Sunday, January 31, 2010

January Wrap-Up

I ran into the admin from my accountant's office on Friday (our daughters play field hockey together). I asked if tax season was ramping up. She spent 5 minutes telling me how screwed up this year's tax season will be because rules are still changing and they don't have all the forms for filing, so people are turning in their taxes, but they can't get them done because they're waiting ... for the government.

The upshot is, I need to get our tax organizer filled out if I have any hope of seeing a refund any time soon. The problem is this - I haven't balanced my checkbook since January 2009. Why is this an issue? My husband is (sort of) self-employed. We use a computer program to keep track of what we spend and how much he makes. Do you see my problem?

So I spent several hours yesterday and a couple of hours very early this morning balancing my checkbook (what can I say, I woke up at 3:30 am panicking and figured I put the time to good use instead of just panicking uselessly). It's done! Now I can tackle the stupid tax organizer and get it in this next week.

January Goals:
Reached. I'm not always here, but I am writing at least 30 minutes/day. Unfortunately, this last week, it was all work related. I guess if it helps me keep my job I can count it towards progress, right?

Eating Mindfully/Exercising
I'm counting this as a half win. I'm back on the exercise bandwagon, but the purposeful eating has not gone well. I'm making better choices on a day-to-day basis, but have fallen off the wagon a couple of times (note to self: DO NOT BUY POPTARTS).

Reached. I did 4 oz each week this month. It's not all up on 13 Pounds, but it did get spun. My WooLee Winder is on the fritz right now, so I'm going back to the regular flyer for my wheel until I can get it figured out or sent back for a tune up.

Special Goal for January
I set a special goal to get my resume tuned up by the end of the month. Early on, I realized that January was not the month to do this. January is the month to get all the tax details together. I'm the treasurer for my daughter's field hockey team and there was year end stuff for that. I had to get Little Big Man's FAFSA form taken care of (government form that figures out how much aid you get for university) and I had to get our tax organizer stuff together. The only thing left to do is actually fill out the organizer, so I'm considering this 95% finished.

I'm counting January 2010 as a successful month. I figure 2.5 of my major goals were met and 95% of the special goal met - it's progress.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Review

U is for Undertow, Sue Grafton
originally published in 2009

I could just say, "the best one yet" and be correct, but that seems a little too simple. I started reading this alphabet series after Grafton had written four of them. I loved her descriptions of everything and felt like I was sitting on a park bench in Santa Teresa. I still feel that way.

I met Sue Grafton at a book signing once. She had spoken about how she received letters from people admonishing her about how much Kinsey swore. She reacted by having Kinsey swear less, but felt uneasy about it. Eventually she decided that Kinsey swore because that's who she was and Grafton stopped trying to "fix" it.

In the last couple of books, I felt that Kinsey had hit her stride. She is who she is (so to speak) and she's comfortable with it (and so is Grafton). I loved this book and the only bad thing is how quickly I read it. Now I have to WAIT for the next one.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book Review

Personal History, Katharine Graham
originally published in 1997

Last year I read Warren Buffet's memoir and he spoke endlessly of Katharine Graham. I figured she'd be an interesting person to read about - and she was.

Graham survived the curse of living in extraordinary times. I found it endearing that she was so worried about whether she was up to the task - any task (dressing herself, picking out furniture, running The Washington Post). Admittedly, she grew up at a time when women raised the children and decorated the houses, so she didn't have many role models. However, she was whip smart and applied 100% of herself to everything she did.

She didn't sugar coat anything in this book. Her insecurities are completely on display as well as how she reacted when her husband left her and subsequently killed himself, leaving her to deal with the aftermath both personally and professionally.

I'll admit that once or twice her sense of privilege annoyed me, but that's really the only drawback I found. Graham came through as a woman who met her challenges head-on and usually came out the winner.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Review

Stitches: A Memoir, David Small
originally published in 2009

I confess that I love graphic novels. I don't have a hard time imagining what everyone looks like or what the layout of the house is. I can just immerse myself and see exactly what the author wants me to see.

I didn't always want to see what Small was showing me. Stitches was really painful to read. It's the story of growing up in an emotionally stunted household where everyone is angry, but no one is able to talk about it. They aren't able to reach out to each other at all, each member of the family wrapped up in their own cocoon of pain.

