the boy we got really simple things.  A glow in the dark puzzle.  A Lego board game (which technically I bought for myself a year ago, and still haven't used).  A Lego R2D2 present which actually never made it to my parents to be unwrapped.  A signed picture of Woody and Buzz Lightyear that never made it to the frame or got wrapped (again technically was a present from the Disney Hotel to Jeff for his birthday, but better suited to the boy).  We might save the other two presents for his birthday at this point since he isn't going to miss what he doesn't have.  He received a few presents from my family and Jeff's family and appeared to be pretty satisfied with the quality of gifts.  My mom got him a set of binoculars so we promised him a trip to the mountains or something to use them properly.  Just an excuse to get some time outdoors and be active.  To all of which I say, YAY!

Jeff and I received lots of candies and gift cards.  Looks like we'll have few excuses to make it out on some dates over the next couple months (we all received ridiculous quantities of movie bucks, so hopefully some good stuff comes out this year!).  We have seriously been neglecting date night time and it shows.  I'm thinking date night on weeks we don't have the boy and family night on weeks we do.  I need some creative, low-cost options and plan on making a list and will share here in a couple months after we have tested some.  I'm open to ideas on the cheap if anyone has some to share!

Monday we all relaxed.  I played too many video games in the morning and spent the rest of the afternoon in my office plotting devious...plots.  Danny played with some of his new toys and in the evening we helped him build a big Cars Lego set my mom got him.  

So, enough about us! How were your holidays?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sometimes You Just Need a Break


Some of you may have noticed, and maybe some of you haven't, but I have been totally blowing you off.

That's right.  I went into hiding.  I didn't answer calls or texts.  I didn't respond to emails or Facebook Wall posts.

No, I gave the finger to social activities, thumbed my nose at coffee dates, and generally pooped on invitations to get out of the house.

Okay, maybe none of that is true, but I definitely have been avoiding making much in the way of plans as the year winds down to a close.  The Minimalist Mom reminded me this week of the importance of slowing down and discerning between busy work and productive stuff.

I needed some me time.  I needed some time to initiate some new projects that I'm excited to be sharing with you over the next few weeks.  I needed to recommit to myself, my partnership, and my home.  I needed to cut out distractions and really focus on the things that matter and let the things that aren't just fade into the past where I can keep the memories fond and the resentment non-existent.

I miss my friends and my family, but this has so far been time very well spent.  I look forward to getting back in touch with everyone after the first, but I might have to make a "life sabbatical" a regular thing throughout the year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Christmas Rebellion

First, a great big, bright, happy, and merry Yule to all my friends!

Yule and Christmas both are about the light returning to the earth.  Yule being specifically celestial in nature, Christmas playing to that in the metaphorical sense of the birth of the Christ child.  Whatever you believe, may you find warmth among loved ones this week.

Those of us in the Western world have likely been scurrying to buy or make presents for all our family and friends, stressing out about the tsunami that is our dysfunctional family dynamics, and trying to keep up on day-to-day activities to boot.

I decided months ago that I wasn't going to participate in present exchanging this year.  I might bake or cook to contribute to family feasts, but I wasn't going to purchase or make anything specifically for Christmas.  I bought some packages of cards from the dollar store and am writing up cards to give to family and friends we see between now and the New Year with little poems I think they'll like handwritten inside.

On present buying, I'm broke.  I knew a couple months ago the season was going to be hard.  I just got back from some serious traveling, there was going to be no way I could responsibly put my money on anything other than essentials.  Now, we have been collecting things for the boy for months, but it isn't much and since I'm trying to promote a minimalistic lifestyle (and he spends more time interacting with us than he does playing with toys anyway) he'll have a few small things to open at Christmas.  I think when you're 5 the experience is more about opening things than what you end up getting.

On crafting, I'm behind.  After a sudden tragedy in February, I couldn't even look at yarn for months.  I go through phases of excitement, but they burn too hot (I always injure my wrists) and too fast (I don't want to look at yarn for weeks at a time).  I have one project that is huge, and while I keep making progress on it, the progress is slow (it's thankfully gorgeous though and I hope it's future owner thinks it's worth the wait).  Most of my other projects are small, but with all the traveling and hectic stuff there's still only so much I can do.  I just didn't want to stress about it.

I don't like the obligation of gift giving, and after making the decision I wouldn't be participating I feel really positive about the holiday season.  I'm looking forward to spending time with our families and relaxing.

Will I accept presents?  Yes, of course.  Most of my friends and family are either in the same boat as me or have been duly warned.  But for those that decided they still wanted to put forth the effort to think of me and picked up something they think I would enjoy, it seems insulting to turn away their gifts.  Perhaps that seems selfish and contradictory, but you try turning someone's gift away and tell me how it works out for you. Personally, I plan on focusing more on offering gifts throughout the year.  They're unexpected and random and I think have longer lasting positive effects.

What did you decide to do for the "gifting" season?  Did you make a budget?  Did you stick to it?

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Review of 2011



It's that time of year when everyone stops among the holiday bustle and shopping trips and thinks about where they are headed for the future.  We begin to think about the dreaded and hopeless New Year's resolution lists and that gym membership we promised ourselves.

Last year, I made a long list of goals that I hoped to accomplish throughout 2011, but I didn't really finalize them until March or April.  I also broke them down into categories: Physical, Spiritual, Career/Education, Fun, and Other.  I spent a great deal of time thinking about them and setting them up.  It didn't take long before I forgot about the list completely!

It was a blogosphere meme that reminded me to go back and look over my beautiful list of lovely aspirations.  At first glance, I assumed it was just a list of failures, a reflection of my inability to see anything through.  But as I stared at it, I realized that I actually did accomplish some things towards my goals.  In fact, I think there were only two items that I actually completely failed at.

My biggest failing, other than completely forgetting about the list, was making the goals too abstract (even though I really knew better).  And whereas I was good about listing my goals at the start of every month, January 2011 was the last time I did that.

A lot of my goals for 2011 will be carried over into 2012.  However, I'll be more specific and assign several mini actions to each so I have a way to gradually build up to whatever the goal is and ways of measuring my failures and successes.  They'll also be more relevant to each other and that helps make everything a little more successful.

I'll be detailing more about this over the next two weeks.  You'll probably want to stab me or something before 2012 even gets here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Finally Back and Settling In


I've been neglectful in my blog posting duties!  Sorry folks!

Well, I'm finally back from my travels and ready to get back into the swing of things.  There's so much to say and do!  I'm not even sure where I left off!

There are several future posts I have in the works.  Lots of announcements to make in the next several weeks.  But all good things in time, right?

I have to say, Great Britain was amazing!  The land was gorgeous, the buildings beautiful, the people pleasant, and the food and drink were spectacular (I developed an addiction to steak and ale pie).  While it's good to be home, I wish home was there.

I think my favorite place was definitely South/Southeast Wales.  Pictured above is Tintern Abbey.  I had the good fortune to spend several hours milling about there.  When we left to make the trek to Manchester, England the area around the abbey revealed everything I expected from the UK.  It matched the image I had created and held in my mind for so many years.  I hope my next visit affords me significantly more time in this area.

I have tons of photos from my trip.  I took something like 1,318 pictures and kept 896 of them.  Most of my pictures are of buildings because I simply love Gothic architecture, but if you fancy a time sink you can help yourself to them.

When I got home, I didn't have any time for rest.  I got a couple hours of sleep and hurried off to work.  My first week home was kind of a whirlwind and I spent most of my first weekend home catching up on Skyrim to the exclusion of everything else I probably should have been doing with my time.  My cats didn't mind.  It meant I was stationary long enough to provide much needed comfort through lap-time to sooth their lonely cat selves.

Now I'm gearing up for the holidays and some new projects that should keep me busy for awhile.  I'm also looking back over the last year to check my progress on the goals and projects I set in motion last year.  You know, because that's what you do this time of year.  Reflect and stuff.



