Monday, January 23, 2012

Wasted on Twitter

I just Tweeted what could have been a great post.

And since I have no post creativity left in me, here it is...

Rapunzel was the original Animaniac. She drove her parents nuts so the only option was locking her in a tower.

Okay, I admit it, my kids are driving me nuts. And they just got home from school...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thanking my way out of the grumpies

Today I am grumpy.

As part of our simplify thing, and the whole saving money thing, we're switching from the cable bundle of phone, internet and cable to Dish, DSL, and VOIP- non bundle. I suppose, long-term, it will save us some money. But right now, all the start up costs and time involved have been such a pain that I'm wishing we'd just let the cable companies take our money. You know, like that commercial where the family keeps handing over money. Personally, I'd be fine with getting rid of cable and TV altogether, but I've lost that fight too many times. Yes, I like my shows, but I could live without them.

Anyway, today we're dealing with the fiasco known as getting DSL installed. Getting the Dish installed was a 6 hour nightmare that involved having multiple people running through my house and being the lucky people for whom it wasn't a simple set up. VOIP did not involve multiple people, but it has involved a lot of money up front, (but so has Dish and DSL), but it's just been a pain connecting everything.

On top of that, our furnace has been acting up for over a month now. It'll work for a few days, then decide to quit. Hubby will tinker with it, then it will work, then it will randomly stop. Today it is not working. So I'm in my office with a blanket and space heater and very grumpy about my cold house. I keep asking to get someone in to look at it, but he is confident he can fix it, which leaves me... um, cold.

But wait... I'm not done with my reasons for being grumpy. Hubby, in his infinite man-mind, has decided to move all of our computer, modem, phone, whatever, stuff, into our furnace room. So we have a communication hub. Which means that he has taken everything out of that storage room and scattered it all over the basement. I cannot walk the ten feet between the stairs and my office door without putting my life in danger from the man junk scattered throughout. And kid junk, because hubby shifted their play area, and now they can't get to the area where they need to put away their stuff. So it's all piling up.

Much of the blame I lay at hubby's feet because he's the one who turned this all into a giant nightmare project. Which is probably not fair, but hey, who said being married is about being fair?

Hopefully, I haven't lost you yet... because I actually do have a positive point besides unloading all of my frustrations.

Yesterday, I was out shopping with my grandma, and I saw a plaque that said something to the effect of, "Thank you Lord for the dirty dishes because it means we have food to eat."

And it occurred to me, as I was preparing what I thought was the mother of all telling my hubby exactly what I thought of the fact that my world has been upside down for the month (longer, if you count the furnace), that all of these problems are like the dirty dishes plaque.

How many people can't afford cable or dish? How many people in the world even have TV? Thank you, Lord, for our ability to have TV and all the extras (even ones I don't think I want).

How many people can't afford DSL? Or the super high speed hubby is getting so that my job will be easier. Or wow, my ability to work from home instead of going to an office every day. Thank you, Lord, for DSL, and high speed internet.

What about the phone? Another convenience we take for granted. Something else that we can afford- a land line, and three cell phones. (One is hubby's work phone, provided by work). But again, what a blessing that not everyone has, but sure makes our lives easier. Thank you Lord, for providing us with ease of communication and the means to do so.

Let's talk furnace... so yes, it's been in the 50s in my house. Outside, it's in the 20s. Where would you rather be? Even with a broken furnace, how many people in the world DON'T have heat? How many people can't just pile on the blankets and crank up the space heaters? Thank you, Lord, for giving my the privilege of being warm and comfortable even when I don't appreciate it.

But let's also discuss the person I am cranky at for not doing all of this the way I want it done and inconveniencing me. Yes, I am talking about The Man. I have to acknowledge that he didn't wake up and say, "let me mess up things for my wife today." In fact, he was thinking that he wanted to get on board with my saving money plan and do his part. He thought he could fix the furnace himself and save us from paying for a service call. He thought that once we get through this service transition, that we will be paying less for more. I know, from talking to some of my other married friends, that not all spouses would get on board and go to that effort. Not all spouses can repair broken things in the house. Thank you, Lord, for a husband who is on board with my money saving plan. Thank you for a husband who can fix things around the house. Thank you for a husband who provides enough for the family so that we can have all of these wonderful things. And thank you, Lord, for a husband. I'm probably not thankful enough for him, especially when so many out there don't have spouses, or spouses they can count on as much as I count on mine.

