Status Report

It has been an emotional rollercoaster the past couple of weeks. Staying on track with the goals I’ve set — and not wanting to add about a million more to accomplish RIGHT NOW — has been a challenge. I’ve been trying, though. With less than a week left in the month, let’s see how I’m doing, shall we?

Though I still have a bit to go through, I have cleared up a lot of clutter. Walking in my bedroom and kitchen is much easier than it was, with less maneuvering and pushing things aside to open cabinets and drawers. That being said, I do still have to finish up the kitchen counters and table. And I’m still hoping to actually clean the refrigerator and microwave. We’ll see if I can make it!

Catching up on miscellaneous business and divorce tasks has been a kind of one step forward, one step backward dance. Sometimes I feel like I’m making progress, and sometimes things don’t go as planned and I have to add new things to my to do list. I think I’ll be working on that list until the very end of the month. I just hope I can actually complete it in time.

Stocking up for preparedness has gone pretty well, thanks to the timing of the Can Can Sale at ShopRite. Cabinets are well stocked with food. The biggest thing with this goal is that it really needs to be ongoing. As I’ve already seen, when we start using the food that’s been stockpiled, the amount we have on hand goes down. Duh, right? So it’s going to involve being diligent to make sure I keep a good supply and rotate stock as time passes. Paper goods are doing pretty well, too. I grabbed a couple of packs of toilet paper to top us off (another thing that continually needs to be monitored), but other than that I was pretty good. In the course of my cleaning I came across SO. MANY. plates and napkins from previous birthday celebrations, so no need to stock up on those. We also had a bunch of plastic cutlery, so that’s good. I just needed to grab a pack of forks, which I did, so I feel confident in that area.

Tasks to complete my goals for this month have been scheduled, as have some of the tasks to complete February’s goals. Sticking to the schedule will be tricky, but I’ll try! Overall I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made, and I’m trying to use that as motivation to continue. Narrowing my focus is definitely helping. When I get frustrated with a mess elsewhere, or other tasks that I need to do, I remind myself that those things will be dealt with when they are scheduled – next month or March or whenever. Sometimes I want to jump the gun, but overall I’ve been able to stick to the plan. Of course the plan didn’t really discuss the multiple streams of income I mentioned last time…

That brings me to my next topic. I don’t know if it’s my own anxieties or intuition or just a gut feeling, but I feel a sense of urgency when it comes to cushioning my savings account and bringing in additional income. I don’t want to get into details, but certain conversations I’ve had recently make me question to security of my jobs. I don’t think I’m being kicked to the streets or anything, but they have made the “finding a full time job” goal and “multiple streams of income” goal that I discussed last week a bit more pressing. With regards to finding a job, I have been diligently working on that one for a while, so I don’t think there’s much more I can do (unless I start looking at other industries/professions, which is counterproductive). That leaves me to focus on other ways I can bring in income. This is where I get stuck.

I’ve been brainstorming, and I’ve started with little things here and there, but anything I come up with is more long-term money potential than short-term. While I think that’s great for my potential long-term income, in the short-term, when I’m feeling some pressure, that doesn’t help. Unfortunately, with my emotional state recently, my powers of brainstorming have dimmed. I certainly haven’t produced as many ideas as I usually do – in any area of my life. It’s been a disconcerting feeling. I’m used to having more ideas than I know what to do with. But until I’m able to clear some of the clouds from my mind, I think it’s going to be a tough road.

Lots going on. My brain is a little muddled. I know part of what I need to do involves self care. I need to let myself process whatever emotions I’m feeling and work through them. But what has always helped in the past when I feel discouraged or overwhelmed is to be proactive, to tackle the cause of what’s bothering me. Which makes me want to jump into any ideas with potential. But if I don’t have ideas with potential, what do I do then?

When I finished grad school, I started working more down time into my schedule. Evenings I now usually spend relaxing or doing easy tasks, letting me unwind. Often I watch movies while doing other things, and I recently started watching old episodes of Murder, She Wrote. I’m wondering if the need to figure things out will help the fog in my brain lift. It can’t hurt, right? Maybe I’ll even write my own mystery novels! (Just add that to the list…)

As I said, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. I’m doing my best to stay on track, because I know that will help me physically, mentally, and emotionally. It isn’t easy, though…

Multiple Streams

Last time I mentioned how my discouraging job situation has motivated me to get back to a project I had started. The truth is, that’s not all it’s done.

It’s easy to feel stuck, trapped, when things don’t work out the way you want them to. And when it comes to a job situation, a big part of that is the money factor. If I lost one or both of my jobs, how would I survive? If I wanted to leave one or both of my jobs, how would I manage? Even if I want to stay at both of my jobs, am I making enough to reach my financial goals? It’s horrible to look at job postings and have to consider not only if it’s a job I would want, but one I could afford to have. I’m not making a ton right now, and I could not easily afford to make less. I would need to make major lifestyle changes (like downsizing) and cut down on my debt repayment. All that to say: it’s great to have a project to propel me forward emotionally and career-wise. But I’ve also started giving more serious thought to having multiple streams of income.

Of course this is not the first time I’ve thought about this. It’s been in the back of my mind for years. But I have to face facts: I am a single mom. I’m not getting any younger. And the pandemic has just emphasized how susceptible we all are to setbacks. One of the motivating factors to my self-sufficiency goals is to make my family more secure in terms of those setbacks. But as a whole, setbacks aside, I want to have choices. I want to be able to make life decisions on what is best for myself and my family, not what my bank account says I can or cannot do.