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Resuming Whatever Resembles Normalcy


Things are finally starting to calm down, or (at least) take on an air that is more relaxing in nature than stressful or painful.  Last week, after a cathartic Halloween (Samhain) weekend, I finally started to feel a bit more like me.  I was still running around like a crazy woman, but it still felt better than before.

Over the past weekend, I attended the VA's Wall of Honor ceremony in which my late friend was honored with a plaque among over 270 honorees.  Although it was freezing (and Brother, I think we're even now!), the ceremony was pleasant and moving.  They released doves and after the lot of them flew towards the south-west, one straggler was late getting started.  We all giggled that it was Chris, and it is this dove pictured above.

Although the ceremony was brief, it was good to leave and then visit with some friends during an impromptu Thanksgiving get together.  It was relaxing, the food was amazing, and nothing rivals the company.  It was good to be with friends.

Sunday was spent with my friend who is leaving the country tomorrow.  Despite the fact that I needed to be at work at an ungodly hour the following morning, we stayed up late chatting, like we do.  Even though I will see her in a couple weeks when I visit to put Chris to rest, it's the long months that will follow without her present company that I dread.  I want her to be happy and to chase her dreams, but I selfishly want her to stay.  At the same time, I'm worried when I visit I won't want to leave.  

And with that, I'm gearing up for my first real international trip.  I've been to Mexico before through a cruise trip, but being on shore for a couple hours doesn't really count.  At the time, I was much more interested in the sea than the country.  I'm anxious about having enough money since the GBP and euro exchange rate isn't favorable to me, but I think even if I had tens of thousands of dollars in play money I would still be stressed.  I know everything will work out and I need not worry, but if I didn't worry I don't know how I'd fill all my spare time!  I'm getting more and more excited about it, and with that more and more nervous about it.  I've seen so many pictures of the country, but actually being there will likely be extremely overwhelming to me.  I'm glad I'll be with close company.  Money is the excuse I'm using to mask my real fears of the journey although I am having trouble identifying what those specific fears are.

In other news, I'm feeling more committed to physical exercise.  I want to build up my strength and lose a couple pounds before the trip.  I have yet to actually DO anything, but I'm more conscious of it and hope to get something in before I leave.  

I also sent an inquiry off to a Iyengar training studio in San Francisco.  Unfortunately, they want aspiring teachers to have at least two years studying with an Iyengar instructor before applying.  Even though Iyengar has always been the form I have wanted to advance in my study of yoga, it's been only recently that I have found a local Iyengar teacher.  So that is all up in the air still while I think about it further.  On the same note, a former co-worker is opening up a yoga studio this weekend and I was invited to attend the opening party.  It might be a good opportunity for me to make some more connections and have a potential outlet for student teaching and substituting.  I have no expectations, but I plan to go with an open mind and see how things play out.

This week will be busy, but in a pleasant way.  I'll need to start making checklists for my trip, and getting things in order before I leave.  

Until next time!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Becoming the Scrooge

Or sometimes just maims.
I haven't been a very good girl lately.  With my money at least.  Last May I got incredibly ambitious and sought to overhaul my spending habits, dramatically annihilate my debt, and be more conscious consumer.

Well...I have had good moments here...and bad moments.  In the last month, there have been a lot of unexpected circumstances.  My eating out bill (which was always ridiculous) has been very reasonable.  However, I have been losing a lot of pay due to organizational bits, running errands, grieving, and stress-induced illness all related to a single event  (shouldn't really be hard for you to figure out if you look back one or two blog posts).  I've just missed a lot of work.  I've tried to make up time when I can, or do as much overtime as I can handle, but I took a big hit and I'm going to take on more in the next month.  

Let me be clear: I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  Except the getting sick part.  I am SO freaking sick of hacking all the time.  Everything I have done is out of love and necessity.  I am not upset; it was my personal choices that brought me here.  

The above coupled with the fact that my partner was unemployed for several months until about a month ago means that we were already up against the wall as far as finances went.  Our television died, and I had to apply for a credit card in order to purchase a new one.  I want to take my friend to his final resting place, and I had to apply for a credit card to subsidize the trip.  I didn't have to apply for credit cards, I chose to.  I decided that having a television and making an international trip were important to me.  I will pay for those decisions accordingly.

The upside is that by the end of this week we should finally be current on all our household bills.  Huge sigh of relief there.  Unfortunately, I'll have to be a bit late on a couple bills so I can make sure I have enough cash liquid in case something happens while I am abroad.  The potential interest or late fee is well worth the peace of mind if nothing happens.

It's weird to be in this place again.  It has me extremely stressed out and worrying about unknown possibilities (like the other night the kitchen faucet leaked badly and soaked the particle board of the cabinet underneath).  I don't know if bad things really always happen when I am financially inflexible or if things don't seem like a big deal when I can easily pay for them.  Probably a little from both columns.

The next few weeks in particular will be tight so that I can do the things I want to do.  After that, I'm going to really have to pare down for 2012.  It's going to get all kinds of minimalistic after the new year! I'm going to need to find ways of bringing in additional income so I can pay things down faster and have a little bit of play money.  I really want to get serious again about saving money and paying off debt before I reach a point where I really start to default on loans or lose my house or get sent to collections.

I am not in dire straights, I'm really okay.  We can put food on the table, gas in our cars, and we're not so behind that any terrible things are happening to us.  I'm just very, very afraid of terrible things happening to us.  I absolutely, positively do not want to get to that point.  I want to be smart, spend smart, and make my money work for me rather than scrambling to work for money because that is no fun!

No, this is a wake up call.  I want to be able to be generous with my money rather than be the scrooge.  I want to redevelop that desire for simplicity rather than spend for the sake of acquiring more.  Seriously, I hate dusting and more stuff means more dusting!  I want to be more flexible, and I can't do that if I'm indebted and drowning in stuff.  Gods, let me just get through the next month and a half!

PS: The photo above is an original photo I took downtown while playing with my photography skills.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Let's Be Honest

I am not handling things well.  I'm barely sleeping.  My work ethic is suffering.  Every part of my body is revolting against every waking hour.  I'm grumpy, I'm tired, I'm sad, and I really wants the headaches to go away.

When you're not looking, I'm falling to pieces.  When all the doors are closed and no windows betray me, I cry in silence.  I grasp onto things made of light to give me something to be cheerful about, and they turn to dust in my hands.

Nothing is permanent, consciousness is an illusion.  I know these feelings will pass.  Wounds will heal.  Anger will subside.  The problem with living in the present is not knowing when the darkness will pass; knowing that the darkness will pass is not enough when you're in pain.  I know I'm being dramatic, but this is how I am feeling.

When you ask me how I'm doing, I'm probably going to lie.  I will tell you "I'm fine" or "I'm doing okay."  Maybe I'll rattle off some insignificant minutiae or question to distract from the subject.  Don't read this and then push me into telling you how I'm really doing.  If I need to talk, I will most certainly let you know in a direct and obvious manner.  I need to move on, live on, and if I have to "fake it to make it" until I can properly bumble along, then I ask you to please humor me.  If I'm distracted, I don't need to be reminded.  I don't need to be mothered, I already have one of those and that's quite enough.  At the same time, I don't need you to protect me from the big, scary world.  Despite my physical stature, I assure you that I'm a grown up and quite capable of making my own decisions about what I can and can't handle.  I promise I will let you know when I can't handle something in a direct and obvious manner.

Having dispensed with all of that melodramatic bullshit, I  am trying.  Other than a few days of forced isolation due to an unrelenting migraine, I've been trying to spend time with close friends.  I have found renewed interest in cleaning out a bunch of my useless stuff in order to beckon fresh energy for new opportunities into my life.  I have been trying to get in a few hours of extra work to catch up on so many of the projects that have been left behind due to my absence or the eternally changing priority list not according to me.  I've also been trying to mentally prepare for my upcoming journey to the United Kingdom that I am very much looking forward to (despite the initiating circumstances).

