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Why yes, I am still alive!

October 5th, 2017 at 01:10 pm

Oh my gosh, I've been gone forever!

I hope I didn't worry anyone, given my horrific summer of surprise cancer and surgery. Alas, I have survived, and I am back to normal, like nothing happened at all. Moving, running, working out, all of it.

(Except I managed to pull an ab muscle, so I'm sitting here with a heating pad, but hey. I'll take it.)

It's almost surreal. Other than a few tiny scars, no one would know anything happened to me at all. In fact, most people-- apart from you guys and my very close friends and family-- don't know!

Since it was a quick cancer with a surgery and no chemo, I opted not to share the news with everyone (you know, parents at school, social only friends, etc.) because I didn't want them to think of me as sickly or to treat me differently. I didn't want them to worry about me, unless there was something real to worry about.

So yeah. That's good. It still blows my mind, though.

I guess the good news is that I haven't been here as much because I was

A. Finishing my 4th novel. (woot!) I managed to write it and finish a 70k word urban fantasy novel over the summer, despite the kids being out of school and being out for a month recovering from surgery. I still don't know how I did it!

B. Editing my 2nd novel and getting it ready to release on Nov. 15.
C. Working on random author stuff, like getting out there and connecting with readers who might like my stuff.

Financially, the medical bills played out in the best case scenario. I waited all summer for a big bill to come, but it didn't. My biggest expenses were the copays for my ER visit, and for my surgery, which were about $1500 up front.

I paid about $3000 out of pocket for everything, and the bills came just far enough apart that I was able to pay them out of pocket instead of dipping into savings. So that was a huge relief.

Of course, that meant I was not able to put money back into savings to replace the 9,000 we spent on a roof right before I went into the hospital. Sigh. But, I am plugging away at that, putting about $700 a month back into it. And just hoping that I will still be cancer free when I go in for a CT scan in January.

So yeah. I missed y'all!

From baby to preteen room... makeover...

July 13th, 2017 at 12:14 am

Well, I'm in earnest converting the toy room into my oldest's pre-teen moody testosterone lair.

We pulled all the toys out, emptied closets, etc., and boy how did my boys end up with so many toys?? It was chaos for a couple of days, but I got the closets done today and some things put away, so that helped.

As part of the transition, I gave the closet in both bedrooms some upgrades. Both boys will have two rods for hanging clothes and half a closet of toy storage and shelving. I was able to reuse a closet rod I'd taken out of my own bedroom when I redid my closets in Feb.

I had to buy 1 rod, two brackets, and three wire shelves. I spent just under $50 for all of it, so $25/closet in expenses.

Here are the pics. For the record, I have no idea why they are sideways. The originals aren't!

DS1 wants his own room, ADD, medical bills, etc.

July 9th, 2017 at 02:26 pm

Just a few odds and ends.

So far, my Big C medical bill tally:

$1300 in copays before surgery (paid)
$53 to the CTI scan (paid)
$252 to the anesthesiologist (mailing check tomorrow)

Bills are just starting to come in. Worse, are the "This is not a bill" papers with itemized lists of every rinky dink thing you used in the hospital. But no indication of what it costs or what you'll pay. Gar. Why can't I be Candian or European?

I've started spending my $500 home improvement budget, and so far, things are coming in less than expected!

I budgeted $25 to replace broken cereal bowls, but managed to get what I needed at Ikea for $9. I spent that 'extra' $16 on a replacement part for the dishwasher. The rack wheel broke! So, another project on the list, but no more budget spent.

I budgeted $40 for dish and bath hand towels, but spent $12 for 11 new ones, and I think those will get us by for a while. So that's $28 that can go to another project.

I also started looking for fabric to slipcover the ugly chair, and realized if I use fuzzy throws and blankets, which are super soft and comfy-- and just also happen to be large pieces of fabric for less than the per yard cost at the fabric store-- I can get it done for about $40. Which would be awesome.

Of course, my 9-year-old threw a wrench in my plans by giving me a sincere and heartfelt plea for why he should move into his own room. That's always been the plan. He shares with his 7-year-old brother right now, and has for four years. We have a 'toy' room that was always designated as his bedroom once he hit puberty.

I guess he didn't want to wait for puberty. And, the more I'm reading about 9-year-olds, the more I understand this is the phase when they want privacy, and independence, and something of their own. And frankly, since they are only 19 months apart and it's been easier for us and they didn't mind until now, they've shared EVERYTHING for years. Friends, activities, same school, same room, even share clothes because they are the same size.

I just feel bad I didn't realize all this until DS1 said something.

So yeah, we agreed. It's time for them both to have their own space and their own identity.

After some calculating. Furniture wise, We can have the toy room transformed into pre-teen boy hang out for about $300. This includes a loft bed frame, his homework desk, mattress (the bunk beds will stay together in their current room, for DS2 and guests), and any other odds and ends.

I haven't been spending much lately, so we should be able to swing this out of cash flow in the next two weeks or so.

I am feeling a little better every day, post surgery. It's been 3 weeks, 2 days? Last night, I could finally sleep on my side comfortably. Yay!

I'm also going to spend some time weeding the garden today.Gah! Something always happens in June that lets the weeds get away from me. and as much as Dh promises every spring that he's all about the garden and will help and weed, he never does.

Sigh. I did not marry a fix-it or do-it man. Pretty much everything outside of his job, and folding osme laundry, I do. I fix, I grow, I paint, I maintain, and honestly, it's overwhelming. And I'm not that good at it, so it's death by a thousand cuts of broken things around here!!

He isn't doing it to be a jerk. We realized through the journey of discovery of our youngest son's severe ADD that he got it from his dad. So many things in our relationship made sense after figuring that out.

Anyway, part of that is obliviousness to details, 'forgetting' to do things you've been asked to do (They have good intentions, but anything that isn't immediately in front of them doesn't exist, ergo easily distracted and forgetful.)He even forgets full conversations had only hours before AND big chunks of our past 15 years together.

Anyway, I'm not mad about it. It's the way his brain works. But, with my being out of play for a month this summer, and watching the world crumble without all the drudge work I do every day, it got me thinking it's time to figure out a way to simplify our lives, minimize the 'things' we need to take care of, in order to take workload off of me.

The help isn't coming, so it's time to figure out what can stay, what can go, and what can be reconfigured to make it easier for me to do on my own.

Like the garden. Maybe it's time to ditch the complicated raised beds that are hard to mow around and that I have to spend hours weed-whacking, and just do straight rows that I can mow around? And then maybe fewer rows, since the boys don't really help much with maintaining once the novelty of spring has passed?

As for indoor tasks, we are making the boys do much more for themselves since I can't. It's actually been good, because I did too much for them anyway, and they're old enough to take care of more.

Just thinking out loud!

Darn you, CeeJay! ;)

July 7th, 2017 at 12:50 am

You must have gotten into my brain like a gourmet amoeba!

I don't know what came over me. But today, I made three new recipes.

1. A new marinade plus recipe for baked chicken legs.

2. I had most of a stale (amazing) baguette leftover from the farm market yesterday. They are amazing but they don't last, because they are baked with no preservatives, so I thought. Hmmm. I'll try that recipe for bread pudding and caramel sauce! (On the stove, as we speak.)


3. Then, I had five tiny tiny granny smith apples leftover from last week's farm share. One more day, and they'd start to go bad, so another Hmmmm... I made an apple-pie ice cream sauce and it was a huge hit for dessert. It seriously tasted just like apple pie. On ice cream. I'm dying!

Normally, I dread cooking. But, maybe there's something to putting more effort into trying new things and being creative. Maybe it'll get us out of our dinnertime rut!

This is my favorite time in the food year, though. We're getting produce out of the garden and can buy most of everything else at the farmer's market. Good living!

Tightwad gazette, $500 budget

July 5th, 2017 at 06:23 pm

Gah! I lost the original version of this post! So frustrating!