Sounds great, but in actual practice, what does that mean? Well, it means I’ve been exploring things I can do to set up other ways of bringing in money, either passive or active. No, I’m not going back to direct sales or making crafts. But I am upping my game in certain areas. I have options with potential that have been sitting doing diddly squat. I’ve put in a lot of work on different projects and have taken them nowhere. I think it’s time to see what those can bring me. Here are some details and ideas:

  • Writing: I have self published 4 physical books and some e-books. The truth is, though, that I have done very little to market or promote them. I told family and friends. They’re on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. But I haven’t really done anything to try to sell them. When’s the last time I even updated any of those pages? When I set up my plan for the year, I was already intending to get my writing business established so I could capitalize on what I’ve already done and move forward. I’m thinking the timeline may need to get pushed up, though. I’ve checked out some books from the library to help with marketing. Let’s see what I can do.
  • Websites: I have multiple websites, each one with a different focus. At least one gets some traffic on a regular basis, and I know with some effort it could get a lot more. I need to work on capitalizing that and seeing how it can work for me. Better ads? Affiliate marketing? I definitely need a brainstorm session on that.
  • CafePress (or Merch): I have some designs that I’ve created and made available on CafePress. While I like the designs overall, they could definitely use updating and tweaking, and I have ideas for additional designs. I sell a product or two with a design once in a while. With effort I think I could bring those numbers up, especially if I make the designs more appealing. Amazon also has a similar feature, Merch, though theirs seems to be more involved (and professional-looking in the end). CafePress is simpler to set up. Amazon seems to have higher royalties. It’s worth looking into. Once set up and established, I think it would require very little maintenance and could be a source for at least a little passive income. Getting things really going will take some effort, though.
  • Greeting Cards: I’ve considered this in the past, and I recently came across an article that mentioned it, which got me thinking about it again. There are multiple companies out there that will pay for your artwork or verses to be used in greeting cards. One company, Card Gnome, lets you design your own cards, then they sell them for you and you get royalties on each one sold. It’s something I may look into further.
  • Investing: The same article that mentioned the greeting cards (it was an article on ways to bring in money without a job, though most were not appealing) also mentioned a couple of low-cost investing sites. Of course there’s no guarantee on income with these, but I signed up with one, Stash, that let me get started for $5 and ended up giving me an extra $35 to invest. I signed up for the lowest plan, which costs $1 for maintenance each month. I figure it was worth a shot. Even if I lost everything I put in, that’s not much. I’m interested to see how it works out.
  • One-time Options: Timing isn’t ideal, but there are also a couple of one-time activities that could bring in a little money. One is a tag sale, which I have penciled in for the fall, when the bulk of my cleaning should (hopefully!) be done. I could move it up to the spring if I can get all the prep work done in time. Another is to do one last craft fair. Actually, I could continue doing events as an author, and sell my books, but for the sake of this post I’m referring to one last fair to sell some remaining stock from my business. I have some leftover mini loaf pan gift baskets that I need to clear out, so it’s crossed my mind. These consistently sold well, and I don’t have much use for so many of them. Since many are Christmassy, however, it would have to wait until the end of the year. I could try to find another way to sell them earlier, but I would likely have to discount them more since they would be out of season.

As you can probably tell, I have lots of options. They will require work. And time. And of course there’s no guarantee that any of them will bring in substantial income. I honestly don’t know what to expect. But there is potential. And if I can fit research and brainstorming and work for these into the pockets of time I have in the mornings or evenings, then maybe it will be worth it. At least there’s more possibility with any of these options than there is with scrolling Facebook.

So. That’s where things stand. Of course I’m still making progress on my goals for the month, too. I will provide an update on those next week. Until then, let’s see where my brainstorming and research take me!

Dealing with Disappointment

When faced with disappointment, how do you react?

I received some disappointing news today, that I didn’t get a job I really wanted. In general I try to look on the bright side, try to learn what I can or take what I can from each experience. It isn’t always easy, but overall it keeps me hopeful and moving forward. And in this case I can try to rationalize: it was a little farther than I would have liked, certain aspects weren’t ideal. But considering I’ve been looking for a full time job for a year now — and have applied and interviewed for several positions in that time — I’m getting discouraged.

So I find myself confronted with what steps to take now. Yes, I can wallow for a bit, but I hate wallowing. Yes, I can look for other job opportunities, but there aren’t any other available positions that are speaking to me from the job boards. So where does that leave me?

I am a “take charge” kind of person, as you likely know if you read this blog. And in my current state of mind, in which I’m trying to be more self sufficient, I’m inclined to see what else I can do. Between working on getting out of debt and the fact that I’m less than happy in one of my current jobs, my mind has drifted to what I can do to make money. Even if the money doesn’t come in right away, at least I’ll feel like I’m doing something to move me in the right direction.

This is not a new concept for me. I’ve likely mentioned it here before. But with each step backward, my motivation to do something about it increases. So plans that have fallen by the wayside, or ideas that have been put on a back burner, are brought back to the front of my mind.