I still don't know what I want to do with myself in a greater sense.  For the moment, I'm resigned to the possibility I may never know.  I'm more concerned with what I am doing right now.  That meant this past weekend I suffered from a lot of restlessness.  I wanted to spend some time reading and in meditation, but there was too much commotion and chaos and movement in the house.  I wanted stillness, couldn't find it and so busied myself finishing up several knitting projects (I've been a knitting machine the last couple weeks).

Nothing is permanent.  Change is the only constant.  Things will get better.  Things will get worse.  The unknown will manifest, and then it will fade.  I'm a worrier.  I stress out and make contingency plans.  I dwell on the what-ifs, and I let my anger get the best of me.  On the same coin, I am hopelessly and ridiculously optimistic.  I don't let the little things consume or dissuade me.  I am passionate and focused.  And even when the ground is bloodied and all seems lost, the sun dawns again giving life to a new day, new opportunities, and the chance to leave behind the dark...if even for a moment.

And I live and love.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Release

Last night I went to a friend's house to go through some of my brother's things.  A couple days ago, I felt odd going through some personal items, trying to choose some trinket of his to hold on to.  Even then a close friend had to encourage me to take something home with me.  Last night, I was completely objective, deciding on an entire bin that would require closer examination than I had energy for.  It's mostly books, duplicates of items I already have, but there are notes and the like that need review.  It was strange in that I didn't feel overwhelmed by so much emotion as I had expected.  I felt guilty about that.

When we were done, I sat on my friend's porch thinking about that feeling.  Why wasn't I more sad?  Why wasn't I reacting much at all to this?  The events of the past two weeks are still very unreal to me.  It's like my brother has moved long distance, and I won't be seeing him for a while.  I believe firmly in reincarnation and I believe that those I have close ties to have been with me before or will be with me again.  I suppose it's desperately cliche but it does bring real comfort to me.  Don't get me wrong, I still miss him terribly, but this feels, at my core, to be a temporary situation.

When I got home, I took a long, hot shower.  For the first time in weeks I felt eerily calm.  I felt the stress and anger and sadness release from my body.  And all I could do was smile.  I didn't feel any guilt or sadness, just the release and I allowed myself to melt into the sensation.

At the same time, my future still feels dark.  Not dark in a doomsday, foreboding way, but as if I just walked into a room and need to turn on the light.  Whereas earlier this week I felt anxious and panicked about what would unfold, I now feel curious.  I don't know what the future brings, but I'm returning to a contentedness about letting it unfold around me.  I don't always need to have a direction to move forward.  I don't always need an end-goal to pursue my happiness or to feel like I'm growing.  I simply need to live in whatever way I find most fulfilling.  Perhaps I may at times have some path I must dedicate myself to, perhaps I may not.  Maybe I will change my mind, over and over again.  I'm allowed to do that, as long as I love how I'm living, it doesn't matter.

I need to exist here, in the present.  Not dwell in the past or a wishful or unlikely future.  Right now is what is important and the only time when I can really effect change in my life.  I know there are bad days ahead, they cannot be avoided, but there are good days on the horizon too, with good people, and fabulous new memories yet to be formed.  So for now, I remain hopeful.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lost

There's no way around it: I am lost.

A few short hours after my upbeat birthday post, I was rocked off my high.  My close friend--who was more a brother to me--was dead.

A week and two days have since passed and it's still as unreal as the first time I heard the words, "He's gone."

I am no stranger to death and loss.  I've lost many close friends in my short lifetime.  This past year alone I lost my grandfather, an aunt, and my unborn child.  And now, my brother.  Lost and in despair barely covers how I feel.

I keep waiting to hear the, "Come here, sweetheart," and looking up to see his open arms and gentle smile beckoning me to fall to pieces against his chest.  I'm still waiting for the revelation that it's just a terrible joke, that somewhere all is well and we'll be laughing about this over beers and mead by nightfall.

It will be longer than nightfall.  It may never be in this lifetime.  And I miss my brother hopelessly.

I am so lost.  I had a plan or plans before.  Now life just feels empty.  Many of my closest friends (including my brother) have ambitions to take them elsewhere around the global.  A friend who seems rooted has been too preoccupied for months with her own ambitions and goals and has left very little room for me.  Understand that I fault no one.  I always have my eye on something, some motivating force giving me direction and a sense of purpose, propelling me toward some end result that will supposedly make me happier, more fulfilled, more full of life. I once was too busy, but now I can't seem to stay busy enough.

Now I don't know.  Through spring and summer I felt excited about the future.  I had ideas and plans (malleable plans) and so much to look forward to.  And one by one each thing has fallen from my grasp.  So much hard work, so much sacrifice, so much lost.  I believe in hard work, but can I have some kind of pay off?

I have never trusted people to stick around.  People come and go, often in tragic ways.  I suppose that's just life.  The loss of my brother just brings to light how much the landscape is changing or will change, my true lack of direction, and my utter exhaustion trying to keep one foot moving in front of the other for the simple sake of some kind of movement.

My brother left behind an amazing legacy and sea of people connected with love.  I am very honored to be a minute part of that.  I was worried that he had left so many desires unfulfilled, but after speaking with his family, I now know he really found himself in recent years.  His loss magnifies the reality that I have no idea what I want, or what I do want is overwhelmingly complicated to achieve and I don't know that I have the strength to pursue my desires.

Perhaps everything is still too raw.  There are still some loose strings to tie up, but I'm trying to go back to life.  After all, I have to go on living.  It is ultimately up to me to decide what to do with the time I have left.  I just don't know what to do with it.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Goodbye 20s!

I don't mean the roaring 1920s that came to an abrupt halt when the Stock Market crashed in 1929.  Nor am I referring to the 2020s, because it hasn't happened yet obviously.  I mean *MY* 20s.

Today is my 30th birthday!

Turning 30 usually marks the time when your youth is gone and the ingress into adulthood truly begins.  One is generally becoming established in...well...something.  Some might accept the fact that some life dreams are just not going to manifest for them, while others take a drastic turn trying to knock as many things off their Bucket List as possible.

I am at a crossroads.  I have a few different paths I want to take myself in, and I know some of them will intersect, but not all.  It's more than a little frustrating.  Of course, it's not absolutely necessary to decide now, but I don't want to let some fabulous opportunities pass me by due to indecision.  It's that latter possibility that has me the most concerned.  But I digress.

I'm actually happy to see my 20s disappear into the abyss.  My 20s, overall, were terrible.  I spent more time trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be or wanted me to do than I did being true to myself and my dreams.  I mistook it all for sacrifice necessary for growth.  But I didn't grow, at least, not as in many positive ways as I would have expected.  I've done more of that in the last year than in the last 10.

No, I'm really looking forward to my 30s.  I no longer care if people take me seriously, I hardly do at times so why should I expect more from them?  But if I don't at least have someone's respect, then I move on.  I'm not going to waste my time proving or defending myself.  I have many accomplishments that reflect me well enough and I try to live my life with respect and compassion.  Eventually, people see that without much interaction.  Those who don't will entertain themselves for a time coming up with weird theories, I suppose.  Whatever makes you giddy.

I have lots of ideas for the future, and I'm so looking forward to seeing how some of them pan out...if at all.  I'm trying to remain open to the possibilities the universe presents and allow myself to take unexpected paths.

I really don't mind getting older.  As long as I take care of myself, surround myself with people I love and whom love me in return, work hard, play harder, and be absolutely present in today, I think I'm pretty solid until the day I pass from this world to the next.

But...I think I'll start off my initiation into real "adulthood" by reverting into childhood for a few days.

Because it's my fucking birthday and I'm a princess, and I can do whatever the hell I want!

Teehee!

<3 Mica

Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumn Equinox

The autumn equinox is usually when my fellow Fresno residents behind to anxiously look forward to the cooler weather that fall is supposed to bring.  In about a week, we will have a taste of the dipping temperatures before it shoots up again to early summer standards in October.  It's annoying, but it happens every year.  By the end of October, I'll hear many friends complain about how it's "too cold" while others scramble to cover mouths of naysayers for fear of cursing the area with summer temperatures prematurely.