It is a beautifully drawn and artfully told story that will stay with you, long after you finish it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Review

Celebrity Detox, Rosie O'Donnell
originally published in 2007

I've always loved Rosie O'Donnell. I remember watching her show and thinking, "she's a star-struck kid with these celebrities." It seemed so real and genuine. Turns out it was genuine, but it came with a pretty big price tag. Celebrity Detox is the story of how O'Donnell took a much needed break from her own show only to fall into the same trap again when she started on The View. She worked too much, was away from her family too much, and was recognized too much to enjoy just living. As much as I miss seeing her, I hope she has found some measure of peace.

Monday, January 18, 2010

In the Car This Morning

Hub was driving me to work today. It was a typical Michigan January morning. Temp was hovering around freezing and there was a thick fog enclosing everything. The trees had a layer of ice outlining all the branches. It was really quite pretty and we were companionably silent, until

Hub: "You know, it's a Cullen kind of morning."

Me: " ! " Thinking 'WTF?' "Did ... you ... just ... make ... a Twilight reference???"

Hub: "Yes, yes I did," quite proudly. "You know, it's gray and the branches are kind of twinkly. It's the kind of weather the Cullens like. A vampire-y kind of weather."

Me: "There's no sex like metro-sex."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

13 Pounds

There's a new post up over at 13 Pounds.

Don't go if you're long wool averse!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday Spinning

I grew up thinking my mother was a feminist, and she is - to a point. She talked about Gloria Steinem and about how women are equal to men and how my sister and I could grow up to be anything we wanted. She also said things like, "You know, men are better friends than women. Women are so bitchy!" Or, "I'm glad I work with mostly men - they're so much easier to get along with." It's funny how we pick up our parents' habits especially when they say one thing, but do another.

In high school, my best group of friends were all boys. When I went to university, I thought my roommates and I would be best buds. I thought we were, right up until they ditched me to room in a double. My roommate junior year turned into a psycho nightmare when she felt we weren't all living up to her standards. I used these experiences to decide my mother was right. Women are bitchy and impossible to get along with.

I'm not sure when we started our spinning Saturdays, maybe a year ago? There was a group of us who wanted to meet more often than the local spinning guild does, so we started meeting at a local coffee shop. We were careful only to invite people we really wanted to spend time with and it has become the oasis in my week. It's the thing I look forward to most when the weekend comes.

Driving home today I felt blissed out. I was relaxed and happy. It occurred to me that it's because I really like these women. It's not just a group of people who spin, we genuinely enjoy spending time together and spinning is just the excuse for it. Are we bitchy? You bet. But we don't hold the bitchiness against each other - we call it out so it's in the open and doesn't get a chance to fester and build up hard feelings.

We encourage each other to break out of our boxes. We discuss health issues (go make your appointment to see your gynecologist). We talk about issues with our kids - "how do I handle this?" We laugh, we scream, we watch Pride and Prejudice on an endless loop and talk about which Mr. Darcy is the BEST Mr. Darcy.

I got a little teary when I realized that this is the first group of women I really like and feel entirely comfortable with. We're all different, but maybe that's why we work together so well. My mother was wrong, women make the best Best Friends and I'm eternally grateful for mine.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Book Review

Beat the Reaper, Josh Bazell
originally published in 2009

I am a smart ass. If there's a comment to be made that is slightly cynical or even crossing into mean, I'll make it. I feel like I could sit down with Josh Bazell and be among my people. Bazell is literature major, a doctor, and a certified smart ass.

Beat the Reaper
is the story of a young guy in the witness protection program. He'd been a hitman for the mob and now he's a doctor. If that doesn't give someone perspective into the human psyche, I don't know what would. I found it interesting that I liked the main character as much as I did. He has great knack for rationalizing his actions and somehow I bought them.

From the snappy dialogue to the snort-inducing footnotes, I was hooked about two pages in. It's a quick, but enjoyable read. I'll be looking to read more from Josh Bazell.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Book Review

Me: Stories of My Life, Katharine Hepburn originally published: 1991 I started reading this book in October 2009 and didn't finish it until the absolute end of the year. It's not that it wasn't good - it was. It was actually like sitting down with Kate Hepburn, having tea, and letting her talk. I couldn't read much at one sitting without getting a little irritated.