In my current state, the idea that is standing out to me is a website, and accompanying book, that I started but didn’t get very far on. The website, Fun at the Library, is intended to be a resource for librarians, and perhaps teachers, who are looking for ideas for programming, displays, play areas, etc. The book I have in mind is Fun at the Library: A Year’s Worth of Programs and Display Ideas. I could even see it being published with ALA (American Library Association), though that would not be easy.

Ideas for the site and book are plentiful. That is never a problem. They relate directly to my chosen career and would look great on my resume. And I am capable of completing both. So what are the problems? Time and motivation! Time is always in short supply, especially when I consider the other goals I have planned for the year. And motivation tends to present itself at inopportune moments: when I’m at work or doing something else pressing, or when I’m driving or can’t do anything about it. These problems may be just excuses, however. When I want or need something badly enough, I will find a way. So the question is: how badly do I want this? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Is taking on another project the best way to deal with disappointment? I don’t know. But I do know if I can feel excited and motivated rather than depressed, that has to be a good thing. So let’s see if I can get excited!

The Plan

It has been a rough week or so with Avery. But after taking a mental health day for myself, I’m starting to feel like I can get back on track. Fortunately, even though emotionally I was a mess, I was able to catch up a little bit on less-than-exciting tasks, like laundry, dishes, and grocery shopping, and I didn’t fall behind on anything. So now it’s time to move forward!

With so much on my to do list to reach my goals (and, let’s face it, items continually getting added to the list, especially as I read the Just in Case book I mentioned in my last post), I’ve decided the best course of action is to break things down into manageable chunks, and have a particular focus or “mini goals” each month. I can take just a portion of my to do list and tackle that, rather than trying to take it all in every month. It is going to be really hard to stick to it and not want to jump into everything, but I think if I give myself enough variety and substance each month I’ll be able to rein myself in.

The first step to tackle this mini-goal plan is to compile everything I want to accomplish.

My goals for the year fell into 5 main categories:

  • Simplify
  • Financial (and physical) organization
  • A clean house
  • Happy kids
  • Be prepared

Each of those can be divided into subcategories:

  • Simplify
    • Gardening
    • Baking and cooking
    • Screen-free time with kids
    • Writing
    • Reading
    • Find one full-time job
  • Financial and physical organization
    • Cleaning, filing, and shredding
    • Left-over business matters
    • Left-over divorce matters
    • Retirement
    • Estate planning
    • Debt repayment
  • A clean house
    • Each room of my house!
  • Happy kids
    • Clean kids’ rooms, set up for their unique wants and needs
    • Screen-free time
    • Get kids involved in simplifying and preparation
    • Chore charts / responsibilities
    • Get Avery’s challenges more manageable
  • Be prepared
    • Finances
    • Paperwork
    • Health and first aid
    • Emergency kits
    • Stocking up / supplies
    • Get kids involved

You may have noticed that there is some overlap across the categories, and this will come in handy! Indeed, many things intersect. That makes things simpler in some respects, and in others it adds another layer to consider. Some mini goals are also not one-shot deals. They are ongoing, or will take time to accomplish. That is something else to consider as I plan out my year.

The to do list breaks things down even further, but I won’t bore you with all the details! Besides, the point of this exercise is to keep things general to start, then only get into the nitty gritty when it’s time to tackle that part of the list.

Now to figure out when I’m going to focus on what. I need to spread things out enough that each month is manageable, but not so much that I feel like I’m not making any progress. I want to feel like I’m making big steps forward each and every month. With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking:

  • January
    With January already almost half over, I need to consider what I have time left for. Since I’ve already been working on some tasks, I’m going to continue with the most related goals:
    • Clean: kitchen, bedroom
    • Financial organization: left-over divorce and business matters (except for house refinance)
    • Be Prepared: stocking up (food and paper goods)
  • February
    • Clean: living room, library
    • Financial/Clean/Be Prepared: clean/file/shred
    • Happy Kids: establish chore/responsibility charts
    • Be Prepared: health and first aid – schedule doctor and dentist appointments, create first aid kits, etc.
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a cooking day to stock up on freezer meals – get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a baking day to stock up – get kids involved
  • March
    • Clean: basement – craft/gift room, holiday closet
    • Financial/Be Prepared: retirement planning
    • Be Prepared: stocking up (supplies)
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a cooking day to stock up on freezer meals – get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a baking day to stock up – get kids involved
  • April
    • Clean: mudroom, van
    • Financial/Be Prepared: estate planning
    • Be Prepared: emergency kits
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: gardening – start seeds, get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a cooking day to stock up on freezer meals – get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a baking day to stock up – get kids involved
  • May
    • Clean/Happy Kids: kids’ rooms
    • Simplify/Financial: set up writing business
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: gardening – set up beds and planters, plant seedlings – get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a cooking day to stock up on freezer meals – get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a baking day to stock up – get kids involved
  • June
    • Clean: basement – play area
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: gardening – weed/water/maintain – get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a cooking day to stock up on freezer meals – get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a baking day to stock up – get kids involved
  • July
    • Clean/Happy Kids: basement – boxes of misc.
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: gardening – weed/water/maintain – get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a cooking day to stock up on freezer meals – get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a baking day to stock up – get kids involved
  • August
    • Clean: closets and cabinets
    • Financial: house refinance
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: gardening – weed/water/maintain – get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a cooking day to stock up on freezer meals – get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a baking day to stock up – get kids involved
  • September
    • Clean: sheds
    • Clean: have a tag sale
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a cooking day to stock up on freezer meals – get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a baking day to stock up – get kids involved
  • October
    • Clean: basement – storage
    • Be Prepared – set up storage areas for supplies and emergency items
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a cooking day to stock up on freezer meals – get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a baking day to stock up – get kids involved
  • November
    • Clean: scrapbook materials
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a cooking day to stock up on freezer meals – get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a baking day to stock up – get kids involved
    • Prepare for Christmas
  • December
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a cooking day to stock up on freezer meals – get kids involved
    • Simplify/Happy Kids/Be Prepared: have a baking day to stock up – get kids involved
    • Prepare for and celebrate Christmas