I'm pretty anxious for the chillier temps, myself.  I absolutely love the fall, followed closely in favoritism by winter.  Autumn inspires me.  When everyone is making their New Year's resolutions, I'm usually three months into mine and halfway through the uphill battle.  Most of the opportunities I manifest through the year are due to the seeds I plant in the fall, sometimes consciously, sometimes not.

This is that time of year when I really need to create.  I love to start new projects (which I am much better about finishing...eventually), learn new skills, and get myself in over my head so that I have to spend the first part of the following year paring a few things down to just the things I really love.  When most people are getting ready to hibernate, I'm out in the world trying to connect with others.

I'm not crazy, by the way.  The Autumn Equinox--which means equal (equi) night (nox)--is also known as Harvest Home and is the second Celtic harvest festival of the year (modern Pagans began referring to it as Mabon in the 1970s to disassociate it from present day Christianized festivals).  It's akin to America's Thanksgiving celebration.  In fact, the Europeans are responsible for bringing their celebrations of Thanksgiving to America, despite the fantastical pilgrim tales American school children are still told.

Autumn Equinox also marks the time when the sun moves into the constellation of Libra, the zodiac sign known for socialability, the pursuit of happiness, and purveyor of all things beautiful and aesthetically pleasing (to her, at least).  I'm an astrology nut, so blending this fact with the act of the harvest makes the idea of the Autumn Equinox the more suitable time for Thanksgiving in my opinion.  I'm sure if you look up your local community events during the month of September, you will find many equivalents of harvest festivals.

For many years, I would get together with close friends around the time of the Autumn Equinox.  We would cook a traditional American Thanksgiving meal with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls, pies, and so on.  Before consuming our meal, we would all take turns saying something (or several somethings) about which we were thankful.  

Sadly, we haven't been able to get together in a couple years due to many scheduling conflicts.  All the same, I always have a list ready of the things for which I have immense thanks.

Every year, I look outside of myself and express my thanks for people, places, and things in my universe.  My family, friends, and cats are always at the top of my list, but this year, I'm going to turn on selfish mode and give thanks to me.

I'm thankful for the inner strength that I have cultivated that allows me to excel rather than just survive.

I am thankful for the wisdom I am gradually developing that helps me speak and act in compassion...most days.

I am thankful for my ability to be discerning about what truly serves my purpose and my life and what simply does not.  To take that a step further, my ability to then take appropriate (and hopefully compassionate) action in the necessary direction.

If you want to know a bit more about us crazy Libra's, Molly's Astrology has an excellent write up on the subject.  Or you can peruse Austin Coppock's more sardonic descriptions (I adore his weekly columns).

More information on what the equinox is celestially, modern Pagan holidays including "Mabon", and various cultural Harvest festivals in the English-speaking worldhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvest_festival at Wikipedia.

What are you thankful this year?  What traditions (mundane, religious, or otherwise) does your family employ this time of year?

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Doozy of a Week

Wow!  Where the heck did I go?  Well, I've been here, thinking about all of you.  I've been pretty focused on work the last couple weeks, a few big projects coming into production all at about the same time.  I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me.

Last week marked my fourth week on a Primal/Paleo diet.  This was the hardest week.  I wanted toast, garlic bread, tortillas, and noodles.  The first half of my week was full of falters in a time that I was hoping to knuckle down on such things.  I tried not to beat myself up too much.  At the end of the week, I lost another pound.

Aside from the weight loss, I feel better overall.  I don't have the afternoon crashes and I haven't had any episodes caused by having low blood sugar.  If I'm hungry, I acknowledge it and then I ignore it.  When I'm ready to eat my next meal, I'm hungry but I'm much less likely binge or overeat.  I feel satiated sooner.  Overall, I'm really satisfied with how I feel.  I'm going to continue attempting to lower my number of lapses.

Tuesday I went to the Central California Women's Conference with my mom.  Geena Davis was the keynote speaker at lunch and seeing her was pretty cool.  Unfortunately, she was so far away I had to watch her on a screen, so it wasn't like she was really there.  Nevertheless, she was very entertaining and I had fun hanging out with my mom.  But my mom and I both agreed that the conference lacked much in the way of substance.  I felt more like I was part of a live studio audience for an infomercial than a participant in a movement to give women better tools to succeed in today's world.  Pretty words won't do it, folks.  Over-used cliches and catchy phases (which weren't even original to the authors hawking them) began to put me to sleep about 15 minutes into the conference.  My mom's best idea of the day: play hooky and get margaritas!  I think we both had a good time hanging out together, and that's all that matters at the end of the day.



The following day my back was torn up.  I slept like the dead (from 7:30 pm Tuesday until 4:30 am Wednesday) and had been in the same position all night.  I went to work anyway and the pain would get better in the late morning and then get substantially worse in the afternoon.  I ended up just staying home Friday to give my muscles proper rest.  That helped, but I ended up pulling things again going into flight or fight mode several times through the course of Saturday night and Sunday morning due to a family emergency (everything is fine now, or will be soon enough).

Saturday I had the opportunity to volunteer for Central Valley's Pagan Pride Day.  I sadly didn't get to see any of the presenters due to schedule conflicts, but I did get to meet some amazing people, enjoy some great company, and see old friends.  The day was flawless and simply wonderful.  I'd especially like to thank a little boy named Edison for helping me so much at the Information Booth.  We both made each other's day a bit brighter.  There's a lot of potential in the community right now for more events and bigger festivals.  I'm excited to see how it blooms.



During the course of the day a couple people expressed interest in my yoga classes and a couple others suggested I teach bellydancing.  I'm absolutely elated and feel honored that they think I'm good enough of a dancer for such, but I don't know that I'm quite there yet.  Maybe, like with my yoga practice, adding bellydancing would help motivate and challenge me.  I don't know yet, but I'm seriously considering my options.

This coming week is going to be an interesting one.  My mom's birthday on Tuesday, and then mine on Sunday, and then my dad's a couple days later.  I'm going to look over the list of goals I made up sometime last year and see how I did and what needs to be adjusted.

No.  Scratch that.  I'm going to start fresh.  I'm going to make a list of goals, add steps I think will bring me closer to that goal, and throw in a list of projects (household or otherwise) I want to take on in the coming year.

Or maybe I will just supplement last year's list, afterall.  I think it will make a nice reminder of what I have accomplished over the last year.  I'm sorry, is my indecisive Libraness hurting your head, too?

Anyway, it should be interesting.  Even with the work and family crazies, I plan to make plenty of time to be introspective and think about where I want to take myself.

I hope your week is a happy one.  And don't forget, fall officially starts on Friday!  YAY!

P.S. Lookie!  I added photos!  Aren't you proud??  And they are MY photos!  That I took with my very own camera!  Enjoy it, because you know it won't last!

Friday, September 9, 2011

What I'm Doing with What I Learned

Earlier this week I recapped my experience being on my own for a couple weeks.  I had some expectations going into it, and I sort of surprised myself.  Looking back, I'm mostly disappointed I didn't make more out of my quiet time (see my note about TV watching), but since I was still doing something I enjoyed and feel passionate about I'm trying to appreciate what I did do with my time.

This week, I've tried to carry some things over in order to try to maintain the momentum that I had last week.  I developed some micro-actions and so far I'm pretty satisfied with my progress.

1. I take 15 minutes to myself when I get home.

When I get home from work, I am sometimes overwhelmed with a list of things I want to accomplish with my evening.  Sometimes just the act of walking in the door reveals a list I hadn't even imagined (the smell of soiled litter boxes, the garbage bins overflowing, the living room in disarray, a stream of dirty laundry littering the bedroom floor/bed/bathroom).  My only thought is on relaxing.  I make myself lie down and set the timer for 15 minutes so I can just relax.  Sometimes I may nap.  Sometimes I listen to Jeff talk about his day.  Sometimes I read.  Sometimes I stare at the ceiling and think about my day and what I want to do next.  Whatever I'm doing, I'm reclined and taking time to transition from my work life to my home life.  Last night, Jeff wanted to have dinner ready when I got home, but I stuck to my 15 minute plan (and I felt a million times better for it).  I felt a little guilty about it, but the boys have plenty of snacks available to tide them over until I'm ready for dinner, too.

