Monday, January 28, 2013
Then, Saturday, I wanted a specific writing book that I know I have. But I couldn't find it right away on my writing bookshelf. I eventually found it, and it was exactly where it was supposed to be, but for some reason, that meant I had to clean my office. So now, I am in absolute bliss because not only is my office clean, but I got to do a few decorating/decluttering things I'd been wanting to do for a while now. I have a really small office space, and a lot of stuff, so this was a great exercise in making what I have work.
This is the view looking in through the door.
My office is in the basement. I hate being in the basement, but hey, you appreciate having an office to begin with, right? On the green wall, you see a white thing. That is actually the window, except that it's really old and it leaks freezing cold air, so I had hubby close it up with Styrofoam he had from another project. When we can afford new windows, it'll be a real window! The lamp thing you see, that is a special bulb that gives me the effect of being in the sun. So I don't have a beautiful well-lit office. But we made it work as best as we could with we already had.
Yes, those are my bookshelves. Some of them, anyway. The sticky notes on them are to let me know which is which for my catalog project. Someday I'll have them all in the catalog. My bookcases are pieced together from things we found on sale, at garage sales, and were handed down from others.
On the floor are three file boxes- two are stacked on top of each other. My laptop sits on that stack and I use the other one as a footrest. The fileboxes are all the mementos I'm saving from the kiddos, but I needed a table and footrest, and these are the perfect height. So why not let them do double duty? My couch is covered with a sheet- that's because my dog sits with me and he's gross. I wanted this couch to stay nice.
Here's the view from my closet. I have a tiny table squeezed between the couch and bookcase. I needed something to hold my tissues, tea, etc, and this small table works perfect. It's really ugly, but it was hubby's grandma's so I love it. The table has a drawer where I can keep junk like pencils, and then the shelf underneath is all of my current study materials. The dog is sniffing by my tiny trash can, and I have a bin next to it that has my book cataloging materials.
I have a fun quote I'm thinking of hanging above the couch- or above my desk. I can't decide, so it's not up.
The reason you see my ugly stepstool is because that's where it goes. When my door is opened, the stepstool is behind the door. It's a pretty small space, so I maximize my storage.
The big brown blob on the right is a shawl I knitted. I like to call it "The Behemoth." It's blanket sized, and it was a really good lesson in why you should check gauge before knitting. I usually have it wrapped around me as I work. But, as you can see from the other blankets in the picture, I also use those sometimes. I get cold easily, so I am generally wrapped in a blanket or two or more.
My closet is under the stairs, so there's not a lot of room, but I did manage to cram in 3 bookcases, and a couple of stackable storage drawers. Most of my shelves (including the ones in the other picture) are stacked with books two or three deep. Yes, I love my books. No, I am not getting rid of them. Being surrounded by books makes me happy.
I should admit that I have not read all of them. However, I intend to. I figure, once my kids are grown, hubby is retired, I'll have nothing to do but read. And that suits me just fine.
We will also not discuss my plans for when we run out of room. Personally, I don't think my kids need their own rooms when my books need space, but that's just my opinion.
This is the spot that started it all- my writing bookshelf. One of my goals this year is to make better use of what I have, and I'm hoping to really get some good use out of these books!
On the other side of my writing bookshelf is my desk. There's just enough room on that wall for the desk and bookshelf. I have a desktop, but I'll be really honest, I hardly ever use it. My office chair is a really fancy, really expensive chair, and, I hate it. It's not the chair's fault. I'm short so it's too big, and I haven't found one that works any better. If I sit at my desk for too long, my arm goes numb. So I don't spend much time there and prefer working on my couch. I do have a ball I sit on sometimes, but my chiropractor says I should only do it for short periods at a time.
My desk is a v-shape, and the other end comes just to my door. Like I said, small space. But it works. The far top of my desk (cut off in the picture) has a bunch of nice mementos and gifts from my writing friends around the world.
I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but I have a set of file folders in a holder on my desk- THAT's all my tax stuff. I still have to work on those, and match them to my spreadsheet, but I'm hoping to do that soon, so I can get my taxes out of the way this year. I need to be a good example if I'm going to talk to others about taxes, right?