I don't have many older relatives, but I remember my grandmother as she aged rattling off the things she did like it was a grocery list. That's this book, but with more interesting stories. There's some gossip here, but Hepburn has too much class to air her laundry, so it's quite tame. She tells the stories as she thinks of them, the book might have benefited from some sort of organization, but I think Hepburn's voice may have been lost.

What I really liked was her attitude to her career. "I'm lucky," she said over and over throughout the book. She was appreciative of her parents, her assistants, her ex-husband - anyone who had helped her in anyway was acknowledged and thanked. I found that really refreshing.
This book is the perfect bathroom book. Great in short bursts, but difficult to read a lot in one sitting. Overall, interesting, but not a must read unless you're a Hepburn fan.

Monday, January 11, 2010

2010 - Goal Setting

Part one in an ongoing saga of progress for 2010. These are a couple questions posed by David Allen for followers of Getting Things Done.

What would you like to be your biggest triumph in 2010?
Since I've set 3 attainable goals, my biggest triumph will be succeeding at all of them.
  1. Blogging as much as possible (at least 5x/week)
  2. Spinning 4 oz/week
  3. Mindful eating and exercise.

What advice would you like to give yourself in 2010?

Just keep moving forward. Take time for reflection only when it is productive - not when it is for the purpose of beating yourself up.

What would you most like to change about yourself in 2010?
I need to learn to value myself more. I tend to follow the Groucho Marx rule that I won't belong to any club that would have me as a member. I need to break out of this and feel that my work is valuable and that I am an asset to any team.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

13 Pounds

There's a new post up over at 13 Pounds.

Post has been sporadic this weekend - for some reason our internet connection has been down. Freeing on one hand, yet also annoying.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Stick a Fork in Me

I knew that by today I would be toast at work. Not much good for anything. So I pre-planned to leave work early. But you can't just go home when you leave early - so I went to Jillian's house.

Jillian, Erica, and I have committed to spinning 4 oz of fiber every week in 2010. (We'll be blogging about it at 13 Pounds.) I wanted pictures of all the fiber before I started to spin it, so J suggested I come to her house and take advantage of her light box. I went through my spinning room and pulled out all the likely candidates. I was a little surprised at what I had. All different kinds of fiber (superwash, corriedale, wensleydale, merino/tencel, BFL, alpaca/silk blend) and amazing amounts of color.

The idea is to spin a lot and learn even more. It's going to be a blast with all of us spinning up different stuff and discussing it. Erica and Jillian are amazing spinners. Erica has a fearless quality about her that inspires me. She was never told, "that's too hard for a beginner", so she jumps into everything. Jillian enables me "Looook, it's orange, I think it has your name on it!" I can't think of 2 people who will challenge me more to become a better spinner. Progress!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

It's All Good

Sometimes, all you have to do is ask the universe for something and it provides. My boss came into my office today and asked me a question he frequently asks, "Are you still happy with your job? Still excited to be working here?"

I answered like I usually do, "Yes, I'm happy here. There are some things I want to change, but for the most part, I'm happy."

Then he said something he's never said before, "It's important that you continue to be happy with what you're doing. You're important and I want you to stick around."

I was stunned, my mouth hung open for a bit, and then I thanked him.

Then the moment was over and we moved on to planning the agenda for 2010.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

2009 In Review - #1

I use Getting Things Done, by David Allen, as a general guidepost. I have gone through the book a couple of times and have even attended a seminar where I breathed the same air as he did for an entire day. When I use the system, I am more productive and feel better about what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. I think it's appropriate to get back on the GTD wagon ASAP.

I get e-mails from David (okay, it's the Productive Living newsletter, but it says my name at the top, so I choose to think David and I are close buddies - get your own here). The most recent newsletter was a guide to reviewing 2009 and setting goals for 2010. Since my theme word for 2010 is Progress, I thought I should get the best possible start and review 2009.

I just said to my daughter today, "I'm glad 2009 is over. It really sucked." She said, "Mom, why did it suck?" When I couldn't give her a concrete reason, she said, "Well, I think you need to think about it a little more so you can give a better answer the next time someone asks." (Yes, she really said that. She's extraordinarily old for 14.)

Anyway, the newsletter gave a list of questions to answer in reviewing 2009 and David said, "When I go through these kinds of questions I like to consider my answers in several areas"

Physical Emotional Mental Spiritual Financial Family Community Service Fun / creativity / recreation
I thought I could answer the questions throughout the month of January in order to do some in depth goal setting for 2010 (and yes, I picked the easiest questions first, what of it?).