Making a conscious decision to take time to slow down and be present after a busy or stressful day has been the biggest benefit to me overall.  I feel much more focused and balanced in the evening.

2. I do my house chores immediately after dinner.

Right after dinner before all the food has dried onto plates and kitchen surfaces is the best time to clean up.  It only takes a few minutes and I can usually get one or both the boys to help me with the process (making it even quicker).  Usually right after dinner everyone breaks to do their own thing, so it's the perfect time for me to be on task and without too many distractions to pick up the house, take out the garbage, and clean the cat boxes.  Since Jeff is still getting used to his new job and schedule, he isn't able to help out as much around the house, but it hasn't been too much of a burden on me with my after dinner clean up plan.  I actually work a little more efficiently when he is out of my way!

It only takes me 15, 20 minutes at most, and soon I can relax in an orderly home rather than fuming about the long list of to-dos that I'm overwhelmed with.

3. When I'm done with everything, I do what I want to do with my time, rather than what I think I should do.  And enjoy every moment of it.

Aside from work and chores, I always have a ready supply of projects I have committed to either to myself or to others.  Because I am not feeling overwhelmed by what *needs* to be done, I appreciate my commitments a lot more.  I'm finding more enjoyment in my projects, even though they may be considered "work."  I work on what I feel motivated to work on rather than what I think I *should* do.  Otherwise, I have noticed I will develop resentment for a project and find that I'm not able to give it the attention it needs or deserves.  Sometimes this means I'm not making the progress I would like to on some things, but if I'm not enjoying the time I'm spending doing it then it's not worth my time.

Maintaining passion for how I spend my time is a priority in and of itself rather than the specific project it drives.  Even if that means "wasting time" on the couch watching a talent competition on television with my love.  Plus it gives my cats good lap time opportunities, and there's nothing bad about that.

I realize there are going to be days where I can't spend 15 minutes relaxing.  I may not be able to get to the chores right away after dinner.  Some nights I'll have to do something out of obligation rather than desire.  My hope is that I keep the real priorities in mind and maintain a balanced life overall.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Happy September!

I sincerely apologize for my absence lately!  I've been a bit overwhelmed for reasons I will go over in posts over the next couple of weeks.  Be assured, they are mostly of my own making.

I cannot believe how quickly August came and went.  August is probably my most loathed months of the year (if I must choose).  It's the hottest month and marks the end of "lazy" summer days.  It's also been historically the hardest for me emotionally.  "Bad" things always happen this month that shake up my universe.  This year was no different, but notably not as dramatic as some years past.

I've been mostly keeping busy with work and some personal projects.  Since Jeff was away for training for the last two weeks of the month, I spent a lot of time alone.  I had invites from friends so I wouldn't feel lonely, but I politely turned most of them down in order to experience that alone time.  The results were kind of interesting.

1. I work really well by myself.
My first night home I went nuts on the kitchen.  I went shopping, cleaned out the fridge, prepped meals, took out a bunch of garbage, put away a bunch of things, and brought general order back to the realm.  Yes, I maintained the orderliness for the whole week.  I washed dishes at night and put them away in the morning while the water for my coffee boiled.  I cooked most of my meals (and always cleaned up afterwards).  I was rather proud of this momentum.

But most of my cleaning was done by Sunday or Monday night.  I just didn't have that much to do through the rest of the week.  I did bits and pieces here and there, but when I am by myself I just hustle and get things done so I can enjoy the rest of my time.

2. I watch more TV than I would have liked to admit.
I had lots of things I wanted to do like organize the garage, minor gardening, organizing things for a yard sale. But all I really wanted to do was play with yarn.  I made a lot of progress on a blanket I've been working on, and that's best paired with watching TV or listening to audio books (I've been listening to Good Omens at work while working on a scarf commissioned almost a year ago).  I only feel a little bad about this because I was technically productive on a long-term project and I was doing something that made me happy.

I guess I pictured myself deep in some meditations or intensive yoga practice or something all week.  I did well on incorporating yoga in the first week but had some difficulties during the second week.

3. I'm less swayed by temptation when I'm on my own, but I won't exercise more.
I lost about three pounds across both weeks.  I wasn't pure Paleo but I did make a lot of changes.  When Jeff was in town for the weekends we ate out at restaurants a lot, and I made a lot of excuses to myself why "splurging" on grains and sugars was okay across two or three days when I only planned on allowing three "off" meals for the week.

I only formally worked out (I don't really count yoga for this) twice.  I planned to go back to Jillian Michaels - 30 Day Shred just doing one eight-minute circuit per day to keep things quick and simple.  I did one circuit in the first week and one circuit in the second week.  I need someone to motivate me, challenge me, or something.


The two weeks proved to be an interesting experiment.  I'm so thankful to have had the opportunity to be on my own and get to know myself better.  I have a lot still to think about as a result of the time to myself, but all things will work themselves out...eventually.  For now, I'm glad to have my Jeff back and thrilled to finally see the boy this week.

Now, onto September, the infamous birthday month for me and my family (no...seriously...it's ridiculous).  It's going to be a crazy month, to be sure, but I'm looking forward to that craziness.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Economy

I try not to engage in too many heated political discussions, usually because I don't have a big-picture idea of what is going on with anything at any given time.  However, I have to call big bullshit on the recession and the so-called economic recovery (that ceased to continue).

The recession called to everyone's mind manipulation tactics and waste.  More regulation was introduced to tackle manipulation (sort of) and everyone started looking at how to cut out the dead wood, or at least how to effectively cut into the three to create as much new growth as possible.

For the first time in decades, we have significant technical advancements in order to streamline tasks, enforce efficiency through monitoring, and so on.  In the midst of a "recession" big companies are making big money.  Bigger money than BEFORE the recession.  But job growth is stymied and pay on the lower rungs isn't growing to match the top.

Do you know what happens to a tree when the canopy is bigger than the trunk can support?

So Walmart is complaining that their target shoppers are running out of money and can't afford to spend money at Walmart anymore.

When the wealthy hear of distribution of wealth, they freak out that our country is being taken over by a socialist agenda.  It's just ridiculous fear-mongering.  No one is talking about moving to a communist government.  But in reality, how can you make money if you take all the money away from everyone else?  You need to give a little more if you want to maintain your income level.

I don't feel sorry for big corporations that have fewer profits each quarter.  I do feel sorry for smaller businesses that can't cut prices anymore to compete with them and make a modest living.  I feel pathetic going into a big chain store and spending my money because I need to cut corners myself to support a family on a single income.  It's a big reason I have cut down on spending altogether and try to find other means to procure stuff I do need, within reason (for example, I will never pick up couches or mattresses second-hand unless from a reputable source, like someone I know very well).

The trouble maker in me just wants to see these big companies fail already, not get bailed out, and let us restructure from the ashes.  It will suck and be a long healing process, but the Frankenstein we have created can't be all that much better.  It just further delays the inevitable.

Excuse the rant, I am just frustrated with the state of things.  I obviously have a limited view (as does everyone) and don't purport to have all the answers.  However we swing it, we all have hard work to put in towards our futures.  There's no sitting back and sipping tea thinking this is something for the "other guys" to worry about.  You don't have to agree with me, but I hope you can disagree in a constructive manner.  I am open to suggestions, thoughts, and possibilities I may not be aware of.

Monday, August 22, 2011

It Was an Ahhh Kind of Weekend

Thank goodness for an amazing weekend! The couple weeks preceding the last were pretty grueling.  Weekends were unproductive (unless I was at the office) and I just felt spent all the time.  Exhausted, cranky, and unhappy.  There were good moments in with the bad, but things just sort of sucked in general.

Last week Jeff was gearing up for the new job, reading the training material and getting snazzy clothes.  He looks so cute in a suit, I will have to post pictures at some point!  (I just need to be better about posting pictures in general.)