Ugh, I just realized that my lighter thing is right there with my pretty candles, looking not so pretty. Oh well. Even when I clean things up and make them nice, it's never going to be perfect. Martha Stewart, I am not, and that's okay. My bookshelves don't match, well, actually, none of my furniture matches, and as you can see, The Dog likes to sneak in a lot of my pictures. But that's okay. You don't have to make anything perfect to make a difference.
Do you have things in your house that you can re-purpose to help you work better?
Monday, January 21, 2013
For my writing friends out there who would like to learn more about how their writing impacts their taxes, I'm going to be spending some time next month teaching folks a few of my handy dandy tricks.
You can find me at these venues:
I will be teaching an online class Feb 4-March 1 for Colorado Romance Writers. You can find out more information here:
Second, if you're in Colorado, I'm teaching my Taxes for Writers course three times next month, so if you'd like to catch me in person, please do!
1. Colorado Romance Writers, Feb 9th, from 2pm-4pm at Anythink Library Wright Farms Branch
2. HIS Writers, February 11th, from 7 – 9 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 9370 Sheridan Blvd
3. Words for the Journey, Feb 19th, from 9:15-11:30 a.m. at Southeast Christian Church
In the meantime, if you have any tax questions, feel free to ask!
Friday, January 18, 2013
One of my priorities lately has been to do a better job of using what I have instead of buying new. We have so much stuff! So I'm starting to take inventory of what I have and seeing how I can use it up, making room for new, or, having a fresh place for everything to go.
Tea is one of my biggest weaknesses- and biggest delights. It's also the go-to gift idea when someone who knows me wants to buy me something. Unfortunately, it also means that I have way too much tea! And I realized that I don't drink most of it! I have my few daily standbys and only rarely do I drink something else. One of my favorite teas is Ginger Peach by Republic of Tea. I drink it almost every day. When I ran out about a week ago, I thought, "oh no, I have to go buy more." Which is funny because I have about a million varieties of tea in my house.
Instead, I made a pledge to myself. No more new tea until I drink what I already have. The only exception to this is my bedtime teas, and that's because there are few nighttime teas that don't have chamomile, which I am allergic to. I've only found two teas that really work for me at night, so when I'm out of them, I can buy more. Everything else- NO NEW TEA!
I've dug into boxes of tea people sent me as gifts. Some were amazing! A few were duds. I rediscovered new favorites, and mourned when I drank the last cup. I've found a few teas that I wanted to save because they were so good, I didn't want to say goodbye. Now, they are stale, and I wish I had drank it when it was fresh. Slowly, I am working through my tea collection, drinking it up.
[caption id="attachment_4274" align="alignright" width="300"] My Tea station, where I keep my hot water boiler, teas I drink most often, sweeteners, and hot drinks for the kids.[/caption]
The only thing I don't know what to do about is the teas I don't like. I realized that I have a number of varieties sitting in my cupboard that I purchased, had a few cups, and really don't care for. Do I give them to friends, hoping they like them better? Do I throw them away? To me, that seems like a waste, because I've spent a lot of money on these teas. What would you do?
I'm finding a lot of joy in enjoying the teas that I have, saving money by not buying more tea, and feeling a sense of freedom as I clean out my cupboards.
Maybe you don't have a vast collection of tea. But is there something in your house, in your life, that you could be using up instead of hoarding?
I hope you'll consider using it up and enjoying it. Savor your tea (or whatever it is) before it gets stale.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Here is what I'd be missing out on:
Back when the Princess was back in preschool, she made one of those ghastly macaroni pictures that seems to be standard preschool curriculum. She brought it home and insisted on displaying it. On my sliding glass door. But how does a mom say no to that? I said yes. One time, I tried taking it down to wash the sliding glass door (ours is always gross- dogs, kids, and I don't have to clean it daily), and she was really hurt that I took down her picture. I promised to put it back on, and so I did.
A couple years later, in Kindergarten, the butterfly in the picture appeared. It is faux stained glass, aka tissue paper, and therefore, according to my sweet girl, must be on a window. Who can argue with that logic?
About a year ago, the macaroni project bit the dust. It kept falling off and getting damaged, so I convinced her to put it in her special picture file. Every time I tried to clean the door or thought about doing something with the butterfly, I just couldn't bear to part with it. The butterfly had become just as an important part of my decor as any fancy thing I could have found in a magazine.