Who were the three people that had the greatest impact on your life in 2009?
  1. Eric: My husband had the greatest impact in many ways. He continued his traveling throughout the year to Florida in the winter and Alaska in the summer. It was hard to have him go, but very nice to have him come back. He's growing and learning and while it's frustrating for him (and our budget) to be out of work, he's at least using the time constructively. He concentrated on fitness during the summer and was riding his bike 20-30 miles several times a week. We're planning on biking together this summer and eventually plan on doing a century ride. I'd be happier if he'd use a little more time to cook and clean, but you can't have everything.
  2. Jillian: My bestest fiber buddy has encouraged me on every creative undertaking I've started. When I call in despair (about work, family, finances), she talks me out of the tree. I tell her things with very little filter, because I know she understands and does not judge. I can show up at her house and feel welcomed and included. I cannot stress how invaluable it is to have a friend like this and how blessed I am to have her.
  3. Berma: My mother. I spent the majority of 2009 lamenting the fact that my mother has changed. She is no longer the warm, comforting woman of my youth. I am angry and sad about this. When she pushes my buttons, I try to remember that she is aging, but am only successful about 1/2 the time. I don't anticipate this changing throughout 2010, but I'm trying to gain some perspective and definitely trying to deal with it better than I have.
What compliment would you liked to have received in 2009?
"I want to work with you until I retire." I fel
t taken for granted at work in 2009. My boss is terrific, but his idea of an evaluation is "You're doing a great job. What's next?" I would like to have more constructive feedback so I know he's paying attention. One goal is this area is to seek him out more often and ask him sharper questions so I can focus more on what needs to be done and anticipate some of the upcoming projects better.

What compliment would you liked to have given in 2009?

It's not a specific compliment, but an urge to tell people how much I appreciate them more often (or at all). I have lots of friends who may not know how much I care about them and maybe I should tell them. I try to make sure my kids know how proud I am of them and how much I love them, so maybe that's the model I should use. I'm not going to tell my co-workers that I love them, but I can appreciate them more out loud and less in my head or to other people.

But enough about me, here's what you really came for (click on the picture to make it bigger). This is Erica, Kat, & Roberta in superwash wool (two 4 oz batches each):

Monday, January 04, 2010

Dang, I'm Tired

It was a very long day. I made it almost to the end - left the office at 4:15, only a few minutes early. Here's the thing about e-mail, I find it almost impossible to keep up when I'm at work for 8 hours a day. I tried to keep up with it while I was out, but failed miserably. There were almost 300 unopened mails in my inbox (294 to be exact). It took me all day, but I got it down to about 30 opened and 4 unopened. Every 2 minute job was taken care of when I opened the e-mail. The other tasks went on a list to be tackled tomorrow. Thank you David Allen.

I came home dog tired and flopped on the couch. When I went into the kitchen to get dinner, I noticed some strange spots appearing on the fiber I had soaking. Some were almost magenta and some were light gray. At first I thought they were bits of something that got dropped in the bucket. Then it hit me, "That's mold!"

Luckily, it was only the top of the fiber at the top of the bucket. I pulled off the affected fiber and set to dying the rest of the stuff that was in the bucket. That's what I get for being a slug yesterday. Tomorrow morning I'll have sunshine coming out of those dyepots. It's incentive to get out of bed early to rinse the stuff.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

That was fast

I've been off work on medical leave since November 16. I'm very appreciative of the time off, especially since after the first 3 weeks or so, it's been kind of fun. I go back to work tomorrow. I had a big list of things I wanted to get done today:
  1. Mix dye stock
  2. Dye some superwash fiber for my Etsy store
  3. Organize my backpack
  4. Clean up the house
  5. Get started on 2009 tax organizer
Here's what I actually got done:
  1. Read a little
  2. Knit a little
  3. Spin a little
  4. Watch football on TV
  5. Open all the mail I let pile up last week
I could not get myself motivated to do anything on what I kept calling MY LAST DAY. I wanted to get things done. I just couldn't do it. I'm having the hardest time facing getting up early every day, having to get showered and dressed, no mid-afternoon nap, and (the hardest of all) having to be NICE to people every day.