Friday night we spent at North Tower Circle helping (with cash) to raise money for the Central Valley Pagan Pride.  The theme was "A Bewitching Night" and lots of folks came out dressed up ready to party.  Some of the regular patrons looked a little confused, but that didn't stop us from having a good time.  The drag show was fun, but I think the go-go dancers stole the show.  The raffle prizes were pretty awesome; I don't know who put those together but they definitely deserve a foot massage!  Many incriminating photos came out of the event.  If only I knew where my camera cable went!

I must have danced until 1am and didn't fall over into bed until at least 2am.  I am resolved to go out dancing more often.  It's so much fun and gets better every time I go.  Even with the late night shenanigans, I was up early to teach yoga class.  Super refreshing after a late night out!

Saturday evening we spent at my supervisor's beautiful log cabin up near Shaver Lake.  The evening was relaxed.  It was non-descript, but very enjoyable.  Just , but I hope they invite us back!

Sunday we ran errands getting things collected for Jeff's trip.  He hit the road at about 4pm.  The cats and I spent a few minutes staring at the door while I considered what to do with myself.  I filled my evening trying to expend nervous energy cleaning, taking out the garbage, putting away the rest of the laundry, and finally trying to settle down to crochet.  I was anxious and bored, so I tried doing some yoga.  I couldn't focus, so I decided to read until I was tired.  A couple hours later I wandered downstairs to refresh my tea and found the cats sitting on the couch still staring at the door.  It was pretty darned adorable!  I told them that they waited in vain and they eventually came upstairs to curl up in bed with me.

It's nice having the quiet and the space, but I have to admit that I didn't sleep so well last night.  I tossed and turned so much that I literally pulled a muscle on my right side!  How ridiculous is that?

I have one activity night this week (Zumba and Tuesday class!) and the rest I will play by ear.  I already have a massive to do list tonight.  I'm hoping scratching out some of the items off the list will help relieve my anxious energy.  I'm a little surprised with myself.  Usually I'm happy and peaceful in the quiet, but I guess, looking back, the one day I would have to myself I always spent my time running around getting things done.

I'm bound to relax eventually.  Hopefully it's sooner rather than later!

My challenge this week is not just relaxing (hey, it's challenging for me!) but trying the paleo/primal diet. I usually get pretty emotional when I don't get all the bread and carby goodness I want, but I figure with Jeff out of town, I'll have to actually deal with balancing my needs rather than look for a distraction.  I'm mostly uncomfortable with the high doses of meats the lifestyle recommends, but we'll see.  I want to see how I do healthwise.  It's fun to experiment to see what works for me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Reducing Electronic Clutter

Be honest, when you think of clutter, you think of

  • ...the stacks of disorganized paper on your desk at the office; 
  • ...the random objects whose only relation to each other is that they have nothing in common stuffed into random drawers in your home; 
  • ...the over-abundance of cooking contraptions that have jammed and consequently forced you out of being able to ever get to them again (not that you ever really used them in the first place);
  • ...the pile of magazines that, a year later, you still haven't read;
  • ...the papers you brought home from the office because they tricked you into allowing them to colonize your home as well;
  • ...the supplies for projects you never really intend on finishing;
  • ...the clothes taking up two closets that you haven't worn in years (if ever) and will never wear again;
  • ...seriously, who needs that many shoes anyway?  Or purses?  Or raincoats?  And really, no one EVER (self, I'm looking at YOU) really needs a WHOLE DRESSER DRAWER dedicated to socks (I have a real problem).
You think of physical, tangible objects.  Things that take of perceivable space.  By no doubt you've guess from the title of this entry where I am taking you next....

And no it's not Disneyland (though my birthday is coming up if you want to meet me there!).

Electronic Clutter!

In the last 20 years, storage space has become incredibly cheap.  It wasn't long before the first commercially available terabyte drive was less than $100 bucks.  Now you can get a decent one on sale for $50.  That's a lot of crap you can fit onto one of those!  Media is increasingly stored electronically because digital space is more condensed and affordable than physical space.  I store some of my music library electronically (I still own a couple hundred CDs and buy a few every year), and all of my photos are uploaded to the cloud (I pay a reasonable, annual fee for unlimited access).  I have friends who store a lot of video media and so have terabyte after terabyte after terabyte of stuff.  Frequently I hear they download programs and movies just to have them available, but often never view them.

Similar goes for email, some never delete a single email.  Everything may be important "some day" and so create complex file systems of useless electronic crap.  Granted, most people I know, myself included, use web-based mail so the space is maintained by someone else.  I'll be honest, since I opened my Gmail account, the inbox has never been completely empty.

At some point this is all ridiculous.  Even electronic clutter sucks precious time out of your life because you have to maintain it in some fashion, whether that is making sure every file is meticulously backed up or organized for easy retrieval.  At a certain point you have to ask yourself, is it necessary?

Start with your email!

1. Delete saved stuff that is not useful or no longer relevant.

Do you really need all those stupid jokes or cute kitten chain letters your mother-in-law sent you four years ago?  Do they add value to your life?  In Gmail, you can add a star (or other marker) to the email or tag it as important.  If there are emails you genuinely refer back to on a somewhat regular basis, flag it and delete the rest.  Trust me, I understand the necessity of keeping something cute around just to make a bad day better.  

When I order things online, I tend to save the emails for a bit until everything is kosher and I'm happy with the product received.  So why did I have emails dating back to 2002?  Seriously!  2002!  Yeah, I deleted all that crap.  I deleted at least over 6,000 emails in my last purge.  

2. Unsubscribe from weekly ads.

All those daily recipe emails, weekly coupons from dozens of retailers, they add up.  Do you actually read all of those?  Do you actually shop at those retailers?  Do you really cook that often or are the recipes relevant to you? 

Start with the ads.  Unsubscribe from these mailers.  For one, it will keep you from being tempted to purchase things you don't really need.  This sort of passive shopping gets everyone in trouble.  Spending money to save money does not cents make (heehee!).  If there is something you need, you can hunt and watch for deals without the spam.  If the something isn't worth that kind of effort, then I am willing to bet it's not really worth your dollars either.

Every morning, I would spend 30 to 60 minutes filtering retail ads out of my email box in order to get to the real stuff from real people.  By that point, I wouldn't have time or energy to actually reply.  Things that mattered got lost.  I would end up having to spend 10 minutes every hour to keep up on the crap.  Forget it.  I'm free now!

3. Pare down on blogs and internet communities.

You don't need to subscribe to every blog you see or that is recommended.  Well, you can if you have the sense to realize it's time to unsubscribe when you're not reading it.  If you have thousands of unread blog entries in your reader, mark everything as read and start fresh.  If you find yourself avoiding a blog or frequently marking it as read, it's time to unsubscribe.  If a blog posts too frequently (I subscribed to one that posted lengthy posts three to five times a day EVERY DAY!), unsubscribe because that is way too much distraction (and it can't all be quality content at that frequent of a pace).  Make the blogs of friends a priority and advice pieces secondary.  You don't need to subscribe to every finance/crafty/family blog on the face of the earth.  A couple of each maybe, if they add substance to your life. (If my advice mean some people unsubscribe from my blog, I'm okay with that. I would rather they free themselves of the unnecessary rather than feed my ego.)

And then there are internet communities.  Places where you can contribute or lurk depending on your interest.  Stop it.  If you're not contributing or getting anything useful out of it leave.  If you haven't attended a Meetup you've been swearing you'll go to for months, leave.  It will be there for another day when you have space in your life for it.  If it isn't, then there wasn't enough quality content to maintain it (which is why you left it anyway).

4. If you're not using it, just get rid of it.

Why are you paying for a backup service to backup things you don't need or use?  Spend a weekend going through your electronic content.  Get the really important stuff (legal papers, and that ilk) into a folder that a backup service frequently monitors.  Organize your documents, consolidate, and delete the useless stuff.  Really, you don't need a copy of your resume from 2006 if you have a more recent copy on file.  Delete that crap.  It only serves to distract you from finding the really important stuff.  