Anyway. I was GOING to say, before it was all wiped away...

While I'm stuck at home recovering, I've been re-reading the Tightwad Gazette. Once you've been cheap for 20 years, there aren't a lot of ideas left to try, but I like to go through some of the classics for inspiration and maybe ideas I've missed.

Most of the TG falls into the 1. already doing it 2. not relevant or 3. not my thing categories.BUT, I am going to try the grocery price book. I've never done it, and maybe writing down what things we buy cost at different stores will come in handy.

I dug out a tiny notebook and wrote down my categories, and we'll see how it works out!

I'm also revisiting reusing plastic Ziploc bags. I prefer to put leftovers etc into reusable glass pyrex with lids, but DH still puts stuff in Ziplocs, tries to wash them but never really gets them clean.

I, seeing the dirty bag, get grossed out and throw it away,but now I'm thinking of trying harder to get them clean. I hate the idea of all that plastic waste put out into the environment. Any tips on washing and drying them effectively?

$500 home improvement

We rescued a 1970s modern lounge chair from the in-laws. It's super comfy, looks modern,and is one of DH's favorite childhood chairs. They were going to put it on the curb.

Only problem: The 80s. floral upholstery. The MIL loves to cover everything in flowers. Not my style. And, in this case, it's dirty. SO, I got an estimate for a real reu[holstery job and it came back at $500.

Cringe. But I originally planned to do it anyway. Then I thought, "geesh, my friends I used to re-cover thrift store furniture in our 20s,a nd it looked fun and lasted a long time. I bet I could do that with this chair."

I inspected the chair and I think I can make a washable slipcover that looks like new upholstery with maybe a day's work.

And, since I'm stuck at home recovering, I've noticed a long list of smallish house projects that need to be done, so I wondered how many of those I could do with that $500. I want to find out, so I'm allocating $500 to misc. house projects.

Here's a rough plan

1. $100. Reupholster chair/ottoman
2. $100. Reupholster office chair
3. $50 to $75. Scrape and re-paint my master bathroom.
4. $40. Buy all new dish and bath hand towels. Ours are awful, and at least 15 years old.
5. $25. Replace all the Japanese ceramic cereal bowls we've broken.
6. $60 plus whatever is left-- either replace the broken stereo speaker with a used set or rent a steam cleaner and clean three sofas plus the interior of my car,which is super gross from the kids.

Food for thought. I think I'm gonna do this littler experiment and see how it works.

in other news

Three more days and It'll have been three weeks since surgery. As expected, I am not back to normal. Sigh.

Yes, I can do more. Yes, I can drive. But two to three hours of activity leaves me wiped out and needing nap. (I am trying to sleep more, since that is when the body heals.)

I still can't bend over to pick things up off the floor. Since my incisions are on my torso, they limit movements until they heal 100 percent. Sigh!

This is all very frustrating for an on-the-go gal like myself. I want to be back to normal!! I hate feeling like I'm on pause!

Plus, a bit of the gravity of the 'C' word might be sinking in, and the reality of if it hadn't been for all this, I would have been dead in the next couple of years. I'm having some feels related to that. Maybe reevaluating my priorities and how I'm living my day-to-day life.

Gah! SO many feels!

Slinking back to normal

June 30th, 2017 at 02:53 pm

I had my post-op visit with the Dr. yesterday. (We ribbed him a little because he looks a lot like Mark Wahlberg.)

Everything is well. Caught at stage 1= lower chance of recurrence, no evidence of spread, if I can make it through the next five years without getting it again, my chances get even smaller as time goes on. As long as I exercise every day and keep my weight in check, my chances are even lower. That's fine, because I do those things anyway.

So, I guess if you're going to get cancer, this is the way to do it-- surgery and no chemo and boom, done. Feels weird to say that!

I am thankful.

My friends and my mom chipped in a lot to help me, hubby, and the boys through it. I'm lucky to have good and caring and genuine people in my life.

Life is good.

And, I'm getting better every day. I still can't comfortably put on my shoes of pick things up off the floor, but I was able to make the bed, clean up, do laundry and vaccuum today. (Phew! Boys sure are bad at housekeeping!)

I'm also cleared to drive, so I did one short trip to the closest grocery store yesterday to stock us up. I realized, these past two weeks, that hubby only buys snack foods-- not ingredients-- when he shops. (As in, cheese and crackers, rather than meat to make a main).

Normally, I go to at least 2 grocery stores for the best prices, but I didn't want to push it. Besides, I needed a nap after one short grocery shopping trip!

Tomorrow, I'm taking the boys to see Despicable Me 3. I think I can swing it, and it'll make the boys feel that mom is more back to normal.

It's been hard on them, seeing me like this, for sure. DS2, age 7, is more heart on his sleeve about his fears and feelings. He had nightmares about my death while I was at the hospital.

DS1, age 9, is more subtle with his feelings, but I can tell he's been upset and upended by all of this. We've all made an effort to talk to him and let him know he can talk to us, and that this is all going to be all right.

Hubby seems mostly okay, but I can tell the stress is getting to him. It's been hard for him to do all of his jobs plus my jobs, but he's been a good sport about it. We have our problems, like any married couple, but he's really got it where it counts. He knows what does and doesn't matter in the big picture of life. And now that I'm up and around, he's less worried.

I guess I didn't realize my boys see me as "action mom" not "lay in bed mom", and they know I'm seriously not feeling well if I am laying in bed.

We did have a (half) laugh about the in-laws though. Any of you who know me know the big issues I've had with them.

When the flowers started getting delivered, every single one, DH would say "Oh, I bet this is from my mom." None of them were. Nor were any of the cards. He was hurt.

They sent me one email during all of this: One sentence asking what the doctor said about the cancer (the science, not how are you feeling?), and then they spent the other 35 lines asking ME to pray for THEM because they're trying to sell a rental property and are worried the contract won't go through.

Sigh. FIL has had cancer 5 times since we got married 15 years ago, and each time they expected both of us to drop whatever we were doing to drive 1000 miles to their house to be with them while they were in the hospital or recovering. Which we did. They also would call us 10 times a day crying about their mortality, and we'd spend hours on the phone trying to soothe them.

Ha. Last year, the in-laws meh reaction would have hurt my feelings or made me angry, but after this past year, I feel like I know them so much better. I don't think they mean any harm, and I don't think they realize how self-absorbed and unconcerned they are with anyone other than themselves. I certainly can't change that. Oh well!

In other news, it was payday, and I'm back to paying bills. $350 for car insurance, plus I managed to pay the $1200 in hospital and ER copays we'd put on the card. The freezer was bare bones empty, too, so I spent $257 on local, grass-fed, free-range beef, chicken and pork from a local farmer. They deliver it tomorrow.

As a result, I wasn't able to put any extra money back in savings to make up for the $8000 we took out to replace the roof. Not happy about it, but we're in survival mode right now, so it is what it is. I could have skipped the meat order, but that saves us on the grocery bill long-term, so...

No hospital bills have arrived yet, which is fine with me. Although I don't like knowing what the bottom line will be, if they filter in slowly, we should be able to pay them out of cash rather than savings.

That would be a relief. So, fingers crossed on that!

Recovery is the worst... ;)

June 23rd, 2017 at 03:08 pm

Not really. I know I should be grateful to be alive and all, but boy, recovering from surgery is so boring!! It's a mental willpower game!

I'm not the kind of person who sits around all day. And right now, I can't do much else but sit around all day. I see things that need cleaned up, and I want to clean them, but I'm not physically able to, then I'm annoyed looking at them. Uh, is that normal??

And of course, now that I've stopped taking pain meds (talk about the worst) and am through the mental fog, the kids think I can take them to do this and that, but I can't drive, can't walk very far, can't do anything fun.

Gah!! Will I ever be back to normal??????

I'm alive. (Updated)

June 20th, 2017 at 03:24 pm

I made it through surgery and I am home. I am alive, but feel like I've been hit by a truck. Geesh. Never knew recovery would hurt this much!