I'm going to try to remember that in the times of being grumpy, that I still have many blessings I can be thankful for. What dirty dishes are you thankful for?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Simplifying the writing

Um, well, okay, there really isn't anything to simplify writing-wise, but since it's my theme for the year, I'd be remiss if I didn't at least talk about my writing goals and figure out some way to fit it in. I haven't talked a lot about my writing lately, mostly because I don't have a lot to talk about. I'm plugging along, and that's that. My agent has a couple of books he's shopping, so we'll see.

I had the goal of submitting the book I'm working on by the end of last year. Well, I got sick and with the holidays and some year-end stuff, it didn't happen. I did finish it, and now I'm working on polishing and getting it in top shape.

My mistake last year was not setting writing goals. I was so overwhelmed with life that I honestly didn't think about it. I just wrote when I could, and more often than not, ended up putting it aside because I couldn't deal. Yes, I know, not something you want to say publicly, except for this...

My simplify my life plan gives me the room to write.

I've spent the past few years putting the "urgent" first, and letting the mess suck out my writing time. But writing is what I love. So according to all of the success books out there, shouldn't writing be first? Which is my commitment this year. I am writing. I am writing every day. And I will be submitting.

My first writing goal is to submit the book I'm working on by the end of the month. Then, I have a couple of other books I'd like to finish and submit, but part of it will depend on what happens with what my agent has out. So I've loosely committed to those, but am willing to change. Last year, I finished three books (one only semi-counts, because I had mostly finished it the year before). This year, I'd like to do four. I think one per quarter is do-able.

Have you set your writing goals?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Simplifying the health plan

When I talk about simplifying, that includes my health and exercise. A few years ago, I decided to get serious about the doctor's lectures on losing weight. I followed recommended diets from healthcare providers, I've tried exercising. And guess what? None of it worked. I weigh more now than ever. During all this time, I've had friends tell me that I looked fine and didn't need to lose weight. So who do you believe?

Earlier this fall, I had an epiphany about my weight. I was on a nasty diet (that didn't work) and eating things that made me miserable. I laid it on the line with God, and told him that if this was how I had to live the rest of my life, then I didn't want to. To which God responded by asking me if I could love my body, no matter what size it is.

I decided to take that challenge.

The other day, I got out of the shower and was doing my usual post-shower stuff, and I caught a glimpse of myself naked in the mirror. But instead of just passing by, I stopped. And really looked at myself, naked. And you know what? I'm not model gorgeous with a perfectly toned tummy. But I look pretty damn good. I've got curves and lumps and bumps and stretch marks and scars, but my husband thinks I'm still hot.

I can remember looking up at the mountains and being in absolute awe of how God shaped the rocks, dotting them with little things to make them unique and beautiful. He did the same thing with our bodies. He put birthmarks and little spots and perfect details that make me uniquely me. And I believe He declared it just as beautiful as we declare the mountains.

It is this lesson that I take with me in simplifying my health. Putting food in my body is going to have me asking the same questions I ask of spending my money. What need is this fulfilling?

Which leads to the tougher question of exercise. I hate it. I can't stay motivated to do it. But I know I need to be more active. So instead of saying that I'm going to exercise more, I'm setting a goal to do something I've always wanted to do. I've always wanted to climb a mountain. My BFF and I have talked about doing it for years. This year, we're going to do it. At our next tea date, we're setting the date, and I'll be spending the months leading up to it getting in shape. That to me has more power, motivation, and importance than just going to the gym to get exercise.

