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?
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.
Nothing much to report. Which I suppose is good?
I'm taking the SA fitbit group private tomorrow so join now if you want in!
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!)
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!
-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!!
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!!
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!
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!
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....
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.
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!
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.
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!!
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.
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
NEW OPTION!! Cover 6
New Option! Cover 7
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!
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!
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!
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?
A few months earlier I posted about fixing all the broken things and cleaning all the dirty things around the house. I complained that I just could not get grout clean in my bathrooms and Snafu suggested an inexpensive handheld steam cleaner.
After watching some youtube videos, I finally bought one and it arrived yesterday. Oh my gosh. I wish I'd known about these years ago!! The dirt just flew off the grout. It isn't perfect, but it's the best and cleanest and whitest it's ever been. And all using just water and no chemicals.
Thanks Snafu! I'm addicted to the steam cleaner now!
(PS It was a Bissell Steam Shot.)
We finally were able to put a chunk of money in the savings account. Maybe we're finally out from under the expenses from all those family (obligation) vacations in spring. It's only $500, but still. It's a start.
My plan is to eat from the pantry and minimize expenses for the next week or two, in hopes of freeing up more money for savings.
For two months this spring I had a weird pain in my armpit that was always present and didn't seem to have a logical cause. All signs pointed to breast cancer (I'm 41, no meds, no health problems so far in life) and I finally made it through the battery of blood tests, exams, and mammograms, and well, there's nothing there. No cancer. Yay. But still no idea what could have caused that weird pain, which also seems to have disappeared.
So this is all good. I'm a don't freak out until there's something to freak out about kind of person. I didn't tell my mom, sister or friends about this, because I didn't want them to worry until there was something to worry about. Good thing. DH was scared and freaking out the entire time. He seems to have calmed down now.
In other news, a wife of a former coworker is a NYTimes best selling middle grade author, and she has offered to review the query letter and synopsis I will be sending to agents soon, in my effort to get my first YA novel traditionally published.
Fingers crossed I'm on the right track. I've been working on all the required 'sales' pieces for the novel since June. a query letter, 1 and 3 page synopsis, author bio, etc. It's a lot of work! I had no idea. Hopefully I'm on the right track, and my author friend will be able to help me polish it all up.
I'm also outlining a book to write during NaNoWriMo. It'll be my first one. if any of you are doing it I'd love to make our own support group!
I also had a surprise 4 day freelance gig last week, which will mean $1450 to the Ira for this year. What a nice big boost! It's interesting work, and it pays well. That's the kind of gig I want.
One of my friends once described all the little not quite working or broken things around her house as 'death by a thousand cuts.'
Now that I'm home even more over summer vacation, I realize I too am suffering from hundreds of little frustrations around the house.
There are a million little things that are broken or wobbly or not quite right and we just never bothered to fix them because it wasn't an emergency or we were too busy.
I've started fixing them all, one by one, vowing to do one or two a week, until this place is running much more smoothly. The best part is, most of the repairs take time, but not a lot of money, so it's helping me stick to my summer budget.
Here's my list so far....
-I fixed the broken shower door. It was stuck on the track instead of running through the track, and it'd been like that for at least six months. It took a measly five minutes to fix.
-I replaced a broken hinge on the cabinet door.
-I replaced the broken dimmer switch in the dining room. It's soooo much better. Why did I wait so long????
-I unclogged the drain in the master bathroom sink. It's super slow, and has been forever.
-I cleaned the grout (mostly) in the master shower. I'm open to tips on a product that actually can get grout clean!
-I killed the weeds in the front patio (with boiling water. eco conscious and cheap), and refilled the brick spaces with sand.
-I propped up a sagging section of brick out front by putting sand and gravel underneath. Finally!
-I finally called the windshield company and scheduled the replacement of our cracked windshield. They're coming Thursday and it cost about half what I thought it would (only $200!)
-I took all my empty garden plastic pots to Lowe's. They recycle them for free. With a big garden, I had hundreds of these things sitting around.
-I took three carloads to GoodWill, hence clearing out the boxes in my basement office I've been tripping over forever.
-I'm dropping off a bunch of toy trucks and truck videos to a friend with a younger son today. Our kids are too old, hers will really appreciate them.
-I started cutting down the invasive honeysuckle on our property. I'm going one section at a time, trying to fill up one garbage can a week so the city can come by and compost it.
Oh my gosh. It feels better already....
Does this happen to you, too? Or am I just really bad at being a homeowner??
Do you ever get the feeling that life is a rushing river and you're just trying to hold on for dear life until you can make it to calm waters?