Anything else, get on the cloud.  As much as you want to, you should probably save that crappy poetry from your teen years.  Google Docs, Microsoft, Amazon, and many others offer free hosting services for that kind of thing.  Then it's off your hardware and you don't have to worry about a drive failure. (Now the cloud isn't perfect either, so it's not completely worthless saving off to an external hard disc as well, just to be safe.  Just keep in mind you'll need to track of things.)


That's not everything one can do, but it's a good start and will likely inspire cleaning up things in areas you wouldn't have thought of before.  That's the point.  It's amazing what we don't think of or simply turn a blind eye to simply because we've come to accept it.

I'd love to hear your ideas for electronic clutter cleanup!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

But On Paper It Looks Better...

On my afternoon get-the-hell-away-from-my-desk walk, my best friend and I saw a teenage boy sitting on the grass across the street.  I mentioned how similar the boy looked to our friend's son.  We both stared at the back of the boy's head, silently willing him to look in our direction so we could be sure and avoid unnecessary embarrassment from yelling out a random name at a strange boy.  While we were about to round the corner, the boy finally turned towards us.  Our assumptions were correct, and we walked over to chat with the boy.

I had learned recently that he had been home-schooled during the past year due to issues pertaining to him discontinuing participation in his former high school's football program.  Having attended and graduated from the same high school myself, I know how aggressive the administration is about its football players and have experienced how every other program takes a backseat to that school's sports programs.  Anyway, there is a charter school office down the street from my office, hence why the boy was out on the grass in a not-so-random office complex doing his homework.  During our brief chat, he said he was most likely going to go back to his old high school for his senior year.  I asked him why (since it was contrary to what his mother told me over dinner last week).  He said he was told that "they" don't take graduation from a charter school as well as a regular school.

Um, who told you that?  His parents of course.

Well, okay.  But who is the "they" that the parents are referring to?

"I don't know."

No, of course you don't.  And the best part...

I'm sure neither do your parents.

His parents are simply well-meaning.  We live in a culture that puts a lot of value into brands.  We don't ask for a tissue, we ask for a Kleenex.  Harvard sounds a lot better than Greendale Community college.  I'm sure his parents don't really know who respects a "real" high school (and how would anyone know if the school didn't have "charter" in its name?), they just want to protect him and make sure that he has the best possible chance to succeed.  The boy is already gaining real world work experience by taking a part-time job working in his father's office and is looking forward to getting his insurance broker's license.  I'm sure that any potential future employer is going to be much more interest in that and his accomplishments and the RESULTS he pulls over his completely irrelevant high school education.

The value in a name is not all it used to be.  Many employers will be happy to see you meet their requirement for having a high school diploma.  To date, I have never had an employer ask to see any of my diplomas, degrees, or awards listed on my resume.  I have never had an employer contact the organizations I list in my education to verify that I passed all my classes with straight As.  What they have done is called references listed and previous employers listed (assuming they are still in business).

If education was such a big, stinking deal, why wouldn't potential employers call my college; why are classes even graded beyond pass or fail?  Perhaps these are inane questions, but I'd rather ask then continue to blindly follow the advice of others who clearly don't know any better than I.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

So much has happened!  So much to share!

First a note: I haven't been feeling like myself for the last week and it's been more intense over the weekend and now.  So if this takes on a sour note, I'm sorry.  Some days a bad day just keeps going on and on.

Last week I took a digital sabbatical.  This meant no blog posts (anywhere, I have three distinct blogs that are relatively topic-specific, this one being the more mundane out of the lot and where I post with the most regularity) all week, even though I really thought I wanted to write.  I cut back on my social networking and tried to keep interactions to a minimum or avoid them completely.  Mostly, I just wanted to see if I could do it.  I know I can live without it (I did for at least two decades before social networking started to rise), but I didn't know if I could keep away.  I'm mostly satisfied with how things went.  No, I wasn't productive.  Okay, that's not true, but whatever!

My biggest piece of news isn't really mine.  My best friend, Cynthia, is pregnant!  We learned a week ago Saturday.  Her husband sent me a picture of the positive stick.  I was so confused, I wasn't even sure what I was looking at or what it was telling me for longer than I'm comfortable admitting!  After so many negatives, I was just floored.  I'm so happy and excited for both of them, and I've been pleasantly drowning in babytalk with my bestie.  (By the way, she's number two.  I have another close friend who is also pregnant and a week or two further along than Cyn.  Who will be number three, since that's the way of these things?)

My next biggest news still isn't really mine:  Jeff got a job!  He's actually going to be working at the same company as me, but in sales.  We're really excited about this.  I think it will be a good environment for him to get more business experience and make connections with others.  His manager is one of my favorites, and they have really similar personalities so I think he's in a very good place.  This time next week, he'll be training for his new post!

My other big news is in fact for me!  It looks like I'll beginning my yoga teacher training sooner than expected!  I went to my last intro class a week ago Thursday and learned that they were going to be offering the training in a modular form in order to make it more accessible.  I'm still waiting on the details, but they are supposed to begin in the fall (which is like a month from now!).  Hopefully this means I won't have to dedicate all my 2012 vacation time to three-day weekends in San Francisco once a month (although, that's not really a bad thing).

This is all really fantastic news!  So why am I feeling sour?  Well, there's a lot happening behind the scenes, too.  With all of this means a sudden change to long term plans.  We have to postpone our Europe trip and once Jeff starts working, we'll need to focus on catching up on bills and potentially making a major house repair instead of more fun stuff.  My birthday trip is still on, tentatively, but I'm still really bummed out my close friends and family can't join me like we originally planned.  Also some of my closest friends are preparing to make the jump across the pond (that's leaving the country), some as soon as two months, others more like six months, but all relatively soon in the spectrum of things.

Change is good, but I feel like I'm being left out of the loop, forgotten.  It's a weird, annoying, and saddening feeling.  Everyone is fervently involved in their own major life events, too.  I hope my friends let me continue to be apart of lives and share in the excitement those events bring.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Taking a week break

I'm taking a partial digital sabbatical this week.  Limited Facebook and Google+ access and no blog posts until next Monday.

I have some personal projects I need to work on and I just need some time away from the social blur that is the Internet for the moment.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Back to Writing

I've been thinking about writing a lot.  It's actually getting ridiculous.  I'm always thinking of the next topic(s) and how to branch out.  Not for any reason than to satisfy my desire to write.  I had wanted to be a writer when I was growing up, mostly short stories and quirky opinion pieces.  While I felt novels were too involved, I felt a world was better created through short stories highlighting the people who lived in it.

This love for writing and creating worlds and characters was further fueled by my involvement in role-playing games, in particular LARP (live action role-playing).  Not only did I create characters, but I could test drive them.  Their lives and characteristics would unfold during game play and take on a life of their own.

Many years ago, I stopped writing.  I found myself no longer surrounded by people who wrote as a hobby but by people who sought professional careers through their writing.  In some cases, I felt threatened and so I didn't discuss my passion.  Obviously, I had convinced myself, I wasn't really passionate if I wasn't planning on taking it to the same professional level.  I didn't want them to judge me with their harsh lenses. A criticism of my work was obviously an extension of their criticism on my character.  Yes, it's quite a leap of logic, but considering the circumstances and, looking back, I may not have been far off the mark.

Eventually, I just stopped writing.  I felt too threatened and I was distracted by other new and exciting ventures that kept me occupied.  Sometimes I wrote in a journal, but it was tedious and I didn't enjoy it at all. I forced myself to do it on occasion, but more often than not I "forgot" or made excuses.

I'm not sure what clicked in the last year or so, but I'm enjoying it again.  Mostly it's journal-style writing, but I hope it is thoughtful and useful to others that read it.  I still haven't gotten back into fiction writing, but perhaps has I practice writing I will begin to feel more comfortable and confident so I can begin to venture back out in that direction.

Writing is definitely apart of me again.  When talking to friends and they ask me what I'm doing with my evening, I often rattle off "writing".  It's funny how things come around.  This time I'm just enjoying the exercise and try not to get lost in worrying about what other think about it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ahhh August

Happy First Day of August everyone!  In the UK there are several celebrations being had marking this as the first of the harvest festivals.  Summer play is replaced with hard work, processing, and preserving.  Oh how well this mirrors in my own life.