Doctor said there were no surprises and it looks like the big C hadn't spread. Lab work/biopsy will be back in a few days.

Thank you all for your well wishes.


I've been home 3 days and feel much less like I've been hit by a truck, although I am shuffling around the house like a little old man. Stop taking the pain meds because the worst of the pain is over.

Talked to the doc. It was clear cell renal carcinoma, the most common type, and he said they didn't find it in any of the adjoining tissue and he doesn't expect a recurrence.

So all good so far.

Sometimes, you do everything right and it doesn't matter

June 15th, 2017 at 04:09 pm

Well, everyone. This week has not worked out the way I had planned it at all. It's been a life-changing whirlwind, to say the least.

Apparently, at 42, despite the world's most boring medical history -- no prescriptions, no problems, relatively fit, non-smoker, thin, and no family history. I have cancer. Yep. The big C. Kidney cancer.

I'm blindsided, of course. I went to the Dr. on Monday thinking I had a UTI. Turns out it was a kidney stone, so I ended up in the ER. When I thought I was about to go home and it was over, the doctor told me they found cancer or something like it on my kidney. I was admitted. They did more scans. It is cancer.

They say this is good news, that this kidney stone saved my life.

Kidney cancer has no symptoms and it's usually found only when it's spread and it's too late. They say even though the risk factors are obesity and smoking, most of the people who get it don't have either of those. They're like me. No reason to get it, it's just bad luck.

There aren't many effective treatments once it spreads. It's a death sentence. They tell me it hasn't spread, that I won't need chemo, but of course, they won't know that for 100 percent sure until they take it out.

So tomorrow, I go to the hospital to have a kidney removed. I really didn't see it coming. Not at all.

So yeah. Of course I'm scared. I've never had surgery before, and I'm terrified of that. (Hell, I just got my first cavity last fall and I thought that was traumatizing!)

But, I'm even more terrified of dying before my work is done. I have two boys to raise, I have a mom I promised I'd take care of in her old age. I promised to put her to rest. I can't leave before her. I just can't.

So yes. They say it's good news, and I hope that turns out to be true. I really really do.

But in case it's not, I want y'all to know this community has been wonderful these past ten years. You have helped me through a lot of transitions and hard times, and I value all of you. Thank you all!

Wish me luck!

My new favorite charity

June 11th, 2017 at 02:07 pm

With two boys, I'm perpetually accumulating a 'donate' pile of outgrown books, clothes, and toys.

I used to just drop them off at the Goodwill around the corner, but my recent shopping trips there have been eye-popping. (Some of you have already commented on how they're charging new or near-new retail prices for donated items). I know they have to cover rent and all... but....

Thankfully I discovered a local "free store" run by a Methodist church in a high poverty area about 5 miles from my house. It's just like a thrift store-- nice racks of clothes, and items arranged on shelves-- only it's in the church basement, run all by the nicest volunteers, and everything in the store is free for anyone in the neighborhood who is in need. They also offer free meals several times a week.

I'm hooked. I really LOVE knowing that my stuff is going to kids and families who really need it. And they don't have to pay a dime.

Yes. I know donating to thrift shops isn't enough charity to change the world. It's just one part of what we do.

But I love that there's a kid who'll actually have a bike to ride around on this summer because my son donated the one he'd outgrown, and that kid didn't have to walk into a Goodwill, want the bike, but have his mom say no because they couldn't afford the $50 thrift-store price tag!!

Plus, the volunteers are so nice. It's clear they really put their hearts into the venture and that it's making a meaningful difference in their lives and in the community. Good vibes all around!

Apparently, there are free stores in other towns as well, so maybe there's one near you that's worth checking out?

Summer break...YouTube Channel?

June 9th, 2017 at 12:30 pm

well, it certainly is an adjustment having the boys around all day. Boy. They love each other a lot but they sure can fight!

I chalk it up to being so close in age--19 months apart. Lots of competition for resources since they're basically into the same thing.

I have managed so far to keep the summer spending in check. The weekly kid entertainment and food budget has helped! It's cold hard cash that I can show to the kids and they can SEE when there's a lot and when it's disappearing. A couple times, the boys actually opted to eat at home to save the money for ice cream out later! Sniff. So proud.

Next week, the rubber really hits the road, though, because our one busy week (this week) where my oldest has an animation camp will be over. Let the unstructured summer begin.

Now onto YouTube. My kids, when I asked them if they had any new year's resolutions back in January said they wanted to start a youtube channel. I was skeptical, at first, given they're only 7 and 9, but after much thought, we finally let them do it.

So far, it's only a handful of the videos DS1 has made at animation camp. They aren't very good, because he's learning, but... he's totally into it. And he wants to keep making movies, and I want to encourage him to CREATE not just CONSUME!! When it comes to media.

The rules of his channel: kid friendly, no bad words (poop jokes excluded. Come on they're kids!) and no saying their names, school, etc.

We're going to invest the $50 in software and stop-motion cameras after the camp is done so he can keep going.

SO, if you want to watch some bad, but lovingly created lego stop motion animation my boys made, here it is!


I want to encourage him to pursue his interests, which right now are making movies, having a channel, and skateboarding!

It's interesting to watch them turn from babies to elementary schoolers. When the boys were born, I always wondered who they were in their hearts and what they'd be interested in. It's only taken nearly a decade to find out!

The summer money pit

May 23rd, 2017 at 01:05 am

The kids start summer vacation on Friday. Gah! I'm so stressed out. We seem to eat through money while the kids are on break. All the extra activities, and meals, and I don't even know what!

Maybe all my careful planning and budgeting goes out the window from stress.

What do you do to keep from hemorrhaging money while the kids are out of school???

I feel like I'm cheating on you.

April 6th, 2017 at 03:49 pm

Seriously. I used to lurk on SA all day, but lately, I've been spending all my time on Kboards!!

I hope you'll forgive me. Once I decided to self-pub my first novel, I had to go there to learn as much as I could about doing that successfully. Refer to 2017 Career goal on my sidebar ---- Welp. Goal met!

Bear with me as I recap...

As some of you remember, I've been a freelance writer for 9 years, since my oldest was born, and it was not only difficult to have constant deadlines with two little kids and limited daycare, but the pay rates kept going down (thanks Great Recession), and then I lost 60 percent of it to taxes. (Yay self-employment tax penalty!)

DH and I eventually decided the paltry amount of money I was clearing after taxes (which amounted to almost nothing after childcare) just wasn't worth the stress.

So...I decided to pursue my life-long ambition of writing fiction and tone down the freelance, since I wasn't really making any money anyway, might as well take the risk right?

Stick with me. There really is some finance in this story!

Zoom ahead to now:
I tried traditional publishing, and I'm told for a very first ever novel, I did better than most:

1. one agent read the whole book, but declined bc publishers aren't buying paranormal romances anymore. A couple other agents declined the query for the same reason. I'm told getting any response from an agent is good. Still hurt my feelings, though.

2. The book won one Romance Writers of America contest for young adult fiction. It was a real honor! The book placed third for young adult romance in a second RWA contest. Also, another honor.

So, all in all for a first try, I'm satisfied with that. Now that I'm in a professional author's group, I hear a lot of people saying they never got a bite until their sixth or eight book!

Which leads me to now. I didn't want to put the novel in a drawer just because it's not what five publishers are buying right now. I decided to self pub, which is why I've been cheating on SA with Kboards! (Professional development. I'll always love you guys most.)

So the big news is I just hit publish on the paperback version of my book! Feels good to see it for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And the bigger surprise: I've sold 16 copies so far. (Net: $41 in royalties, which means TECHNICALLY I'm a pro writer now. Goal met!)

The ebook version goes live on May 1, which, I'm lead to believe, is where the real sales begin. I'll be enrolling it in Kindle Unlimited, which pays you for every page kindle members read of the book.