Then yesterday after school, I saw her on the couch, clipboard on her lap, her hands busy with crayons. I asked what she was making, and she said it was a quilt. She worked for two hours, deep in an artistic trance. Later that evening, she called me to the sliding glass door, excited, but with trepidation in her eyes. "Look what I did." I could tell she was half afraid I wouldn't like it, worried that I might ask her to take it down, but I thought about her macaroni picture, and about the other pieces of art I'll occasionally find taped around my house.
My kids are artists. No, the art won't win any prizes or be featured in a gallery, but it's their art. And the grin she gave me when I said, "I love it," is priceless.
As long as I have kids (and hopefully someday, grandkids), I will never have a perfect house. I will do things to try to make it nicer, cleaner, and replicate some of the things I see in magazines and Pinterest. In the end, though, I accept the fact that my home has funny things like random pictures hung in places you don't usually think to hang pictures. But that's okay, because to me, it's beautiful
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Last year, I planned on making her a really cute tea cozy, which I almost finished, except that it required an i-cord, which I found out was short for idiot cord, because any idiot could make one. Since I did not want to be the only idiot who could not make one, I did not attempt this feat. I bought her something else instead. I can't even remember what I got her.
But this year, she's wanting us to exchange more personal gifts, and I really can't think of anything to give her other than something I knitted. Then I remembered a really cute bag I learned to knit at a class taught by Karen Gress at A Knitted Peace. You can find the pattern here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/spiral-drawstring-tiny-tote
My friend Allie Pleiter also blogged about her experience making this bag.
Our class ended before I could add the finishing touches, so I didn't quite finish it. But I figured it would be quick and easy to finish in time for tomorrow's lunch, and a cute gift to give my BFF. So I finished it. However, as I was digging in my knitting basket for something I needed, I found the tea cozy I was going to give her last year. And I figured... the bag was actually meant to be given to another friend, although now that it was finished, I really liked it for myself. So... Could I brave learning how to make an idiot cord so I could keep my bag?
By golly, yes!
As I finished up the lovely tea cozy, I realized that it had a lot of stinking ends to weave in. UGH! Did I mention that I'm terrible at weaving in ends? But I did it. And she's not a knitter so she won't look at it and think it's total crap. Hopefully she likes it!
Digging in my knitting basket made me aware of a few other unfinished projects. Most of them requiring just a few simple (HA!) things like weaving in ends and sewing pieces together. But as I sit back and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment of having finished two projects in one night, I think I just might have to work on those too.
Do you have any projects you've been dreading finishing? What can you do to cross them off your list? And if you're not a knitter, think about other projects weighing on you that might take just an evening to get off your plate.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
The gist of what I was trying to say before I chose to say nothing (in a very general sense) is that I'm hurting over a couple of situations. I'm trying hard to let go, praying that God would help me find a place of being okay with the situations, and even *gasp* forgiveness. But in the midst of that, there's a whole lot of ugly.
So today, when I'm not at place where the ugly is worth sharing, here's a pretty picture instead.
Friday, January 11, 2013
Today's Pinterest Busting exercise is all about the meals! I've been using the recipes I've saved on Pinterest as my new handy-dandy meal planning tool. I've been really uninspired lately, cooking-wise, so looking at recipes I've pinned has been helpful in that department.
Last night, I'd planned one thing for dinner, but then Cowgirl had plans with a friend who's moving, and hubby had to work, so it was just me and the Princess. (That kind of sounds like a book title- Me and the Princess.) So I went to my handy dandy food board to see what I could whip up.
Appetizer: Hot & Skinny Spinach Dip
Main Course: Ramen Noodle Upgrade
Snack: Roasted Chickpeas
Hot and Skinny Spinach Dip
I'd been wanting to make the Hot & Skinny Spinach Dip for a while now, so I was excited to make this. I followed the directions almost exactly. When I say almost exactly, I mean that instead of plain Greek yogurt, I used honey vanilla because it was all I had, and the point was to NOT go to the store. I do not advise doing this. When we ate it, at times, I could taste a weird sweet flavor (the honey vanilla) that just wasn't right. Still, it was really yummy, and I will make this again!