That's kind of how I've been feeling the last few months. I had tons to do with the kids' school, my trip to New Orleans, the family trip to Arizona, managing two boys at home all day for summer vacation, etc.
I think I may finally have hit the calm. We got home from AZ about 10 days ago, and are starting to fall into some sort or normal (for summer at least).
Sadly, despite paying off the mortgage, we have managed to put very little in savings, in part because of all the trips, required paid in advance days for the kids summer camp, etc.
The bright side is, starting next payday, we should be out from under all of that and should be able to start putting money in savings and start paying for repairs for things around the house.
I am a little mad at the bank/ county about the mortgage though. I was expecting a bill for property taxes, and nothing came, so I logged onto the county auditor's site only to discover taxes were due that day, and for some reason, my bill was mailed to the bank, not me, and not forwarded, despite the lien being cleared in april.
So, I had to pay online and pay a $78 fee to do it, instead of mailing a check. I'm a little peeved, and I tried calling the county office to make sure they will be mailing my bill to ME next time, but the lines were busy all day, probably because bills were due. Oh well.
In other news, things seem to be going where they need to go for my youngest son. We found him a psychologist to help us with the anger / social issues he has with peers and at school. (Long story).
Let's just say that two professionals have suggested we get his IQ tested because he might be having social problems/ boredom/ frustration because he's bright. Well. I'm not that kind of mom who brags or pushes for my kids to be gifted, so I had to laugh to myself, but hey, it can't hurt to have another test right? If anything will help him, I'll do it.
He's also still seeing his school counselor over the summer.
As for the normal day to day, the garden is finally producing, which for me is like Christmas all summer. I picked mulberries off my sister's tree last friday, and made them into 8 half pints of jam. (I wish there were an easier way to de-stem them!)
I picked and froze all of our home grown strawberries before our AZ trip, and will be making them into jam later this week. (We also made two strawberry pies, and had two rounds of strawberry shortcake and strawberry pancakes before that!)
And, I haven't had to buy a lettuce green at the store since mid-May, although I might try a new variety of lettuce next year. Something milder.
It's taken five long years and five huge revisions/rewrites, but my first novel is officially finished. Now, I'm crafting a query letter so that I can send it off to agents and fingers crossed, get a book deal.
I know it's hard work, but I don't have blinders on. I've been a journalist and writer since age 18, and now at 41, I'm right where I need to be. So yes, this month, I'll start querying agents and writing my next book.
With two little kids and a freelance job, this has been a long time coming. But I'm excited and optimistic, and I'm excited to really get going writing more books. I have so many ideas--too many really- and I'm anxious to birth them all.
My life will change drastically in the fall-- for the first time in 8 years, I will have kids in school ALL DAY, and will have a large uninterrupted block of time to actually work on writing projects. I suspect this will be life changing.
(For those of you who are curious, it's a young adult supernatural suspense novel. No vampires, I swear.)
In other news...
I haven't been on here much since the mortgage was paid off. (Still loving that. ) I've been caught in the end of year rush.
I took a trip to New Orleans to see friends and go to a concert, then the boys got out of school, then we immediately left for a family trip to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, et al, with kids and other family.
I'm still catching up financially from those two trips, and the initial charges for the summer day camp I'll be sending the kids. But, I'm optimistic now that I am home, and we will be settling into a routine, that I'll be able to put money into savings and really get going on other goals now that the mortgage is dead.
I've missed all of you!
The letter saying we paid off our loan, along with a paid in full sticker on a copy of our contract came in the mail today. Yay! It's incredibly satisfying to get the official notice.
Our check for our escrow also came today. I saw hubby eyeballing it, and had to remind him we need to use it to pay property taxes in June!
Our financial lives have been on pause for the last five years. Our No.1 goal was paying off the house. Now that's done, so it's time to catch up on all the other things we should have been doing.
Honestly, I'm elated to be done with mortgage payments, but at the same time I'm a little overwhelmed wondering what to do first and next.
Our other big goals are to ...
-get the EF up by $20k
-save way way more money for each kid for college
-fully fund our retirement, and roth IRAs
-Save for cool vacations
-fix all our broken stuff and make the house more awesome
Gah. Always so much to do!!
Now, onto the college savings, which is the point of this post.
Today, I took one small step. I bumped up our monthly college savings auto deposit from $200/kid, to $300/kid. It won't be enough to fully fund college, but it'll help. (an extra $1200/kid/year, for the next 10 years = $12,000 more per kid!)
I also briefly considered the UPromise credit card to boost college savings. I'm not sure if it's worth the trouble? Basically, you get 1 percent into your 529 for all purchases, but with bonuses and careful spending, can get up to 5 percent.