My expenses, other than time, were $12 for the licensing fee for the cover photo. Thanks to my experience in journalism, I saved a ton of money on production costs.

I edited the book myself, then handed it to my mom for proofreading (She's good and picky about misspellings and commas). I'm not saying it's 100 percent error free, but it's close. All those years copy editing paid off.

Then, who knew that one graphic design class I took in college would pay off? I created my own ebook cover and print book wraparound cover (free) instead of having to pay a designer to do it.

The rest-- formatting and reviewing the print book layout and learning how to and formatting in the various ebook formats-- just took time and practice. Both turned out better than I expected.

So yes. Life goals, right?

Here is the link, as per LuckyRobin's request....

Off to a decent start...

January 12th, 2017 at 07:09 pm

Nothing much to report. Which I suppose is good?

We're almost done with the second week of our $400 week for everything but bills budget. It seems to be going well!

It's almost refreshing in a way to have limits. It makes me more mindful, and it keeps extraneous stuff and purchases from entering the house.

We do have some CC debt to pay off from December, the month of crazy and Christmas wherein we always overspend, but with the budget, it should be gone by the end of the month, before I incur any interest charges.


I'm back on the wagon and nearly finished the the second novel in my Salt Creek series. Phew! I'm learning to write faster and better drafts.

It took me about six months to write book 1, then about five more years to edit it and revise it 5 more times. (In my defense, I had work and two fresh babies.)

Book two, I started in October, and it will likely be finished next week. (First draft, that is). The revisions will likely go more smoothly, as my first draft is a much more coherent story. I guess you do learn by doing!

I also downloaded a writing productivity app called 5,000 Words per hour. It's free. It really does work. It's basically a stop watch. You write in sprints, to see how many words you can get down on paper in X amount of time. It certainly has helped me focus, and made me feel less guilty getting out of my chair to do other things before my 2,000 word count goal was met.

So yay for free productivity apps!

The only bad part about writing more is I'm not getting as much exercise! Boy, my fitbit is like "what happened??"

Writing more= sitting more. Boo. I'm sure all of your in the fitbit challenges with me will cut me some slack, right? Wink


I'm back on Swagbucks, and have already banked about $40 in Amazon cards. I had some old points lurking there, I made a purchase through their portal (stuff I was going to buy at the store anyway), and did some videos,polls, and earned some search points.

So, yeah. It's a lot of time and work, but that's basically free money. Once my CC rewards hit, I might actually be able to buy a new record player on Amazon for free!

I have so many great albums that didn't make it to CD or digital music, and I've missed listening to them since the record player doesn't work. (Been repaired twice. Didn't last. Boo.)

I'm also planning to do the mini 52-week savings challenge. In my piggybank. For next December's Xmas money. I haven't started yet. I know I know,but I will download the chart today and use the spare change in my purse to keep up. I swear. I will. Wink

SA FitBit Group last call!

January 4th, 2017 at 07:32 pm

I'm taking the SA fitbit group private tomorrow so join now if you want in!


OMG. I'm boring! Boring! Boring!

January 3rd, 2017 at 04:31 am

Welp. It happened. It snuck up on me. Today I realized I am a boring parent. Geesh. No wonder my kids are bored! I'm bored out of my skull! How could I not be boring???

How did I get boring?

I've long had this feeling of malaise about motherhood. I love my kids more than anything, don't get me wrong, and I dutifully do homework, PTA, take them to and participate in enrichment/sports, read to them (lots), and occasionally take them on trips.

But, when we're wiling around the house most days, I'm bored out of my mind. I feel confined to the house because they aren't old enough to be home alone.

It's kind of this terrible sensation of
1. feeling like life 'out there' is passing me by, and
2. Wanting to be part of it,but taking the kids places is such drama. They complain, they never want to do the same thing, they want to leave the minute we get there. etc.

Anyway. Long story short. I either don't go places, or I go without them and leave them home with hubby. (We take turns.)

I'm writing this assuming I am not the only mom who has felt like this or been through it. But also because something changed in me today.

It's like something clicked. I don't know if it's permanent, but it's something. Before I talk about the click, let me back up.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how children learn skills and learn how to be grown ups, and I keep coming back to the idea of the apprenticeship. Kids learn about being grown up by watching grown ups around them. Watching us build, fix, work garden, socialize with our friends. etc.

And then I think.Huh.They're learning to be bored by watching me be bored. They're learning to stay home because children as a hassle. What a crappy life lesson.

I also think a lot about what kind of experiences I'd like them to be exposed to, and what kind of things I'd like to show them in the world. And I think well, someday, I'll.... Then it doesn't come because, you know, they complain a lot and are hard to manage when we're out. It's HARD to take them into the world. So we don't go out into it.

Okay. Back to the click. We've been out of school since Dec. 20. OMG. That is so long. We're out of the 'usual' kid stuff we always do. We've had playdates at our house, and they're bored of that. We've done everything we 'usually' do: Christmas, trampoline park, Chuck E Cheese, eating out, etc.

So, this morning, I called up another mom in the same predicament and declared we were all going roller skating. I'm tired of the same old, I like roller skating, the boys have never done it, so let's do it.

I didn't tell my boys what we were doing until we were in the parking lot, because I knew they'd complain. And of course, all they did was whine when we got there. Then I flat out said. "No whining. All I ask is you have an open mind and try it, and if you don't like it, we won't come back again." They agreed ( I was surprised).

So... Background. I played roller derby. I can run, jump, and karate kick on skates, and I love it. It's my fav thing. But I haven't gone for 5 years, because the kids would never go.

We're at the place. We've all got skates on, and within 10 minutes it was a disaster. The boys kept falling. They couldn't seem to put my lessons into action. They were mad, and sat on the sidelines, huffing about wanting to go home. I felt terrible. I felt that feeling of "Why did I bother? Why did I waste the money? Why can't I ever do anything fun?" That I often have when the boys fall apart at some activity.

Then the click. I told them "Fine. Stay right here and I'm going to skate around for a bit."

So they stayed. They pouted. And pouted. Then something happened. The oldest stopped pouting and tried again. And again. Without my intervention. And after a few more rounds he almost got it. He was so close. Sure, the youngest laid down in protest and refused to talk/walk/skate/laugh, but hey, you can't win them all. At least he stayed put and didn't wander off. Apparently, I just have to put wheels on their feet to keep them still. That's a win.

After I skated for a while, I gave the youngest $5 worth of tokens for the arcade and he went off. And I skated some more. Enough to work up a tiny bit of sweat. And, while I could have skated all day, at that point 30-45 minutes was a coup.

After we were in the car, the oldest meekly said he'd be willing to go with me and try it again. Hazzah! Success!

Pardon the long rant. I bring it up because I think the boredom of my daily life is killing me, and I'm sure a lot of people feel the same.

I've always been an on-the-go cultural/experience/travel kind of girl, and that died when I had kids. I've been trying for a long time to figure out how to add it back in with children, and my answer to always go without them is limiting for both me (timewise) and them (missing out on cultural things).

As part of my new year, I'm determined to turn it around for us. I must remind my children to keep an open mind, and I must remind myself the price of staying home because they get a little complainy when going out, is missing out and being bored.

I'm declaring it. No more boring mom. No more boring kids. It's time for some culture, darn it. And it's time to kiss the comfort zone goodbye.

On that note. I'm taking one or both children to free day at the art museum this Sunday. And, I signed the oldest up for his first ski lesson and ski day. (He's 8. It's cub scout day, so deep discount.) He's nervous, but he'll be a natural. I know it.

I've declared it. Death to boredom!

(UPDATE: I forgot to tell you we're also FOOD boring. My oldest is soo picky, we pretty much have to eat burgers every time we eat out, And I'm not much of a Betty Crocker, so I have a limited menu of items I make at home. So yes. Earlier this week, my youngest declared we were going to Indian for lunch (yay!). My biggest had a fit, but we went anyway. He ate white rice and a mango lassi. I tried not to 'nag' him about food, but still. It's disappointing. He's missing out on so much good food. But no more burgers! Death to food boredom!)