The monthly plans do not outline the ongoing things that I will be working on every week or month: reading, writing, debt repayment, screen-free time with kids (except as it relates to other items), and Avery’s challenges. They also do not indicate the “find one full time job” goal, which will be ongoing until it is met, but timing is relatively out of my control. And you may notice that there are less things in the last quarter of the year. While there will likely be smaller to do items to address then, I’m hoping most of the big stuff will be complete! Of course if they’re not, then that gives me a cushion to tackle them as needed.

Meeting these goals, especially in the first few months, will be challenging. I know it’s a lot to take on, and time is limited. But I’m going to give it my best shot and see how it goes. If I see that I’m biting off more than I can chew, then I will adjust accordingly. Perhaps, however, this plan will give me the motivation I need to keep going. One can hope!

Be Prepared

I went back and forth about whether I should share this post. Basically I didn’t want to be seen as some kind of doomsday nut. But after consideration I decided that this has become meaningful to me, and perhaps someone else could also get something from what I’m going to share.

With everything that has happened in the last couple of years – the pandemic, the changes in weather extremes, the overall stress and tension that has been building in our society – I think everyone’s anxiety levels have risen. Even if you don’t have “diagnosed” anxiety, you may feel stressed or anxious or just on edge, wondering what else is going to happen. I know I do. Add that to the feelings I already had, that I like to be independent and self sufficient, and you have a goal I’ve added to the year: Be Prepared.

No, I’m not turning my basement into a bomb shelter or stocking up on three years worth of MREs. I’m not taking things to the extremes. But I do know that if something happens – we lose power for a week, or the pandemic worsens again and we can’t leave our house for a while, or my income suddenly takes a hit – I don’t want to go into panic mode. I want to feel secure, knowing that my family will be safe, warm, and fed.

I started this process back in the fall, when I was feeling discouraged about the job situation (and how much it felt out of my hands), worried about Avery (and how much his behavior felt out of my hands), and frustrated with how selfish much of our society has become (and how I had no control over other people’s actions). Rather than get further mired in depression and frustration, I decided to take a step back and think: what could I control? How could I handle things so that I didn’t keep feeling this way? I may not be able to change how other people act, or the pandemic or weather, but there are definitely a lot of things I can do to feel more in control of my life and my family’s world.

The goals I’ve already shared for this year have covered a lot of ways I want to move forward: financial freedom, simplifying, cleaning and organizing. These are definitely important, and they will help me move toward contentment and security. They will help with feeling more in control and less dragged down by circumstances. But with the way I was feeling, I felt like I needed something more.

I started thinking about basic necessities, starting with food. I’ve dabbled (unsuccessfully) in gardening before, but I had already decided I wanted to put in a real effort this year. So I started looking into serious gardening. My thought was: I don’t eat many vegetables, and even if I grew a bunch and ate them all, that is not a complete diet. What else could I grow to give my family a dietary base? There are surprisingly few gardening books out there that don’t just talk about vegetables and flowers. But I did find a few, so I checked them out from the library (thank goodness for libraries! 😀 ) and looked through them before deciding on one to purchase. I looked a bit online and got information. It is apparently super easy to grow peanuts and make your own peanut butter. Who knew? That is definitely going on my list of things to try. And there are plenty of other options, too.

Then I started researching books about self sufficiency. I was looking for information about other ways to live without relying so heavily on things that were out of my control. In my mind that equated to self sufficiency, but I found that so many of the books focused on the concept of living “off the grid,” so they took things much farther than I was looking for. I didn’t want to raise animals for meat (most of their solutions to the diet problem, rather than growing protein and grain sources), and everything I was reading seemed so intense. That wasn’t what I was looking for.

What I was finding led to searches about homesteading. I figured this could work, since that encompassed what they did before all of our reliance on grocery stores and companies. Again, they were so intense. I didn’t want to make my own body products or, again, raise animals for meat. I did pick up a “dummies” 5-in-1 book about homesteading, though. This compilation shared information about preserving crops and had other general information that I thought could be helpful.

I admit I was getting discouraged. I didn’t want to live off the grid. I also didn’t have the time, money, or energy to invest in such a monumental undertaking. I just wanted to live simply, find ways to support myself and my family so we would be more in control of our lives, and be prepared in case something crazy happened. That’s when I stumbled upon a gem of a book: Just in Case: How to Be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens, by Kathy Harrison. I borrowed it from the library and started reading it, and it seems to be everything that I was looking for. It offers practical information and realizes that not everyone is going to jump in headfirst, spending thousands of dollars to get up and running. It touches on a wide variety of areas, and it’s designed to help families be prepared and able to handle whatever life throws at them. It shares how we can gradually turn our homes into more self sufficient entities, so we’re not relying as heavily on companies and resources that could get contaminated, etc. It’s not saying to go off grid, but to equip yourself so that if the grid goes down, your family can easily move forward and thrive. I’ve already gotten lots of useful information.