Ramen Noodle Upgrade
I wanted to try this recipe because my kids LOVE Ramen noodles, but I want them to have something a little more substantial. This seemed like a nice compromise. I changed this recipe slightly because I'm trying to eat more protein, and added a chopped up grilled chicken breast when I added in the other mix-ins. We also omitted the Siracha, because my kiddo doesn't do spicy.
This recipe was pretty much a bust. Princess took one bite of it and said, "this has a peanut flavor." I said, "That's because it has peanut butter in it, isn't it yummy?" Her response, "No. It's gross. Can I have some ice cream?" She did get ice cream, but only after she finished the nasty stuff. We had to add extra soy sauce to make it palatable, and I think I would have tossed it and made something else had it not been for the chicken. The chicken part was yummy.
I've been in love with this idea for a while now. I like crunchy snacks. I need to eat more healthy snacks. A marriage made in heaven, right? I made the garlic Parmesan version, but I tasted a chickpea fresh out of the oven before seasonings, and well, it was not yummy. I almost spit it out. But I added the seasonings, and tried it that way. Still not yummy, but better than plain. Princess did spit hers out, and asked for ice cream. This time, since I felt bad for her having also had to eat the nasty ramen, I gave her ice cream. I left them in a bowl on the counter, and because I can't not snack on something if it's there, even those those were nasty little things, I would take a few as I passed. The taste improves with time. I would not say that they're my favorite snack, and I probably won't eat them often, but I still might give them another try, and experiment with the flavors. The crunch is really satisfying, so if I can just find a good flavor, we might have a winner.
Bonus! One of my yummy creations! Healthier Hot Chocolate
Since I'm working hard at being healthier, I wanted to try a healthier version of hot chocolate. When I was at the health food store during one of their Christmas sample events, one of the ladies had a machine that she used to make a version of this. Only I forgot everything she used. So here is my best approximation.
1 cup chocolate almond milk
cinnamon to taste
Mix almond milk and cinnamon in a cup. Microwave 1 minute, 30 seconds. Stir and enjoy!
I did some nutrition checking, and the powdered hot chocolate mix has the same amount of calories as the almond milk. So you're not getting a difference calorie-wise, but at least you're not getting all the junk. Also, I've done this with a different brand of almond milk (but can't remember the name), and I liked the flavor better, but this was still yummy.
What fun Pinterest experiments have you done lately?
Thursday, January 10, 2013
I recently read a prayer request from someone that made a lot of things that I've been mulling for a while come to a bit of clarity. This person said, "Please pray for God's favor in X situation, that we will achieve X." My first response, at least mentally, was to ask, "aren't you a Christian? Doesn't that mean you already have God's favor?"
It occurred to me then, that many of us, including myself, have a warped vision of what God's favor looks like. Too many of us think that success=God's favor. And sure, in some instances, maybe that's true. But does failure also mean that you're not in favor with God?
I've started to realize that God's favor being linked to any particular outcome is a myth.
A few weeks ago at church, our pastor gave a different take on Psalm 23. We all know it, and many can recite it. But he pointed out something new to me. We often think of the verses as separate occurrences. We separate verse 3, "He guides me along the right paths for His name's sake," from verse 4, "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me."
What if they're connected? What if GOD is the one taking you through the darkest valley?
I've been thinking about that for a long time. Taking that question and seeing how that applies in my life and what I assume to be true about God. I admit that I'm not anywhere close to having an expert answer. But as I've thought about the valleys in my life, and times when I've wondered why I'm there- what am I doing wrong?
Maybe it's not me at all.
I have a laundry list of deep dreams that are unfulfilled. Some, I am learning to accept will never be fulfilled. Is it because God doesn't love me? Is it because I did something wrong? Am I paying for past sins? Because I tend to go to the negative first in my brain, of course that's what I told myself. Maybe I am not favored by God.
Then I remembered the story of Mary, and how when the angel came to her, he told her that she was favored. Most of us think, wow, isn't that wonderful? Except we forget the part that being favored by God RUINED HER LIFE. Seriously. Being unmarried and pregnant in that time was punishable by death. She had her baby in really inconvenient circumstances. She had to take her husband and baby and spend the early parts of the baby's life on the run in a foreign country. She had a few years watching her son doing really cool things. And then she got to watch him die a painful, horrific death.