Phew! We made it to 2017!

January 1st, 2017 at 07:53 pm

I love the New Year's feeling. Finally, the stress and go-go of the Thanksgiving to Christmas season is finished and I can take time to get my/our lives back in order!

Our plan for New Years is similar to other years.

-Live on a cash weekly budget. $400/week for everything but bills.

When we stick to this, it improves our financial lives immensely. It's usually me who falls off track when I get busy or stressed out about the kids. So, fingers crossed, here we go again!

-Save money from every paycheck. (401k set to max out ($18,000) as usual. $500 every two weeks to savings, $288 every two weeks to property taxes, $200/month per kid to the 529.) My freelance checks go to my IRA.

-Give more. We set up our monthly contributions for charities in 2017, and we went from 2 a month to five a month. We'll see how this goes!

Our non financial and more life-quality goals include:

-Try new independently-owned bakeries and donut shops. The boys love seeking these out and it's a fun, not too expensive treat/adventure.

-Eat quality food, like meat from the local farm family, veggies from our garden and from our farmer's market, organic when possible, minimally processed as much as possible, etc. To this end, I am thinking of thrifting a bread machine to try to make my own. Some friends have one and love it, and I see the darn things everywhere for cheap!

For me:

-I'm ready to dress well. I've kind of let that part of me go since the kids but I'm ready to have a decent wardrobe. I'm not talking ridiculous designer duds. I mean a well-chosen, useful, mix n match minimalist wardrobe where everything is in good repair and fits.

I'll be doing a closet purge, and be on the lookout for useful items. I'm also going to read some books at the library about dressing for your body, etc. for ideas!

My goal is also to become a professional fiction author this year. Like CJ, I plan to self publish my first novel or two this year. The timeline I had planned is in question now, because I'm a finalist in two Romance Writers of America contests and as part of entering, agreed the books were not published. SO, I have to wait until that's all over. A good problem to have, I suppose.

Speaking of books, this time of year I usually dust off and re-read some of my favorite go-to books to get inspired not only for a more meaningful and frugal life, but also for my spring garden (Seeds are ordered already!)

These books are:

"The Freedom Manifesto" by Tom Hodgkinson. This is kind of a weird little book I picked up on a lark from Barnes and Noble ten years ago. And I love it. It's a very unusual personal finance -kind of- book.

"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. I can't tell you how many times I've read this. It helps on an intentional living front, on garden inspiration, on clean eating. All of it. And of course it's beautifully written.

"The Good Life." BY Scott and Helen Nearing. Technically a homesteading book, I like it for lots of reasons. Frugality, intentional living, garden plans, being resourceful, etc.

So, let the fun of 2017 begin!!

Saving advice Fitbit Challenge Info!

December 29th, 2016 at 04:06 pm

Hi All. Some of you have expressed interest in doing fitbit challenges with other SAers. I've started an SA fitbit community on the fitbit site.

Sign up here if you want to fitbit with us!


In a week or so, once everyone is signed up, I'll take the group private, so don't wait!!

Thank God it's over, and 2017

December 27th, 2016 at 03:34 pm

In-laws have gone home. No more house guests. My house is mine. I spent all day yesterday in a super-charged cleaning mood. Every scrap of laundry and bedding washed, dried, and folded, bathrooms scrubbed. Floors and rugs vacuumed.

Although, the house keeps falling back into chaos thanks to the boys nerf bullets!

MIL Update

For those of you eating popcorn and watching my MIL drama unfold, here is the takeaway: The FIL enlightened me about who she is and what motivates her. And, I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me. No, I can't get rid of her, but it clearly is her problem, and I'm justified with pointing it out when she's being critical.

I avoided alone time with her as much as possible this trip because I didn't want to deal with her. Plus, her ire was aimed at the FIL because they fought on the way here about how controlling she is.

Besides him telling me that she has to be in control all the time (which was a gem, and reaffirmed what her sister told me) FIL explained that she isn't controlling or domineering because she wants to be the boss, she does it when she is outside of her comfort zone and is incredibly uneasy/scared/uncomfortable.. so, she unleashes the controlling and the criticism in an attempt to reign in the situation to something back safely inside her comfort zone.

This explains why she is worse when we travel. She is the consummate homebody. Being in the world freaks her out, ergo, she's already off kilter when traveling. Then throw me into the mix...

And... the problem with me is that everything I do is outside of her comfort zone, and outside of the zone of what she understands and is comfortable with. (she's incredibly old-fashioned. As in, married couples are even supposed to shop together all the time, and never be on their own! Me and DH taking trips to be with friends without each other drives her nuts. She thinks we're having affairs.)

FIl said "You've lived a freer life than she has ever had." To which I said that was of her own choosing. He agreed, but then said she didn't understand, because it never occurred to her to make choices other than those she was raised with...

So yes, I wish I would have known all this 15 years ago so I could have reigned her in. But here we are. At least I have the information to set boundaries now.

Phew. Enough about that. I'm ready to move on and start a new (albeit politically frightening) year.

A New Year is Coming.

So... in short. We didn't make all of our savings goals for 2016. We did meh. But hey. At least we paid off our house. That is a coup.

Now, I need to move on and plan for a post-mortgage financial life.

We shouldn't have any CC debt from the holidays once payday arrives. But, we spend too much overall, and I feel with all the political uncertainty that we need to scrimp scrimp scrimp while at the same time upping our donations to nonprofits and political causes.

So... I guess my new year's plan for us is--Keep It Simple and Do What's Worked for Us in the Past!

We'll have $400 a week as a family for groceries, entertainment, and discretionary spending. (Pretty much everything that isn't a bill). Plus the kids' weekly allowances, and the adult weekly allowances.

(Each of us get $1 a week for every year old we are. DH gets $43, I get $41, DS1 gets $8, DS2 gets $7 a week, to spend on whatever we want.) This seems high for the kids, but we expect them to save up for and buy their own video games/toys/extra treats and donuts, etc. And, it seems to be enough that they have to save up, but can do it in a reasonable enough time that they don't think it's hopeless and give up.So, it works for us.

So really, with the $400 plus allowances, the budget is $499/ week.

We also need to save $280/ check to pay the property tax bill ($6,706/year). Plus, I have been putting $500 per check in savings. I can meet these goals and maybe more if we can stick to the weekly budget MOST weeks.

We'll see. I'm feeling ready to move on from the excess of Christmas. It's just too much!

I hope to start bringing in snowflakes again this year. I used to, when I first joined SA, and brought in north of $1,000 a year. I guess I forgot about all that once I had kids!

Now, I have the time to try to bring in some snowflakes. I started swagbucks again. The coupon part might work out for me. I'm open to any other suggestions!


So, I try to stay fit. Reasonably, at least. I just don't have the time and dedication to get buff.

I received a fitbit charge for Xmas. It has taken days to set up the app, but we finally seem to have everything working. Yay!

My plan is to see what my 'base' activity level is. As in, wear it for a few weeks without changing my routine, and see how many steps, etc. I average. Then, once the data is in hand, add more. (I'd love to get an SA fitness fitbit challenge going too!)

I'm trying to be flexible with these goals because I know how life is. But my daily goal, in the interest of simplicity, is to move and use my body every day.

I do 10 to 20 minutes of core and back exercises every day, to keep my lower back pain in check. (Seeing the physical therapist was a life changer. My advice? If you have degenerative disc disease, don't put it off. Go to the therapist. My pain was gone after 3 weeks and it hasn't come back thanks to the simple daily exercises she gave me.)

Plus, I walk to the library and the kids to school. So, Maybe I can add in walking/biking to the bank or to the grocery store at some point. We'll see!

Professional Goals

I've been dreaming of it and talking about it for years, but 2017 is the year I become a professional fiction writer. I feel it. I have a plan.