Right now, this all sounds a lot easier said than done. To be honest, that's part of why I'm blogging about it. Because I hope that when I make disparaging comments about my appearance, one of my friends will smack me upside the head and remind me of what God showed me about my true beauty. I hope people will ask me about climbing the mountain and remind me that it's not going to happen sitting on my butt every day.

My goal isn't about being the perfect image of what the world thinks is attractive. I'm attractive to my husband, I'm attractive to my God, and moving forward, I simply want to take care of what I have, improve upon what I can, and in the end, accept myself for what I am.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reading goals

I know... lots of goals to start off my year. But I think reading is a priority that I've let slip in my life. I love to read, but I'm embarrassed to say that I read less than I've ever read. I turn down reviews because I know I won't have time for them, and I hate that. I love reading new books. I don't even read the books I love to read because it seems like there's too many other things to do.

So this year, I'm making reading a priority again. Rather than just saying it, I'm making reading a measurable goal.

Here are my reading goals for the year:

1. Read one current book from each Love Inspired line each month.
I know, this sounds silly, since I work with them, but I am really bad about pacing myself. When my shipment comes, I tend to gorge on the LIHs, then I get busy and forget to read the others. Or, I'll decide to clean, then move them where I can't find them. THEN, I'll feel guilty for not reading the others, and I have a horrible backlog, so I do a catch-up gorge, and then don't read the LIHs. All this to say, that I end up reading backlist books, and not the current ones. Ugh.

2. Read one nonfiction book each month. I love nonfiction, but I read those chapter by chapter. So, I'll read a few chapters of a book, then put it down, forget where I put it, and never finish the book. ICK.

3. Read one new to me author each month. I'm really terrible about not reading new authors... well, that is, I read the new LI authors, but none anywhere else. I think I need to expand my horizons a little.

Do you have reading goals?

Monday, January 09, 2012

Simplifying my money

Now this is a hard one, and I'm going to be honest here... I'm still not done thinking this through or doing the work.

At the end of every year, I'm usually depressed because it seems like we've worked so hard, and have so little show for it financially. Over the past few months, I've read a lot of books and articles about money and finances, and the one thing that keeps bothering me is that our income is on the high end in comparison to what they're talking about. Don't get me wrong. We're not rich (by America's standards). But I look at our current lifestyle, and I realized that even though we make twice as much as we did when we first got married, we're pretty much living the same way. I remember thinking, "wow, if we could only make X amount of dollars, we'd be able to do all these things." I realized, as I was reading one of those finance things, that we DO make X amount of dollars. But we're no closer to those dreams than we were then.

Which led me back to thinking about simplifying. I know so many people who make more money than we do who also live similarly to us. Where does their money go? I've been observing, trying to figure it out, and I see all the piddly stuff they spend on. Which led me to thinking about all the piddly stuff I spend on.

And of course, as I look back at my stuff simplify plan, I realize that I really don't need to spend a lot of the money I spend money on.

I also realized that I don't have a plan for both my spending and my goals. This year, I set a goal of paying off some of our debt, saving a certain amount of money, and paying for our family to go on vacation. I told hubby about my goals, and he looked at me funny. I know what he was thinking. Each year, we say that we're going to reduce debt, save money, and maybe go on vacation, but we never quantify it. And, frankly, we never do anything about it. So he looked at me and asked if I had a plan.

Well, I do have a plan. Sort of. Here's what it looks like so far.

Just to make the math easier, let's pretend that I want to have an extra $2400 in savings by the end of the year, reduce our debt by $2400,  and our vacation will cost $1200. Well, that gives me a starting off point for how I'm going to get there.

I'll need $200 each month to put in savings, $200 each month to go toward debt, and $100 each month to go toward our vacation. Wow, that's $500! I don't know about you, but I know I don't have an extra $500!

Okay, so how do I find that money? For starters, we are ditching Comcast and going with other providers for cable, internet, and phone. Based on what hubby has found, we'll be paying about $75 less than what we were paying.

So, $425 to go. We eat out about twice a week. I know, terrible! But we're so busy with activities that it's hard to plan meals. If I put something in the crockpot for grab and go for one of those nights, that saves us about $30 a week. So, another $120 savings.