Seems like it's work to get the 5 percent. On the other hand, any money that is a bonus could boost college savings and it could really add up over time.
Right now, we have an amazon card. We've been pretty happy with it. I usually redeem rewards for a statement credit. We get 1 percent base, 2 percent for restaurants and gas stations, and 3 percent for amazon purchases.
So what do you think? Is it worth a try with a new credit card? There might also be a $50 sign up bonus.
Upromise also has the option to register your regular credit card to possibly get credit for purchases. Have any of you tried that? Does it work?
I usually try to keep our financial lives simple so I can stay on top of everything. I don't know. Maybe it's worth it to try the card for a year and see how it goes?
OR, I could link our current Amazon card to our checking account, deposit the rewards as cash, and transfer them to the 529.
OR, I could do the bonus credit card thing, and find cards with big cash back bonuses and use those to put extra in the 529. Only thing is finding a card that will send a check rather than giving me statement credit or points to spend on gift cards.
We're officially mortgage free as of today. Just have to wait for the courthouse to send us the deed! We're FREEEEEEEEEE!!!!
We bought this house five years ago on April 15. I'd hoped to have it paid off by the time DS2 headed off to first grade. He's still in kindergarten. We're ahead of schedule.
In other news, the state tax refund came, so yay! Some of the money I took out to pay the mortgage can go right back in!
So I logged into the bank account today expecting to see a zero balance on the mortgage, and instead it said we owed $19,000 and a payment was due today!!
I looked at the transaction history and they had reversed our last four payments. And, that money wasn't in my checking account, so it was as if all my money had vanished.
So I almost had a heart attack, and worse, I had to wait a whole hour before the customer service line opened for business. Gah!
I cleaned the house to pass the time.
So, after 20 minutes navigating the phone tree and getting transferred around to the mortgage department, I was told:
Yes, they did receive my cashiers check for the pay off amount
Yes, the loan will be paid off today.
They reversed the last few payments because they found an error in how they allocated the money between escrow, etc., and had to reverse them back to the error to correct them.
They assured me this was all a blip in the process and there's nothing to worry about.
I'm trying to play it cool. But gah. How can I not worry????????
That's the official mortgage pay off amount. It came from the bank today. (Balance, interest, and a county recording fee)
But boy, they sure don't make it easy to pay it off!
I thought I'd be able to send the balance through the online payment portal linked to my checking account. I use that for regular payments. But no!
I have to go to the bank, get a cashier's check, and then fed ex it to the mortgage department of the same bank. Oh well.
I'm going to the branch this afternoon to get it done. I'm trying to contain my excitement until the balance is officially zero!
In other news, I quite enjoyed this article about retiring early and totally agreed with their financial methods.
Thanks for all the advice, guys. Dh and I talked about it and we are going to transfer the money to pay off the mortgage from savings, then we'll pay ourselves back.
I started the transfer, and when the money arrives in the checking account, I'll call the bank and ask for the pay off amount. Squee! (I'm allowed to squee here, right?)
Now, of course, I have a plan to put all that money and more back into the savings account. We should be able to put $1,100 per paycheck into savings. I'm being conservative, so some checks it may be more. And, when the state tax refund comes, we'll put that right into savings, too.
Once the money is back in savings, I'm going to keep putting the same amount in every week, and we can maybe finally finally start inching forward on some of the goals we've put on hold while we were paying off the house. Like money in DH's Roth IRA, and a bigger EF.
In other news,
We're still doing 'low spend', which actually has worked out very well. If we keep taking $300 cash out every week for expenses, and using only that, we'll be in great shape.
It hasn't been hard to keep up this month, so I bet we can keep going like this for a while. $300 seems to be enough for groceries, kid expenses, eating out, etc.
That's how much we have left to pay on the mortgage before we're FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
The tax refund plus regular payment hit this morning.
Now, can I have your thoughts for the pay off strategies? If you were me, which one of these would you choose? (Or, do you have an option I haven't considered?)
A. If we did nothing and continued making our normal monthly payments, we'd have four more months of payments. (This timetable includes sending our state tax refund to principal when it comes, as well). So, our last payment would be in August.
B. If we took this amount out of our EF to pay it off now...It would take four paychecks, or two months to put that money back into the EF. Or, three checks, if we put the state tax refund right into savings when it arrives.
C. Wait for the state tax refund, send it to the mortgage, then take the remaining balance of about $3,700 out of savings to finish off the house. It would take three to four paychecks to put it back into the EF.
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