I felt fortunate that last week seemed to go by very quickly.  I wasn't as active as I would have liked, but I did have my ass handed to me in Zumba.  At $5 a class, I think I can make this a staple activity until...well...until La Bella Dance company stops offering it at such a convenient time!

The rest of my week was mostly leisurely and enjoyable.  In yoga class, I introduced my students to a modified version of Sun Salutations.  The sequence further lifted my day and my mood.  I think I floated through the rest of my day, which ended on a cooler note in a pool visiting with some old friends, including some from out of town who I don't see nearly often enough.  If I do get a new car, I hope I make more of an effort to travel once a month to visit my scattered friends. Although, that might have to coincide with my yoga teacher training once I can start...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Food-wise, I think I did pretty well to stay on task and within my limits.  I splurged a bit on Friday night on sushi, but I kept lunch light, so I don't feel bad about it.  No fun splurging anyway if you're going to beat yourself into an emotional blackhole.  Through Cyn and Laura, I was turned onto MyFitnessPal as an alternative to SparkPeople.  I've been using the latter since January 2006, and I've enjoyed the format and the community, especially since the service was free.  However, the layout wasn't intuitive, the color schemes were obnoxious, and there seemed to always be time-out problems and slow post-backs.  MyFitnessPal is a bit cleaner and faster, but honestly, I love it most for its mobile app that is much faster than the website and more intuitive.  The daily diary (for food and exercise tracking) will estimate how your day's activities will impact your weight loss goals.  It's all very cool.  I'm a convert.

So pretty lazy week.  I hoped that I could get on track and get more serious about the fitness aspect of things, but we had a bit of a doozy at the office today.  Remember all that first harvest, hard work stuff I was rambling about earlier.  Looks like I'm going to have to "phone it in" as well (where the hell does that expression come from anyway?).  I've already had to rearrange a couple of social plans for the week to accommodate for necessary overtime and it is possible that my whole month will follow suit.  I don't mind the overtime.  I could certainly use the extra savings (I have my paycheck direct deposit arranged so all overtime goes straight to savings and retirement so I'm never tempted to use it for evil).  I need more time in the office anyway for some projects.  I'm just disappointed that some other projects will inevitably be pushed further back, and I hate making my clients feel second-class.  That's business, though.  I plan on hitting the office early to go over all my various projects and make sure all my notes are up-to-date so everything is accountable if I need to pick up something tabled.

The thing I am concerned about the most is how it will effect the yoga classes I am teaching on the side.  I had hoped to introduce a second Saturday class and a weeknight class.  These may have to be put on hold until September, but I should know more by next week.  The extra work should intensify my own personal practice, anyway, since I'll have a greater craving for the peace it always brings.  Note to self: if there are plans to travel, pack mat this time.

Whatever happens, I will take things as they come (just as long as they don't mess with my Disneyland plans!).  I'm not too stressed and the sky isn't falling.  I don't feel resigned either.  It's an opportunity to be intensely productive over a short period of time.  Looking back on my desire to be productive and creative the last few weeks, I definitely see those past actions as simple foreshadowing for the present.  And with Mercury stationing retrograde tomorrow, I'm sure the whole thing will be...an experience.

How do you handle disruptions to your life?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Purge 1: Craft Room/Office

Last Sunday I (with Jeff's help) began the process of tackling the craft room.  I needed to place to focus, but my room had become a haven of odds and ends, cast onto whatever surface would hold them as a result of "picking up" elsewhere in the house.  Good for company, not good for living.

So I made a game plan in my head.  Yarn would go in the plastic dressers Cyndall had given me.  Soap- and candle-making supplies would be condensed into one clear, shoe box-sized container each.  Papers would be tossed or filed accordingly.  Books would be put back on the shelf.  The wire organizer would be dismantled and reassembled on the other side of the room.  My laptop would go back on my make-shift desk (a folding craft table) and my electronic gizmos would finally get a permanent home in a wire cubby.

Surprisingly, the cats didn't even offer their assistance.
I am proud to say that with Jeff's help, all that was accomplished and more!

I had a bin of miscellaneous crafting and decorative bits that haven't been used in nearly ten years.  Some things, in particular, plastic floral pieces purchased on sale at Michael's or Joann Crafts, had been accumulated and just stuffed into this bin.  Ninety percent of it was tossed (two large garbage bags full).  I wish I freecycled it but I wasn't thinking.  I was just desperate to reclaim my space.  A lot of the flowers and foliage I wanted to save, but I fought against it.  While pretty, fake flowers and plants harbor a lot of dust.  Not good with a house full of allergy-prone people.  And besides they don't really add any value to my life.  If I want flowers, I will grow cutting flowers or pick up discounted bouquets at the grocer's.  If I want plants, I'll pot real ones and hope Amber-cat doesn't eat them all.

I did find several grommet kits I plan to give to one of my friends active in Renaissance faires (they are essential for corsets and doublets).  I also have some pretty, decorative candles I have absolutely no use for that I plan on giving away to friends.  As far all the yarn?  I'm going to begin working on smaller crafts, particularly baby and toddler items to start thinning out the tangled herd.

It's much more peaceful in my office now.  I moved my laptop there and have been spending a lot more time in my office, getting lots more accomplished.  There is still a bit to be done, much left to liberate myself of, and I'm thinking of splurging on some pretty paint color before I move much more against the walls.

This weekend's activities will likely be more mellow.  I have a couple bins still full of fabric and remnants I need to sort through, including tons of old T-shirts I love that I want to repurpose.  Such a project will be much more difficult because it will require focus and patience rather than stuffing everything into garbage bags for recycling.  Hopefully I'll have more pictures to share (I know! I'm really terrible about that!).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spending When I Should Be Saving

In May I wrote about my ambitious plan to save money and have nearly $200k in debt paid off.  I had plans to make me more accountable, keep a tight reign on what I could spend money on.  I have been aggressive with my money before so it's not unrealistic for me.  

Well, things haven't been going so well with that.  

First, I was invited to take part in a trip through Europe.  A friend's son is turning 18 in December and wants to celebrate it in Amsterdam, to be followed with visiting the UK, in particular England and Wales (and there's been some threat of an Irish pub crawl before catching a flight back stateside).  I was elated to be invited.  I had been invited to take a group trip to the UK a couple times before but was forced to turn down the offer due to financial constraints expected and unexpected.  Now, the only thing that holds me back is me and the worst case scenario is that I'm behind six months on my original debt pay off plan and I gain some amazing memories.  I've been researching as much as I can when I can about activities, food, exchanges, and so forth, including harrassing local friends that are more familiar with the territory.  I plan on doing a lot of grocery shopping instead of dining out and looking for good deals and free entertainment options for the course of the trip.

Second, I am trying to get my 200 hour yoga teaching certification.  I've been wanting to become a yoga instructor since I started taking classes in 2005, and instead of making an endless list of excuses I am releasing fear and getting started. About a month or two ago I got the wild idea instead of just attending yoga classes, I would start hosting them for my friends.  I've been hunting for an appropriate training program, but for the moment it looks like I'll have to go to San Francisco.  So far it's looking like most courses are right around $3,000.  Also, at this point most programs (that I'm looking at, at least) aren't beginning until the winter.  While I am bummed I can't start sooner, it actually works out perfectly with my planned Europe trip, so yay!

Finally, I'm going to Disneyland for my birthday, dammit!  I turn the (big?) 3-0 in September.  I'm going to spend it in a place I love.  We already have the season passes (which was honestly likely a bad financial decision on my part, but it's done).  I am going to reserve the rooms shortly, make dinner reservations, and plan on making beef jerky, vegetable chips, and packing some dried fruit we have on hand to keep our food costs down (there's a 24-hour Subway next to our favorite motel, so cheap and fresh late night/breakfast options are there).

So that is my 2011 adventure itinerary.  Keeping my fingers crossed it all goes (relatively) as planned.