I still have a long way to go, but that’s why it’s a goal and not a conclusion. This is a process. But every step I take gets me closer to safety, security, and preparedness. Like I said, I’m not going to extremes here. I don’t want to live off the grid or be completely self sufficient – though I admit some days that holds appeal. I just want to not rely so heavily on outside forces that are out of my control. I want to feel like no matter what happens, my family will be OK. So that’s where I am.

In a world that seems so out of control, it’s nice to know there are still ways I can support my family and help us feel secure. If you are interested in taking this journey with me, I would love to chat. If not, that’s completely OK, too! I wish you all luck moving forward.

Getting Started

If you’ve read, well, any of my previous posts, you’ve probably figured out that I never have a shortage of ideas. I always have a million things I want to do, to try. And because I want to do or try all of those things when I’m excited about them, I have a tendency to want to do them all at once, right away. So when it comes to reaching the goals I set for New Year’s, I want to jump in feet first and tackle everything at the same time. I want the goals to be done, like, yesterday. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. I just end up frazzled and floundering.

So what to do?

I really want to be successful. My goals this year are important. That foundation I’m trying to build needs to be solid. I want to be settled, to provide a good life for my kids, and to have a secure future. And to accomplish all of that, I can’t just jump in feet first. I need to come up with a plan.

So I’m putting together a plan. My plan for reaching my goals has multiple components:

  1. A “Dream” Book – Through contemplation and reflection, I learned that I was too stuck in the “shoulds” and “have tos.” Too many of my tasks dealt with the day-to-day tedium. That’s why I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, like I wasn’t accomplishing anything. Because I spent so much of my time and energy on the minutiae. When I finally had time to do what I wanted or needed to do to reach my goals, I was too tired, or I had lost momentum and passion. So I started a dream book. In this book I tried working backward. I started each page with the dream, or ultimate goal. What do I want each part of my life to look like? What do I ultimately want out of life?
    Once the dream was written, then I began thinking about the steps required to get me there. These steps are not super specific, but they give a general guideline for what I need to do.
  2. A To Do List – Next comes a detailed to do list. This list takes the steps in my dream book and breaks them down into smaller chunks. It’s taking the form of the “brain dumps” that I’ve done in the past, during which I write down everything that comes to mind. I’m being a little more organized this time, though. I’m going through each room of the house, each section of my life, to detail what I want and need to do. The list isn’t complete, but I’ve made good progress.
  3. A Schedule – Once the list is at least mostly complete, then it will be time to find time to tackle all of the items on the list. That means finding time to do the things on the list. And, as mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have to be intentional about how I tackle them. I can’t try to do everything at once. I actually started making a schedule before making the to do list, and I found myself slipping into old habits, scheduling too much each day. And that’s just a recipe for failure. I need to break the tasks into manageable bites, to ensure I get things done and keep up the momentum. It’s discouraging when I don’t accomplish what I set out to each day! And I want to do everything I can to stay motivated.

This all might sound pretty simple and straightforward, but it’s going to be an adjustment for me. Yes, I’ve made to do lists and schedules in the past. So many lists and schedules! But I’m going into this plan with greater intent. I’m trying my best to simplify (that was one of my goals, remember?), to stay organized, and to relieve my stress so I don’t get overwhelmed. Yes, things may take longer. But who knows? Maybe they’ll actually go more quickly because I’m more focused and on task.

Of course I will still be working on multiple things at a time. I get bored doing just one thing, and boredom is not good for staying motivated. That means I’ll need to think about this when I’m making my schedules. What activities complement each other but are varied enough to keep me engaged? What tasks can I bounce back and forth between so I maximize my time but stay motivated? How can I balance “fun” time with “work” time so I don’t get stressed? So I can spend more time enjoying my life?

It’s a process. But nothing worth having comes easily. With a little luck and a lot of effort, I’m hoping to have my goals for the year in the bag.

A New Year

Let’s face it, 2021 was not a great year. But rather than dwell on how I wish things had gone, or lament all that did or did not happen, I’m choosing to learn from 2021 and apply what I learned to new adventures in 2022. As per usual, I am not making resolutions, but I am setting goals. And this year’s goals are perhaps my most meaningful yet.

Goal: Simplify

Lesson learned from 2021: While I always want to take on a million projects, and I want to pour my heart and soul into each one, I was close to my breaking point in 2021. During the summer, especially, I felt incredibly overwhelmed, between juggling two summer reading programs and struggling with Avery’s behavior, not to mention all the “normal” stuff. It was just too much.

Goals for 2022: My brain is not wired to focus on just one thing at a time. That’s just not how I work. But I can choose what I focus on, what I prioritize, and what can wait. I also hope to establish a life of simpler pleasures, with less screen time, more reading, and more enjoying nature. I want to be more hands-on, with gardening, cooking, and baking, have more (screen-free) fun with the kids, and get back to my writing. I’m hoping to get settled in one full-time job (instead of juggling the two jobs), which should help me establish saner routines and rituals. That has been a goal for a while, but I’m hoping it will come to fruition early in 2022.

This goal may not be “SMART,” and may not really be measurable, but I think the best way to determine if I succeeded will be to see how I feel. If I can feel contentment, less stress, and more joy, then I will have met my goal.