I can't even get motivated enough to stop whining and write something interesting. Wait, I do have something to be happy about - I still have a job, with good benefits and a great boss. I guess I'll get through my first week back and have something good to say. It won't be a total loss. Plus, I'll have an extra day off in May, right?

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Bastard*

My 23-year-old, unmarried niece is pregnant. It really wasn't a surprise, as we've been expecting this from this particular child for several years. She has a dead-end job with no insurance and because of where she lives, there isn't much hope for anything better. She attended college for 2.5 years, but got kicked out because of bad grades after her last semester. In short, she has made bad choice, after bad choice, after bad choice. When I asked if she was going to marry her baby's father, she said, "We're not ready for that kind of commitment yet."


After I hung up the phone with her, I called Little Big Man (who is now 18 and at university). I said, "In the immortal words of Jillian, you'd better be 'wrapping it or slapping it' my friend."

"Yes mom," he said.

"Every time," I said.

"Yes mom," he said.

"Right answer kid," I said.

I understand that only 2 generations ago girls were sent away for getting 'in the family way'. I understand that punishing them (and not the boys they were having sex with) was wrong. What I don't understand is why the stigma is completely gone. Oldest niece reported that she signed up for medicaid and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) without a hint of shame. She's shacking up with this boy and playing house like it's a Sunday stroll. Picking out names and registering for gifts without a care in the world.

I worry what will happen when the reality of taking care of a baby 24/7 comes crashing in. When the fairy tale of 'having a baby to love' turns into changing the diaper of a screaming baby at 3:00 am after only having 6 hours of sleep over the course of a couple of days and then trying to nurse with cracked nipples.

"But he's ready to be a daddy and I'm ready to be a mommy Auntie," she assured me.

All I could say was, "I hope so. I really hope so."

*My mother is very upset that I refer to the unborn child as a bastard. "But they're planning on getting married eventually," she whines.

"If they aren't married when the baby is born, it's a bastard," I reply every time she brings it up.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Welcome 2010!

I didn't have a good 2009. No one big thing threw me off; it was a whole bunch of things that did it. At Thanksgiving my husband said he was hopeful that 2010 would bring us better fortune. I said, "It has to be better for us than 2009!"

However, since it does no good to dwell on what sucked. This year I'm dedicating myself to progress. I can't change the Michigan economy and give my husband work. I can't give myself an office with a window. I can do things that move me forward. So I'm determined to concentrate on 3 areas and throw in one specific task per month from my life list.

Recently a friend said, "I miss writing every day." This really struck a chord with me, as I love to write, but don't do it much. So area #1 is writing. I will write every day - mostly here, but there will be at least 30 minutes/day dedicated to writing something.

I've fallen off my diabetes band wagon lately. I had surgery in November (am now uterus free) and since I felt so awful for the first couple of weeks I ate whatever I wanted. Then the holidays came. Area #2 is mindful eating. Not just avoiding the things that make me feel bad (sugar, too much caffeine), but trying to eat the things that are good for me (more veggies, whole grains).

The addendum to area #2 is exercise. I was forbidden to exercise after the surgery for obvious reasons (abdominal surgery doesn't lend itself to a lot of crunches). Then (again) the holidays appeared. I go back to work on January 4, so expect to get myself back into a schedule of getting up early and spending some quality time with the elliptical machine. I plan on beginning with 20 minutes, 3 days per week for the month of January. A long term goal in the fitness area is riding a century ride (100 miles over the course of a couple of days).

Area #3 is fiber. A couple of friends and I plan on spinning 4 ounces of fiber/week and blogging about it (blog to be determined later). I've been spinning a lot in the last year, but I tend to spin the same kind of yarn over and over. It's lovely yarn and I've managed to sell some of it on Etsy and at local craft fairs. However, I'd really like to expand my repertoire of yarns and plan on working through Judith MacKenzie McCuin's book The Intentional Spinner.

My task for January is to get my resume in order. I spoke with the career counselor at my graduate school last July. She was very encouraging and gave me some good tips to get everything up to speed. I haven't look at it since. By January 31, I will have a working resume that I can send out to some companies in other areas of the country to see if I can get something going somewhere.

So those are the goals. I already have a bunch of fiber lined up for the 4 oz/week. I have stuff on the iPod to watch/listen to while exercising. I've pulled out the cookbooks and plan on some great meals from new recipes. 2010 is going to be a great year for me.

(image ganked from Robert Price)