And yes, we know the story ended with the resurrection, and what a glorious ending for her. But did she know it while she was hiding her son, wondering if that next knock on the door would be someone there to kill him? Did she know that when she saw him take his last breath? How did she feel at the time about being highly favored by God?
Maybe being favored by God isn't what we want after all. Maybe what we really want is for God to take a look at our laundry list of dreams, check them all off, and say, "done!"
So why don't we say that? Why don't we just admit that rather than God's favor, what we really want is to get our way? I'm not trivializing here- I know that for some people, they're asking for serious things- cures for cancer, homes to not be foreclosed on, babies to be born, peace in a war-torn country. But all those things happen, regardless of whether or not you have God's favor. We just want God to fix stuff for us. And that's okay. I have a lot of things I'd really like God to fix.
The thing I need to remember is that when God doesn't fix it for me, it doesn't mean that He doesn't love me or that I don't have His favor. How about you? Are you able to accept God's favor for what it is, or do you need reminders that His favor isn't about your success? What reminders of God's favor have helped you?
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
My children are in school!!!!! This is me, dancing for joy. Um, okay, it's not REALLY me. I would not look good in that outfit, and I'm way too self conscious to do that sort of thing in front of others, let alone have my picture taken. Just saying.
And maybe I am jinxing myself here, since I actually am writing this the night before. But we are going to think really positive that the kids will be back in school and I will have my beloved schedule back!
I'm feeling really discouraged about my fitness level these days. Part of it is the realization that I gained instead of lost weight last year. Part of it is that my favorite jeans are not fitting the same (in a bad way). And part of it is that I know I need to be in better shape.
I abandoned my exercise program when the tendonitis in my hip got too bad. The doctor told me NOT to work out, so I didn't. But I'm feeling better, so now I have to get back on the wagon. To be honest, I've been waiting for them to go back to school until I started again. I have some great Kettlebell workouts (I'd say the name, but the last time I said it, I got tons of spam from them. Dudes, don't spam people that already have your system!) AND, I got a really fun Wii Just Dance game that I really like. I don't like doing them in front of my kids because I look stupid and they make fun of me. Actually, I don't like doing things like that in front of anyone.
To test my resolve, I logged back in to my haven't used in forever Sparkpeople account. I wasn't as horrified by the results as I thought I'd be. My calorie count was good, even though I ate like crap today, but I didn't get enough protein. And, I got to mark that I exercised since I did the dance workout while the kids were at piano. And, I drank the right amount of water. So I'm not being TERRIBLE. But it will feel good to get back into a routine and exercise again. Not that I like exercise. I hate it. But dancing is fun, and I kind of like the kettlebell thing.
How does your routine change when your kids go back to school?
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
Then I started thinking about my goals and resolutions for the year. And to be honest, I wasn't very excited about doing it. I was thinking about last year's goals, and I don't even remember where they are! I put them somewhere really important so I could find them and refer to them, and...
Here's where I've decided to come down on it all:
Yes, I do want to make positive changes in my life. But honestly, I feel like doing it just because the date has changed is a little false and arbitrary. What's different in me that makes me want to change simply because it's January 1st instead of December 31st? As the calendar rolled over, did the moon and stars suddenly come into alignment so I will succeed where I've previously failed?
Didn't think so.
For me to make a change, I need something more than a list or flipping the page on a calendar. I need a deeper reason to force me to act. So as I thought about what I want to do in 2013, I realized that I'm already on the path I want to be. No, I'm not perfect, and I haven't arrived. But let's take a look at some old goals and where I am:
1. Finances. Last year, I made a goal to pay off a certain amount of debt and have a certain amount of money in savings. I don't remember what the numbers were, but I do remember looking at it in March and realizing that it was completely unrealistic and tossing it aside. That said, because I set the goal and was intentional about saving money and paying off debt, not only did I pay off our car, but I got 1/3 of the way paid down on a debt that I've had for years and couldn't make progress on. So I'm going to keep moving forward on that, and, if I stay on track, doing what I'm doing, it'll be paid off in two years. Yay me!