Now I'm down to $305 needed. We have gym memberships that we really don't use as much as we should. Hubby never goes, and I don't go enough to make it worth the money. Cancel that, and we have another $50 in savings. I switched web hosts, saving me $15 a month. We're down to needing an extra $230 a month.

Which leads me to the question I've been asking about everything I buy lately... Do I really NEED this?

Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I honestly think that if I apply that question to everything I buy (including stuff at the grocery store), I think I can come close to saving that $230. In fact, if I compare that item, even if it's only a cup of Starbucks (which I very rarely do), to do I want that item or do I want to go on vacation, I think I'll be putting away a lot more things. If I don't buy my daughter the cute dress I saw on sale because I think she'll love it, not only will it be one less thing cluttering up her room, but it'll be that much more money going toward my vacation.

And, with the time I'm saving by not overextending myself, I can sit down more often to do things like work on our budget, track our spending, and *gasp* pay better attention to when bills are due. Because that's another place where I can save money. I spend about $50 a month on late fees. Not because I don't have the money or things are tight, but because I forget to pay the bill on time. I can't tell you how many times I've paid a late fee for being one day late.

This year, instead of just reading finance books and thinking it's a good idea, I'm actually going to put some of those principles into practice.

That's the start of my plan. Have you thought about what you'd like to do to improve your finances this year?

Friday, January 06, 2012

Simplifying my time

As the Queen of Overcommitment, I've finally hit a place in my life where I can accept that I do too much. I'm one of those people that when others look at my life, they say, "wow, I don't know how you do it."

Now you know why I've battled adrenal fatigue and the corresponding health issues.

For a long time, I've justified my time spent on so many activities in a variety of ways. But an email from someone supervising one of my volunteer positions really convicted me of all the time I spend doing stuff. She was basically praising me for my job, and encouraging me because I'm so visible and people really see and respect it, etc. All good things. But for some reason, I took a step back and thought, wait a second. Is this really what I want? Don't get me wrong, it was doing a good thing, and it was something I enjoy. There's nothing wrong with doing that job. Except there are a lot of other things that are important to me. A lot of other things I put off because I don't have the time.

And then I thought about all the things I'm doing to simplify elsewhere, and I realized that one of the greatest areas I need to simplify is my time. Part of it is because of some challenges we're having with my little one (and I really do intend to blog and share... eventually). Because we're doing some intensive work with her, I was told that I need to do more to make time for me. A suggestion I initially laughed at, but you know what? In all of this, I finally realized that I AM VALUABLE ENOUGH TO ALLOW MY TIME TO BE SPENT ON ME. Yes, I am shouting!! Because I think a lot of people I know (and read my blog) need to tell themselves the same thing.

We spend time on a lot of things we say are valuable. But we need to also recognize that we, our individual selves, are JUST AS VALUABLE.

I have decided, for 2012, that I will absolutely not have any commitments to long term volunteer obligations. I have resigned from every single volunteer position I have. Except one, but my term ends in February, so that's not a big deal. Instead, I am spending the time evaluating my time. Can I help out at the school bake sale? Certainly, but that decision will only come after I've had time to evaluate it in relation to the time I have available and whether or not it fits in with my greater priorities.

I've heard it said in church that the need isn't necessarily the call. Unfortunately, I've often fallen victim to the plea of  "but you're the only person who can do it." Or, "Please! We need you." That gets me every time. But my family needs me, my husband needs me, my God needs me, and, because I am important too, I need me. I've let the incessant whine of all these other things that need to get done interfere with getting done the things that matter to me. I'm not saying that those things aren't important. But they are getting in the way of the bigger picture.

Maybe this sounds crazy, or maybe this sounds like your life. But I'm so bogged down in all the other junk of life, that I've really lost sight of the things that matter to me. I do a lot of things without really knowing why I do them. So until I figure out what matters (beyond God, family, and me), I'm simply not doing it. As hard as it is for me to do, I'm going to say no unless I have a good reason to say yes.