Goal: Financial (and Physical) Organization

Lesson learned from 2021: I have still not done things that should have been done a while ago, like when I first got divorced (3 years ago) or when I closed my craft business (a year ago). I have a stack of mail I need to go through, and papers in too many places. I have spent too many frustrating minutes (or hours) looking for something, which has increased my stress levels and made me feel horribly disorganized.

Goals for 2022: This year, the plan is to get my financial house in order. (I also plan to get my actual house in order, but that’s the next goal below.) I need to tackle my will and my retirement plan. I want to make huge dents in debt repayment (my big goal is to be debt free by the time I turn 50, and that’s in just under 9 years, so I need to hustle). I want to catch up on mail, on filing, on shredding, so I’m not stumbling over a mess when I’m trying to find something.

My first step will be to make a list of everything that needs to be done. If I’ve checked them all off by the end of the year, then I will have met this goal.

Goal: A Clean House

Lesson learned from 2021: I have long wanted a clean house, free from clutter, organized and comfortable. It’s been my goal for a while. And I did make some progress in 2021. But not nearly enough. I ended the year feeling probably about as frustrated as I was at the beginning.

Goals for 2022: I’m not expecting perfection here. I don’t expect a floor you could eat off, or every speck of dust cleared before it can even land. That’s just unrealistic. But I would like to be able to walk through my kitchen without having to walk around or stumble over boxes and bags. I would like to sit in my library without seeing a mess of who knows what cluttering the floor. It’s just not comfortable. It’s stress-inducing, exhausting, and frustrating. I know a large part of the problem lies in my routines. Rather than putting things away right away, I get wrapped up in other activities, and they sit. That means that even though I try to clean, and sometimes will spend a while cleaning, I’m not making as much progress as I should be, because the pile never stays smaller for very long. So accomplishing this goal will be a two-part process: establish better routines, and schedule time to clear what’s already there. Of course I also have to get the kids on board with cleaning up once they’re done with something, but that will be its own process.

If I can walk around my house unhindered by clutter, then I will have been successful. If my daily and weekly cleaning consist solely of regular maintenance (rather than attacking a pile of long-present clutter), then I will have been successful. It won’t be easy, but with diligence I think I can accomplish it.

Goal: Happy Kids

Lesson learned from 2021: It was a rough year for the kids, especially Avery. Aside from the pandemic mess that everyone was dealing with, Avery was diagnosed with both ADHD and Anxiety. Neither came as a surprise, but they will impact his life (and all of our lives) moving forward. Both kids also had to switch schools, which added another element to the craziness of the year, especially since Avery hated it. Add too much screen time and a stressed-out mama to the mix, and it was just a rough year. While there were moments of happiness, overall I can’t say any of us were really happy.

Goals for 2022: Less screen time is always on the agenda, but in 2021 in particular this just did not happen. And that worries me. Avery is more and more dependent on his screen, and he has such difficulty entertaining himself without it. I mentioned in my first goal that I wanted to have more screen-free fun with the kids, and that is going to play into this goal. But I also want to get both kids involved in my simplifying. I want them to learn to enjoy the simpler pleasures, like the gardening and cooking and baking, to spend more time outside. I want them to choose screen-free activities rather than jumping on a screen every chance they get. I want them to be able to slow down and enjoy life, not watch it go by in pixelated images. Aside from screens, though, I want there to be more harmony with my kids. I want Avery’s anxiety levels to decrease, to have him feel more in control of his emotions and actions. I want him to be nice to Emily, to want to share with her and treat her (and all of us) with respect. I’m hoping they can enjoy each other, not bicker and fight (a lofty goal for any siblings, I know!).

This goal is another one that is hard to measure, and, to be honest, some of it is out of my control. Some of it will involve creating new habits, for all of us. I need to set a good example and work on my stress levels so I don’t project that stress onto my kids. And I want to find ways to help Avery, to support him with his struggles so he can overcome them. Determining success will likely be more of a feeling, a looking at our lives and seeing if they are full of smiles or tension.

It’s going to be a challenging year, especially as we’re still dealing with the pandemic. But my overall goal for the year is about creating a solid foundation. I want us to have healthy habits, a strong financial base, and tools in place to handle whatever life throws at us. The goals I mentioned above should put us in a good position, to find joy and contentment, to be productive and successful. It won’t be easy or quick, but together we can accomplish great things.

Happy New Year, everyone! What are your goals for the year?

Too Many Pieces

Sometimes I feel like there are so many pieces of my personality, of my life, so many interests and wants and needs, that I will never be truly satisfied. In general, I like having a variety of interests and projects going on. I tend to get bored easily, so if I’m not in the mood for one thing, I can usually find something that I am in the mood for. It’s one of the things that appeals to me about my chosen career – the many different facets of the job ensure that I will never truly get bored. But as I continue to get my life to a place that satisfies me, that makes me happy, I find myself continually adding things that are important to me, or that I want to do or try or experience. And with a never-ending list, how can I ever be happy?