My first novel is finished and is up for two awards sponsored by the Romance Writer's of America. (Trying not to be excited...) I find out in February how I placed in the final tally.

The final judges are editors at the Big Five publishing houses. Maybe they'll request the full manuscript. If not, I plan to self pub in March, in paperback and on kindle and in itunes.

The first draft of the second book in that series is 80 percent complete. I'd hoped to have it finished before Xmas, but alas, into January it will go. I try to write 2k words a day every week day. It goes quickly when I'm that productive. I'm still working on structuring my day to be more productive. I, like my novels, am a work in progress.

Anyway... The goal is to write two more full-length novels in 2017. (50k to 80k words) Book 3 in the series, and either book 4 OR one of the other book ideas I've been toying with.

I also have a couple short story/novella ideas floating around, but I'm not going to commit, because life always gets in the way! But if I do have time, I'd like to write the first draft of those just so I can get the ideas out of my brain and into the real world.

Overall, I'm optimistic. You have to make the life you want, right?


My hope for 2017 is that I can become a more giving person.

We have a friend, Steve, a single dad, an engineer. He's like an onion. He seems so gruff, and cursing, etc. on the outside, but he is pure gold on the inside.

One of our more casual friends mentioned to me over Thanksgiving that she was losing sleep over their property tax bill. They work hard, but they are low income, and have had a lot of health set backs the last couple of years. AFter they left, I told Steve and my two lady friends that instead of giving gifts to each other, we should pool our money to pay their overdue property tax bill.

If they get foreclosed on, they'll be in bigger financial trouble. Anyway, we all agreed. then I looked at the bill and realized it was $6,000. My two other friends bailed, and while I debated taking the money out of savings to bail them out, Steve just went and did it. He took the cashiers check down to the treasurer without a second thought.

He's always like that. Does the good and generous thing without a second thought and without a thread of selfishness.

I aim to be more like selfless Steve!

With that goal in mind, my mom and I volunteered in person to help set up the holiday store at the homeless shelter this year. It was a wonderful experience. We worked for two days, sorting, wrapping, organizing, etc. We had long supported the shelter with money and toy donations, but being in the building took it to a new level.

I hope to volunteer more this year for causes we care about.

Oh, and those friends with the tax liens? Steve paid off the liens, and I've paid the first half taxes for 2017, so they have time to catch up and make a plan. They have no idea....

The MIL - first 24 hours

December 23rd, 2016 at 06:32 pm

Well, it's been an enlightening first 24 with the MIL.

She's her normal not- or fake- cheerful self, but she hasn't criticized me yet. She's reserving all that for the FIL.

Apparently, they got in a fight on the way here, and he isn't speaking to her. (Oh joy). But, when we were all in the living room last night... (Sitting. Because all they do is sit.).

I asked what they were fighting about and the FIL tells a long story about the GPS in their car, and her not following it. It soon became clear this wasn't a fight about the GPS.

Then he said, "This fight is really about her always having to be in control. She's always been that way. She always has to be in charge. She always has to be in control, and she's treating me even worse now that I'm getting weaker."

(He has parkinsons, and yes, she does stomp behind him huffing about everything he isn't doing 'right.')

I sat there kind of stunned, but also felt like I saw it all so clearly suddenly.

Backtrack to our doomed family trip to AZ, when MIL's sister pulled me aside and apologized for the MIL, then told me "she doesn't know how to have a relationship unless she is the one in power, and she is in charge."

EUREKA!! All the criticisms. All the butting in and trying to tell me how to live my life, the staying in my house and taking over every single part of my house and life like it's her life...

(Don't get me started on The trust she set up and put a rental property in--and made us manage it as trustees-- even though we told her we didn't want a rental property, but thanks to the trust, we're now legally obligated to manage it...But it's a gift, she says..)

It's all a manifestation of her control issues. No wonder she doesn't know what to do with me. I don't respond to control freaks. I'm my own person.

The worst part is, MIL turned to FIL after he said she was controlling, and said "It doesn't bother me, so I'm done talking about it. "

Uh yeah. I wouldn't say that to the man I'd been married to for 50 years. My bossiness is only your problem?? Really??

I also read this last night and it made me feel more secure in my game plan.


Also, DH finally grew half a spine. As I mentioned before, he specifically told them to arrive Dec. 23. We had house guests leave a couple days ago, and needed the time between to clean up to catch up on all the work we need to have finished before Christmas. All while juggling the two kids wrapping up school for 2016.

So, of course, the MIL emails me and says "Oh, we will leave Wednesday (the 21) IF there's bad weather." So, there is no bad weather. We get the call at 4p.m. on the 21st that they are at a hotel two hours from our house. (TWO DAYS EARLY!).

DH was livid. He actually yelled at them, and reminded them they were supposed to come on the 23rd, and we weren't ready, we just got our house guests out and had work to do, and told them not to come before noon on the 22nd. The MIL was surprised and offended that DH was upset.

Then, when they actually do show up. At noon. A whole day early. DH tried to make a joke in the vein of "What were you thinking? We told you to come the 23rd and you're here now."

And the MIL looks at me and said "Your wife clearly forgot to tell you I said we were leaving on Wednesday the 21st."

To which I said "You said you were leaving on Wednesday if the weather was bad. The weather isn't bad."

Then she huffed at me and pouted while looking very angry. She seemed galled that we had the nerve to be upset. Mind you, they have a long history of ignoring our wishes, and coming whenever they damn well please, and staying as long as they like (three weeks one time!)

All of this, I realize, is part of her control issue. She wants to drive and arrive when she damn well pleases, and she doesn't care what we think about it.

And if her attitude to her own husband is "It's not my problem." Then I can pretty much assume she feels the same way or worse about us.

I feel, in some small way, empowered by the tidbit of information the FIL let slip. I'm not going to let her come in and run my house.

The MIL plan

December 21st, 2016 at 04:33 pm

Well, the MIL invades tomorrow. (A day earlier than we'd asked them too, as usual!)

I'm going to meditate more on it today, but I'm pretty sure I have a plan in place.

DH's best friend and wife just stayed with us for two days, and the wife had a similar situation with her sister in law. She addressed it by calmly asking her to repeat herself whenever she made a critical comment or insulted her, then asking her to clarify what she meant.

By worked, she means the criticisms stopped, but of course, the underlying dislike was not addressed. Hey. I'd take that!

That is an idea I've been toying with, and have decided to try. I can't let her insults go. She just gets more aggressive. I figure this is the kindest way to let her know I see what she's doing and I won't let her walk over me.

The key, the wife said, is to not be angry or say anything mean that could possible be reproachable. Calm is the key! That's going to be the hard part, as my blood boils just thinking about her! So yes. meditation today!

Today is the kids first day of winter break. (no stress, really). Thankfully,. that means all the teacher gifts and charity donations have been wrapped, bowed, delivered.

I baked almond poppy seed bread for neighbor gifts this morning. They're all baking in the over and will be delivered with cards later this afternoon.

Most of my Christmas wrapping and Santa clausing is done. Boy being Santa is hard work. Especially because I have to wait until the kids are asleep after 9:30 to start wrapping!

Sadly, though, I realized one of my packages for DS1 has disappeared into the ether. Barnes and Noble said it shipped on Dec. 17, but USPS said it's still waiting to get the package. So yes. One gift missing.

And, I hope my sister won't be disappointed that she didn't get a ton of gifts from me. Her list was a mile long, but she owns so much stuff. Hopefully she'll understand. But she's a 46 year old woman with the insides of a 17 year old, so it could go either way.

Also, we always go in together on a gift for my mom, and after I'd bought and organized $200 worth of stuff, (A night at a cabin for mom, plus fancy dinner at the Inn) sister said she was broke and would pay me if she ever got the money. (at the same time, she's always buying stuff online and posting her purchases on FB...) So yeah... I'm on the hook for all that.

Which is fine, but still.

Guess I'll try to enjoy my house today, for it's my last day of peace until the MIL leaves!