What are you doing to create room in your time for you?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Simplifying my stuff

Yesterday I talked about how our family has so much stuff. I'd prove it by taking a picture of my garage, but frankly, I'm too embarrassed.

I think it occurred to me that we have too much stuff when I helped my daughter clean her room and she couldn't get everything in her drawers. Her room was a disaster because I caught up on laundry and she had no place to put anything. My friend only lets her kids have 14 outfits each. At first, I thought it was horrible, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me. That leaves the kids plenty of variety, and it's not overwhelming. I haven't convinced my kids to get on board with this yet, but we're working towards it.

I asked the kids to go through their rooms and put everything they didn't want anymore in a box for charity. And okay, I bribed them. For every 30 items, they get $5. So far, we're up to somewhere around 200 items. I think I should have gone with my gut and said every 50 items. Yikes! I'm going to be broke.

As I sorted through their discards, I counted somewhere around 20 toy horses. And that's just what they got rid of! Trust me, they have plenty more. (Before you think I spent tons of money on them, let me be clear and say I buy 95% of their things secondhand!) Still, though, that's money I spent. Each time, I was excited to find something my kids would love.

I'm learning, especially as I see just how MANY things my kids have, that it's really not a question of what they'll love... there's a lot of things they want, and almost nothing they NEED. My 7yo wants almost every toy in the toy department. She'd love most of them. But what am I giving them by giving them that toy? Especially when she's already overwhelmed by the mess of things she already has.

So now, before I take out my wallet to get my kids something new, I ask myself, what need does this item meet? I'm amazed at how easy it is to put the item back and move on.

Yesterday, I got rid of five pairs of shoes. One pair is really cute, but pinches my feet, and I hate wearing them. So why keep them? I'm giving them away, and someone better suited for those shoes can enjoy them. The others? Old tennis shoes I've kept around for when I need yucky shoes instead of my day to day shoes. One pair is a good idea, but FOUR?? I threw the others in the trash. Now all of my shoes fit in my closet.

I got rid of the pants I hope to wear again someday. If I'm ever that thin again, I think I deserve to celebrate by buying new ones! Ditto for the tight shirts, and every other outfit that no longer fits.

We still have a lot of junk we don't need. But as we continue this year and into the future, I am trying to look at everything I have with an eye as to what need that item meets. It's okay to have some things because you love them. But when I look at the things in my house, I don't want it (or my life) to be cluttered with things that don't add value to my family.

Do you have a plan for getting rid of the junk in your life?

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Simplifying in the new year

Well, I'd hoped to kick off the new year with a new blog, but I spent almost the entire month of December with one virus or another, so it's not quite ready yet. I'm hoping, though, that it will be soon, and worth the wait!

In the meantime, I'm here!

And, over the holidays, really, before the holiday, I've been thinking a lot about my focus for the coming year. For me, it's all about simplifying. My pre-holiday rant along with some of the things I've been reading over the past few months has me very convicted over how complicated and full my life is. My daughter can't keep her room clean because she has so many clothes that they don't all fit in her drawers. Which led me to asking myself, does she NEED that many clothes? A friend of mine mentioned that her children are only allowed 14 outfits each. Wow... When she first said that, I thought that there was no way I could get my kids to do that. And now, as I fight to get my kid to clean her room, I think maybe it wasn't so crazy after all. Which is why I'm working really hard to have all of us reduce the amount of STUFF we have in our home.

Then, there is my schedule and my commitments. Since I was in high school, probably even earlier, I have been the Queen of Overcommitment. And with everything going on in my life that I have no control over, I realized that it's time to say, "Enough." So I've been evaluating those... and cutting.

And what about our money? Again, I can't help but think of how all this extra stuff we have... we spent money on. I keep thinking about all of our financial goals and how they seem so far off, but what if I just didn't spend money on junk we don't need? Could the important things be more of a reality if I simplified?

So that's my plan for the year. Over the next few days, I'll talk more in detail about them, but that's the gist of where I'm heading this year, and into the future.