I will start with family. I want to be the best mom ever. And I think I do OK. My kids know they’re loved. Their needs are taken care of, and many of their wants. But I still want to do more. There are books I’ve checked out of the library with the intention of reading them so I can help Avery and Emily. But when other wants and interests and, occasionally, needs, take up my time, they never get read. So then I feel like I’m failing that part of me, the part that wants to help my children be the best they can be. With Avery’s behavior issues, especially, I feel like I’m failing. Perhaps he would thrive better in a clean house. Perhaps he would thrive better with a more well-balanced diet. Or more one-on-one attention. Or more time during which we could work on his executive functions. Maybe Emily would have long conquered her potty troubles if I had worked with her more diligently, rather than sporadically, encouraging rather than guilting. Maybe if I actually programmed her FitBit like I had intended to do when we first got it, it would help her. These all seem like high priorities, and they are certainly on the “list of things to do.” But they are far from the only ones. And more urgent needs always seem to get preferential treatment.

Next we have the needs of the house. I long to live in a clean, organized home. I think we would all benefit. But my house is truly a disaster area. Stuff everywhere, a mouse problem that just won’t go away, and paperwork and all that comes with it that need to be taken care of. So I try to hack away at it, but the mess is so monumental that I feel like I never make any real progress. Yes, this is a high priority. And I want it to get done. But, again, other things vie for my attention, and so, while I make progress, I never finish or even make a huge dent.

Along with the house is the financial stuff. I still have Kevin’s name on too many things, and I need to get that taken care of. Getting a new vehicle helped take one thing off the list, but there is a lot more. On top of that, I really need to work on saving for retirement. And perhaps put money aside for the kids’ college educations. And build an emergency savings account. And pay off debt. I want to be able to give back more, have multiple streams of income, be comfortable. It’s a combination of wants and needs, and, again, it’s all on the to do list. And while we’re at it, let’s add the fundraisers that the kids are involved in. And things that I would love for them to participate in – such as horseback riding (which they’ve both expressed interest in), or dance (which Emily said she wants to do again), or any of the other things they’re interested in. And let’s not forget my career, the ultimate financial “thing.” I long to be established in a career I love, and I am working on it, but each time I feel it within my reach, I get stuck. I keep trying, making baby steps of progress, but it’s discouraging.

Now that we’ve covered obligations and commitments, we can actually get to me. Not the me that’s a mom, or a housekeeper, or a bookkeeper, but me. The creative bits of me who wants to make and build and get my stuff out there. I have so many interests and things I want to do that there will likely never be time for it all. I have no less than four – maybe five – crafty projects currently in the works. When I take the time to work on one, I pick whichever I’m most in the mood for. (Of course there are others I want to tackle, too, but that’s what I have going right now.) I have no less than four websites I am actively working on, and two others that I need to review at some point for updates and such. I have two novels in progress (technically three, but I’ve set one aside for now, unsure if I’ll ever want to finish it), and yet I long to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, which means adding another one. I have an account on CafePress, which means I have designs out there that people can put on products, and I would love to revamp some of my designs and add new ones.

Aside from the creative projects, part of me actually wants a simple life. I want to have quiet time to read and relax, watch movies or just be. I want to have a garden. I want to be able to volunteer and be involved and make a difference in the lives of others. I would love to be in a relationship, to have companionship and that feeling of being loved. I want to simply enjoy my life, though I also know it will never be that easy.

I am not saying all this to get sympathy. Or pity. Or to ask for solutions. I am simply wondering if I will ever be happy. I know many would say “so cut back,” “focus on one thing at a time,” “prioritize.” But it is so much easier said than done, especially when my brain doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t like focusing on one thing at a time, especially when the ideas come fast and furious whether I want them to or not. And when everything seems important, or I try to create a sense of balance so my life is not all work and no play. Nothing gets done. Not completely, anyway.

So I find myself a little stuck, trying to work as much as I can into my planner, trying to find pockets of time to make progress on the many projects or needs. I’m happy when I see progress – for a little while, anyway. And I suppose even with baby steps, eventually some of it will get done. So I will keep trying. I will continue to juggle the pieces of me, trying to prioritize and find a balance. Maybe someday things will quiet down.

Moving On

I would like to say that Emily’s birthday was a great day, and we celebrated and had fun, and I feel at peace. In Emily’s eyes, she did have a great day, and it was “the best birthday ever.” So there’s that, at least. But Avery was in some kind of mood, and he just wasn’t behaving. He wasn’t being very nice to Emily, wasn’t listening, etc. I think it was a combination of a bad night’s sleep and a bit of jealousy that Emily’s opinion was mattering more than his – it was her birthday after all – and he has trouble not being the one in charge. So that didn’t help matters. And I found out I didn’t get the job in East Hampton, which certainly didn’t help my personal mood and has occupied many of my thoughts since.

After getting depressed, upset, and then processing, I’ve determined it just wasn’t meant to be. I am not meant to work there full time. So I will keep applying, hoping to find the right fit. And in the meantime I will be ramping up my efforts for my “side hustles” – writing projects, websites, creative projects – that bring me joy and fulfillment.

With the kids starting their new school next week, it seems like a great time to start new routines, not just for them, but for me, too. Their new school starts earlier in the day, so I’ll actually have a little time to myself in the mornings, which could come in handy. I want to establish better cleaning habits – so my house can stop looking like a disaster area. And I want to actually implement routines for all my other projects, especially now that I want to put more effort into them.

The last several months have been tough, a roller coaster of emotions. But after the stress and anxiety of the last couple of weeks, I’m finally feeling a bit more like myself: proactive, ready to take charge of my life. This happened just under 11 years ago, when I started A Life You Want. When opportunity didn’t readily present itself, I did what I could to turn things around and get myself where I wanted to be. I accomplished pretty great things back then. Here’s hoping I can do it again.