Joy forthcoming...

December 15th, 2016 at 11:02 pm

As you know from my last post, I've been stressed out about the MIL coming for Christmas. There is good news, though. No, she's still coming, and No she didn't hit her head and awake with a nicer personality, but I can still dream, right?

I've been mindfully trying to let it go, to push the dark cloud over the holiday season away until she actually arrives, and then to have coping mechanisms and some sort of plan in place.

Letting go seems to be helping.

This week was good. My mom and I volunteered for two days at the local homeless families services nonprofit. We've donated money, household items, and toys to them for years, but this is our first year actually in the building. We helped set up their holiday store.

All of the families they serve come in and shop for free at the store (all donated, new items for babies to teens), they also get decorations and a tree, new winter coats, and a box of food for Christmas dinner. This nonprofit is near and dear to my heart.

Anyway, mom and I sorted donations as they came in and helped set up some of the displays in the store. (The rest were done by volunteers from Express corporate HQ. The people that design the real Express stores came in and designed the rooms to look like stores. It was pretty amazing...)

It was incredibly rewarding. I'm sure I'll do it again next year. So, that 'buzz' of warm fuzzy holiday spirit carried me through this week.

And, in other news...... I'm trying not to be too excited because I know I won't win, but I got a call that my novel is a finalist in a contest sponsored by a branch of the Romance Writers of America!

I'll get more details soon, but my book will go to the final round judges, who are editors at publishing companies and agents. No matter what happens, this has been a nice surprise. It's nice to be a finalist!


I just got word that my book is a finalist for ANOTHER contest hosted by the Romance Writers of America! So I'm a finalist in two contests!

This is nice and happy news.

When did Christmas get to be so hard?

December 4th, 2016 at 05:07 pm

I used to love Christmas. Now, the entire burden of everyone's expectations for a joyful holiday fall squarely on my shoulder.

I am santa for the kids. DH is a humbug and a bad planner, so without me, there'd be no cookies, no lights, no tree, no gifts. They still believe in Santa, so sadly they wish for mountains for presents without any concept of "mom and dad have to pay for these..." Hey, that's the magic of Christmas as a child, but boy, I'm hoping maybe next year they'll figure out the truth!

My child-free sister and mom celebrate with us. We have three days of traditions that I love, things we've been doing as a family for 46 years.... but....

-My sister, being child-free and unmarried, is still in the kid mode during Christmas, meaning she likes to wake up on Chrismtas morning with a ton of presents for her like when she was a kid. Her gift list was a mile long. Come on. We're in our 40s. Is there anything we really NEED at this point? (She was mad because I didn't have a list, then finally relented and told her ONE gift she could get me).

And, DH is an only child, ergo, he has no siblings for his parents to visit on the holiday. Just us. With the only two grandchildren. So, his parents are either with us or alone. They didn't really celebrate Christmas per se before I came along. Now they feel 'obligated' to, without any joy, mind you. They're the type who do things because "that's what people are supposed to do" rather than because they want to. They live a sad, joyless existence. And they look to us to give it all meaning. No pressure, right?

Round about September every year, the MIL starts war dialing us at 7 am. every morning, begging for an invitation, and she calls every single day, interrupting getting the kids off to school, until DH finally gives in invites them to come stay with us for Christmas. She's a bully. And it makes my blood boil.

So, they'll be here again for Christmas. Which would be fine if my MIl weren't incredibly critical and unpleasant (no friends, no life, no joy). Her sister told me she only knows how to relate to people in situations wherein she is in power, ergo she's constantly putting me down so she can be on top. Yay.

Long story, but it doesn't make for a pleasant holiday. They come and they sleep in my house. They stay longer than we ask them to. (If we say 3 days, they come for six)

FIl is fine, but MIl complains about all of my family's holiday traditions --so only I can hear-- and makes it all miserable. I'm already dreading christmas because she'll be here.

DH asks me what I want for Christmas, and I'm thinking I want your parents to stay home so I can actually enjoy the holiday. I do all the work. All the shopping. All the cooking. All the housecleaning, wrapping, and coordinating, and none of it is ever good enough for the MIL. She's a dark cloud over all of it.

2 years ago, she insisted I spent $160 on a standing rib roast for the family for Christmas. It was her tradition. So of course I said yes, even though I couldn't really afford it. Then, she complained about the quality of the meat all during Christmas dinner. Meat I spent nearly $200 on.

So, last year, I served a $20 ham. She was livid. I told her I cancelled the roast (I had ordered it, but remembered her complaining), bought a ham, and I donated the extra $100 to the food bank. We get to eat well every day. We don't need a $200 roast for Christmas. It was true. We have so much. With so many kids and families going without in the U.S., I can't stomach complaints about a $200 cut of meat. She was angry about it.

So, she's already called saying she's bringing the roast. It's like she's trying to make this a power play with me. Just like everything else.

I've put up with her slights and criticisms, and bullying and stepping all over me in varying ways for 15 years.

But this year, I fear I will no longer be able to bite my tongue. I fear she'll be getting an earful for Christmas because I no longer will tolerate being criticized, and her constant battle to be on top. I'm afraid I'm going to explode and make Christmas miserable for everyone. HELP!!

Blurb for my novel. Any opinion?

November 7th, 2016 at 01:40 pm

Totally off topic again, I know! I'm prepping to self pub my first novel.

(inspired by the people at www.kboards.com, if you're interested, too.)

There's a lot to think about. Editing, story, covers, back cover copy. Blurbs, review copies.

Here is the blurb I've written to advertise/summarize the book. Any thoughts? I've already posted some cover options and many of you were gracious enough to vote for your favorites.


Seventeen-year-old Jess sees the killer in visions. He's a shadow, striking down the helpless, killing with lightning-like energy. After she finds the body of one of his victims, Jess fears the vision of her own violent death will come true.

To survive, she'll have to learn to control the newfound powers surging within her. Jess is the new kid in Salt Creek, an isolated town in rural southern Ohio with a ferociously guarded secret. Its residents are not ordinary humans, and they're changing Jess into something more like them. Billy, an outcast with an unsettling past, is the only one willing to explain her transformation as he guides her through the town's secret world.

As the killer's body count ticks higher, a growing pile of evidence links Billy to the crimes. Jesse has to decide if Billy is dangerous or has been framed, as she pieces together the clues to identify the killer before it's her turn to die.

One more book cover, thanks Lucky Robin!

November 3rd, 2016 at 03:35 pm

I took your advice and attempted to make a cover that's more supernatural in scope, and which related directly to a scene in the book. Here's what I came up with. Thoughts?

PS. I haven't bought the art yet, because I don't know which one I'm using for the final, hence the istock watermark...

Publishing my first novel! Updated with 2 more covers.

November 2nd, 2016 at 12:37 pm

A lot has been happening in thrift world. You probably know I am writing a book series (I'm almost done with book 2)... and have been looking for an agent to traditionally publish.

Looking for an agent stinks!! I did get a few replies back from agents, but they all said basically "hey. We really like this and it's well written, but publishers aren't buying paranormal books right now." So thanks, but no thanks.

Ugh. My book is a paranormal suspense/romance (a 17 year old girl who discovers she has super human powers and must stop a killer who is terrorizing a small town.)

Anyway, I'm not swayed. I've decided to self publish in paperback and to Kindle on Amazon. It'll probably go live sometime between January and March. I haven't decided yet.

When the paperback page goes live on Amazon, if any of you who like to read that kind of stuff would like an advance copy, I can email one to you, and you can leave a review for me!

In the meantime, I have some preliminary cover designs, if you'd like to vote for your favorite.

Here is cover 1

Cover 2

Cover 3

Cover 4

Cover 5

NEW OPTION!! Cover 6

New Option! Cover 7

The week of broken things

October 13th, 2016 at 12:35 pm

We have had one of those weeks (or two) where everything is suddenly broken. Does this ever happen to you? It's seriously one thing after another!