2. Health and fitness. UGH!! I wanted to lose the 20 pounds my doctor has been nagging me about. I gained five. Part of it was due to a hip injury that had me unable to do much of anything- I was literally told not to exercise. Not that I minded. So this year, I am being more intentional about moving more, eating better, but for now, I'm not going to focus on the number. I'm playing it like I did the finances last year- being intentional about making better choices in small ways, but not going for the gusto in a huge way.
3. Writing. Um, let's just not talk about that. At this point, I have no real goals, and I'm just putting one foot in front of the other. I'm taking some writing classes, working on some books, and we'll see where it leads. For now, I have two books almost ready to submit, and I will submit them, but that's about all I'm going to commit to.
As for other goals, I have a few things I am working on. But I'm taking the same approach and not putting into a big list or anything like that. I'm just putting one foot in front of the other and making progress in the direction of things that are important to me. I'm not sure that's something I can quantify in a word.
Do you have a word? Or are you like me, and unable to quantify it that way?
Monday, January 07, 2013
Or, what my day looks like when the kids are home and I'm trying to work.
9:00 Decide I should get out of bed because I've already wasted time I should have been working.
9:05 Wish I had stayed in bed because I've been "MOM!ed" approximately 1,000 times.
9:10 Take a shower.
9:30 Eat breakfast and start work.
9:35 Yell at the kids to turn the TV down.
9:37 Get up and close the door after my dog lets himself in my office. I work with the door closed. I could write an entire blog post about WHY I can only work with the door closed, but I will spare you the horror. Suffice to say the door MUST be closed.
9:40 Get up and let the dog out of my office.
9:42 Google devices that would let the dog in and out of the office so that I don't have to keep getting up. Find nothing.
9:43 Get up and close the door because the dog has let himself back in my office.
Repeat said process until 11:53.
11:53 Get up and make myself lunch. Listen to kid whine, "but I never got any breakfast." My answer, "fine. Have breakfast." Kid, "how come I can't have lunch?" Tell the dog he should be grateful we had him fixed.
12:05 Eat lunch while throwing dinner in the crockpot, thus proving that I DO actually feed my children (in case anyone from social services is reading).
12:15 Make another cup of tea and get back to work.
12:17 Close office door because dog has finally decided to grace me with his presence.
12:19 Yell at kids to turn down TV. Threaten to take it away.
12:21 Get up and let dog out of office.
12:23 Close office door because dog has decided that he doesn't want to be with the kids anymore.
12:25 Check school website to be sure that I didn't get the go back to school date wrong since everyone else's kids went back today. Nope.
12:27 Answer the phone in hopes it's one of the kids' friends asking them to go do something. As in, leave. At the sound of start of telemarketer speech, wonder if they'll take my kids in exchange for whatever they're selling.
12:31 Get up and let dog out of office. Inform him that he can fit in a crockpot just as easily as my roast.
12:33 Close door when dog returns.
Repeat until work is done.
Here is what my schedule will look like when the kids go back to school:
8:00 Get up and get kids off to school.
8:30 Eat breakfast, exercise, and take a shower.
12:00 Have lunch, let the dog out, think about dinner (start if needed).
12:15 Back to work.
3:30 Welcome my children home, and if all is properly aligned in the universe, finish work.
One more day, people, I can do this for one more day...
Friday, January 04, 2013
So here I am.
I'm taking a class on blogging that has me thinking about the direction of my blog, and you know what I came up with?? Uh, nothing. I wrote something for the class that sums it up nicely:
Ultimately, I want people to know that I am a mess. And it's okay.
Because you know what? They are a mess too. And that's okay too. But
let's just be honest about it and call it what it is, and do what we can
to move in a positive direction. Moving forward and changing and growing
is scary. It's hard work. My hope is that by sharing my journey, other
people will want to join me, and we can learn from each other and travel
together. And if that sells books, that's great. And if it doesn't,
that's great too (well, sort of. I really do want to sell some books). I
don't have all the answers, but hopefully I have some, and if I come
together with others, then maybe together, we can figure it out. Or at
least get somewhere better than where we were.
So that's where I'm at. That's what I'm blogging about. I'm a mess. And if you're willing to accept that you're a mess too, then let's hang out.