A Moment of Peace

As I type this post, I find myself enjoying the first relaxing moments all week. Sure, there have been moments of “free time” here and there, but they’ve mostly consisted of waiting for something else to start. There has been zero relaxing. So I thought I would take a minute to catch everyone up.

Monday, as I mentioned previously, Avery had his evaluation. We were there for almost two hours, and we both filled out multiple paper questionnaires, then he had some additional open-ended “tests.” I had hoped we would get at least an indication of what was going on, but it sounds like we won’t get a synopsis of the results for several weeks. Bummer! It shouldn’t be too surprising, considering the number of assessments and the open-ended nature of some of them. But it’s going to be difficult to wait, especially with the transition to the new school next week. I only hope those weeks go by relatively easily. I learned a few days ago, too, that the tests won’t be completed with this batch, because Avery has been selected to test for the gifted and talented program through the school system. Not sure when that one’s taking place, though.

After the assessment, then lunch, I squeezed in a podcast interview. You’re probably thinking “what??” Yeah, that’s about right. LOL I’ve decided that I really want to get back to my writing. I think I’ve mentioned that. I may also have mentioned (maybe not…) that next year I want to get more “official” with it, having a publishing business name so my books don’t show they’re self-published from Amazon. I need to revamp my website, get into some routines, etc. etc. etc. Well, in a group I belong to on Facebook, a couple of people have inquired if anyone was interested in promotion opportunities they had. One was a podcast, in which the host interviews writers to discuss their process and tips and works, etc. One was a website that has printed interviews with different writers. I figured they could help kick-start my plan for next year. There wasn’t a cost or anything. So on Monday, I was able to squeeze in the podcast interview. I still have to fill out the questionnaire for the website, but I’ll need a little time for that. One step at a time!

Then, after the interview, I went to pick up the kids from school, then went to work. Picked up the kids, put them to bed, crashed, sleep.

Tuesday I worked, picked up the kids from school, then made the mistake of going to ShopRite and Michaels with them. I should have known better, but I really didn’t have another time that I could go, and I had to order Emily’s birthday cake and pick up some felt for a story time I was planning for one of my job interviews. Ran home, made dinner, then raced to Emily’s Girl Scout meeting. She enjoyed that, and I participated, too, so it was nice to spend time together. Avery went to Nana’s house, and he seemed good with that, too. Then home, bed, sleep.

Wednesday was just a typical Wednesday – work in Rocky Hill in the morning, work in East Hampton in the afternoon and evening. Busy busy but not horrible. Went home, put the kids to bed, had to do laundry (kids needed school clothes and underwear!), finished prepping for my interview, then went to bed. Fell asleep too late, made worse by tossing and turning thinking about the following day.

Today. Oh, today was tough. After a rough night sleep, I had to scramble to tie up loose ends and get the kids ready for school. Tomorrow’s Emily’s birthday, and she wanted to bring in little goodie bags for her classmates. And I wanted to write a few thank you notes for teachers that had been working with my kids. Today was their last day at their school. And I wanted to write an e-mail to their new principal to make sure I had all the information we needed for next week. But as stressful and emotional as all that was, of course that wasn’t all, because right after I dropped them off at school, I had to run down to East Hampton for my job interview. The interview started with the story time I had planned, then was followed by a panel interview. Got out a little earlier than anticipated, which worked out well, because while I had been conducting my story time, I had gotten a call from the new assistant principal, who wanted me to call her back to discuss my questions. After a half hour phone call, I was feeling positive about the new school, but I couldn’t breathe and relax yet, because I had to grab some lunch and head to my second job interview, over in Wethersfield.

The second job interview was definitely less stressful the first, and it was the shortest interview I have ever had – a whopping 10 minutes. I’m not sure what to make of that. I guess we’ll find out if it went well, if they contact me for a second interview. But, in any case, I couldn’t dwell on it. I had to go pick up a few groceries, pick up an ice cream cake for Emily’s birthday (ice cream cake on actual birthday, regular cake for party on Sunday), stop home to drop all that off, then pick up the kids at school.

*Deep Breath*

Just thinking back on everything I’ve done this week makes me exhausted. And that doesn’t take into account the too-little sleep or the emotional factors. I am ready to collapse. Fortunately the remaining activities for the week should be more fun, less exhausting.

So. I’ve survived. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that next week will probably be rough, too. The kids will be starting their new school, which is bound to be emotional and stressful. Fortunately next week is conference week, which means early dismissal all week (except for Monday, which is closed for Indigenous Peoples Day). I think the shorter days will help ease the transition. I only hope all of our nerves can handle the changes.

Tomorrow I should find out about the East Hampton job. I’m hoping for the best, but I know I can’t count on it. There were two other people in the running, and I don’t know how they compare. Fortunately there are other opportunities popping up, so even if that one doesn’t pan out, there will be other options. Fingers crossed something clicks sooner rather than later, though.

And, of course, my beautiful little girl. We’ll be celebrating all weekend with her, in between work commitments. I hope she has fun and is reminded of how amazing she is and how much she’s loved. But that reminds me – I have to finish wrapping her presents! Guess I know what I’ll be doing tonight.

For now, though, I’m going to try to soak up a few more minutes of relaxation before I need to make dinner. Until next time!