It started with the coffee maker. Tried to make a pot, and nothing. The darn thing steamed and bubbled for an hour ad not a single drop of coffee came out. Darn thing. I had to buy a replacement for $25.

Then, hubby comes home and his car is making a noise. (he knows nothing of cars, I grew up in my dad's auto shop). I drive it around the block. Leak in the exhaust. Not good. It cost $300 for labor plus new muffler (It got a hole in it!) and replacement of a rusted pipe.

I bought some speaker wire from Amazon because our wires have long been too short, so short I can't pull the stereo out to hook things up to the back. It was one of those 'well, we just moved in and have a million things to do, so just use what you have even though it isn't long enough' situations that once it's done, you never get around to fixing it. So, I run new long speaker wires, all nice, then test everything, only to discover one of the speakers is dead. Kaput. Oh well. DH had them before we married 15 years ago, and the stamp on the back said it was made in October 1978! It had a good run. No word on replacement $$$. Shopping for speakers is overwhelming.

While working on the stereo, I messed with my record player. It's been in and out of the shop, and as a last resort, I gave it to a friend to repair. Well, it turns on, but the motor is on the way out. And the arm is busted again. It's time for a new one. It's begun the cycle of repairs that don't seem to last. Ugh!

And, finally, yesterday, I opened the microwave only to discover that part of the inside roof of it had melted and some sort of motor oil was dripping down onto the tray. Uh oh. After some online research, it became clear microwave repairs are not DIY because they have so many live electrical components even when unplugged. I didn't feel like getting electrocuted, and the same model was on sale at home depot this week for less than the price of a service call from the appliance guy.

It killed me to do it, but we bought a new one of the same model (it's hood vent mount and it took me days to install the bracket on the wall last time. I didn't want to do that, so just bought the same machine so I could pop it one the hardware that was already on the wall). That cost $137.

So yes. I'm tiptoeing around the house trying not to break anything or jinx anything. Then again, I shouldn't be surprised. We furnished our houses together and separately with a lot of estate/yard sale and thrift store finds. The speakers and the record player were from the 1970s. Still, the microwave was only 2 years old. Nothing new seems to be built to last. It's infuriating!
Oh well, nothing lasts forever!

my body's falling apart!

October 11th, 2016 at 12:53 pm

Gah. I'm 41 and I feel like an old lady!

Every day for the past 7 years I have woken up with some degree of lower back pain. It never goes away really. Yes yes, I know, I let it go for soooo long. But, it started when I had my youngest son, and with two little boys 18 months apart in age to take care of, plus bosses to please, taking care of myself fell to the bottom of the list. It's bad, but that's reality. Probably not just for me.

I did try to take care of my back. I had a personal trainer who was wonderful (until she moved away...), I've done a lot of fitness challenges. I lift weights and do abs nearly every weekday. But nothing helped. I figured it's back pain, ergo there's no cure and no one will be able to help me. My main doctor even just shrugged like oh well, nothing we can do when I told her about it.

So, I finally went to the spine specialist. the x-rays were gruesome. I apparently have advanced degenerative disc disease, but just in 1 disc, between the last lumbar and the first sacral vertebrae (basically an inch or two below my belly button only on the back side). Doc said it's like a marshmallow that's been squished. All the other discs are fine.

So, after some talking it through, we determined that my slow decline to constant pain began with an accident at age 24, when a lady in an SUV ran a stop sign and hit me while I was riding my bike. Then, it was exacerbated by carrying two large babies in back to back pregnancies with no time for my abs to recover. Yay.

I am pretty bummed. My Grandmother's spine pretty much disintegrated in her later years, and she sat in a chair all day in constant excruciating pain. I'm trying NOT to end up like that.

The doctor seemed pretty upbeat. He rattled off a list of things they can do for me, and we're going to start with the least invasive and work our way down the list. Basically, I'm starting a round of 18 physical therapy sessions to tighten abs, etc. Then, if that doesn't work, some sort of shot in my back to numb and or kill the nerve? I don't know. I stopped listening a bit when they started talking about needles and surgery.

So yeah.... Sorry for the health rant. This is weird for me. I've always been relatively fit and sporty. And tall (Thanks to this disc, I've shrunk from 5'9 to 5'8" Boo.)
No prescriptions, no surgeries, no other health issues.

It's frustrating to me to have an incurable condition that will affect me for the rest of my life. ( I know it could be worse, but constant pain really puts a damper on your outlook). And, I don't like the idea that my exercise might get limited. I've heard no more running, etc., but I'll ask the therapist before I assume.

So yes. therapy starts today. I have my fingers crossed it works. The prospect of a pain free life sounds awesome!

random updates

September 4th, 2016 at 02:12 pm

I'm a changed woman. My youngest child finally went off to school ALL DAY. It's strange and liberating to have 7 hours in a row to get things done, five days a week!

(In that time, I started writing novels #2 and #3. Still no bites in the traditional publishing world for Novel 1, but that's okay).

I finally feel like I can breathe and concentrate. I'm trying to figure out my new routine and schedule.

Now that I'm not so frazzled, our financial lives are improving. (funny how much money you can save when you aren't stressed out and in a rush all the time.)

We went back to a weekly all-cash family budget for all spending other than bills. ($400/week, and Hubby has a $43 weekly allowance, for his weird hobby shop stuff).

Man, this really helps. Our credit card kind of got out of control over the summer. It's too easy to spend more than you thought when you're always swiping and not thinking about it.

I've had several three-day stretches of no-spend and no-drive days.

Other things are on auto pilot.

On payday, we're finally able to put 15 percent into savings. In the next month or so, I hope to raise that to 20 percent. (into the savings account. I'm not counting the 401k, which we max out every year).

If we can stick with the cash budget, the credit card from all or our family obligation travel will be paid off in four weeks, and after that, we should have a lot of free cash every payday to stash in savings and start fixing/repairing/upgrading the house.

In the meantime, I'm controlling my home improvement urges by doing cheap and free stuff around the house. I borrowed a pressure washer from my mom, so I'm about to head outside to clean off the back patio and wash the siding. Woot!

It's funny how a cleaner house can make you feel better about things. I really have to force myself to scrub though, because I hate cleaning, and I'm not very good at it. My friend has an immaculate house, and I have no idea how she gets and keeps it that clean!

Rejection and unreasonable neighbors advice

August 2nd, 2016 at 02:29 pm

I started sending out query letters for my YA novel. I've sent two versions to 20 agents total. It's only been one week. I've received my first three rejections. Which is okay (I'm just happy they at least emailed me back to say no. Most agents never write back.)

Still. I see why people self publish. The rejection combined with the unknown no call back thing is driving me crazy already and I just started!

As for the neighbors. We have this one pair of neighbors. About 64, no kids. every time we've tried to be friendly, they look at us like they're scared of us or with thinly-veiled contempt and run inside. I don't get it. We're generally very open and friendly. it's like they decided they didn't like us before they even met us.

Anyway, last year, the man neighbor told us we "needed" to cut down our 60 foot honey locust tree because it was "dropping leaves in his pool."

Hah. We're not the kind of people to cut down a beautiful, healthy tree because it's dropping leaves in someone's pool. That's ridiculous.

Apparently, he didn't like our no. So, we got a certified letter from the city on friday. He filed a property maintenance complaint about the tree, saying it was a hazard that would fall on his house. We have 30 days to remove the tree. (according to the letter).

I was so angry. First, it'd cost $5000 to remove this tree. At my expense. And, it's healthy.

So, I called the city, and the arborist said if we trim out any dead branches and our arborist says it's healthy, we don't have to cut it down. Apparently, there are some laws to protect me from unreasonable complaints from neighbors.

That made me feel a little better. Still, I'm pretty upset knowing I live next door to people who are passive aggressive enough to file complaints with the city instead of having a real conversation with their neighbor.

We aren't going anywhere anytime soon, so how do I keep this civil?

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