April 29th, 2013 | Comments Off

Many years ago – in the 21st century – I took a job that turned out to be toxic. I didn’t know it when I took the job, obviously, or I never would have gone to work there in the first place. But it paid pretty well, and I thought it would be just the thing to put me on the path to a new career. Boy, was I wrong. I left after about nine months, when I realized that no matter what I did I would not be able to make that job what I needed it to be. It was turning me into an irritable, confrontational, bitterly unhappy person, so I left.

This was not my first brush with a toxic situation or person, but it was the first time I saw it so very clearly. It was a learning experience, a maturing moment for me. It was when I realized that sometimes you just have to walk away from someone or something, even if you don’t know what’s waiting for you.

I am currently going through another toxic period in my life. It’s not my new job this time – even though it’s not my dream job and I don’t love it like I loved my old job – no one’s trying to sabotage me and I’m not being psychologically abused or manipulated. It’s just not thrilling me, but that’s just life and I can handle that.

The toxicity this time is a build up of anger, resentment, and bitterness from watching and experiencing what happened to my friends, my husband, and myself over the past year. Watching the systematic undermining and betrayal by colleagues and by people we thought were friends and allies. It turns out that this whole horrible year has been good for one thing – I know who my true friends are.

There is a group of “friends” I have now learned I can no longer associate with freely. This particular group is a trigger for me – just being around them reminds me of what happened, and of the betrayal and lack of ethics of one particular person in particular. I just cannot be around these people right now without feeling angry and lashing out. Being around them makes me edgy and uncomfortable in my own skin.

But even beyond this, I have to admit that I am not dealing with the anger like I need to. I have seen what anger and bitterness will do to a person, and I do not want to turn out that way. So now I have to work on myself, because now I’m the one who’s toxic. Ouch. So, where to begin? Meditation, exercise, a cleansing fast? I just know I don’t want to feel this way a year from now.

March 15th, 2013 | Comments Off

I’ve been writing more this week than I have in quite a while. It hits me like that – I’ll be blocked for a while, and then something sets me off and I’ll slam out 5,000 words like it’s nothing. Then I have to let it sit for a couple of days before I go back and tweak it and the cycle starts again. I’m two chapters away from a finished manuscript, but they’re the hardest two chapters.

Anyway, I had an idea of what this story would be when I started writing it, but it took a crazy turn around Chapter 5, and now it’s something different and I’m finally realizing that I can’t force it to be what it doesn’t want to be. Writing is hard.

I need to make myself do a few things this weekend – writing, planting, experimenting with some recipes. I need to order some supplies for some of those recipes. Spring has got me feeling creative.

Posted in Uncategorized
March 13th, 2013 | Comments Off

I love my house. I love the size (small), I love the location, I love my city and the neighborhood I live in. Sure, there are annoyances, mostly having to do with neglectful or inconsiderate neighbors, but overall it’s a perfect fit.

And don’t get me started on the clutter, although we’re working on that. New motivation? Looks like we may have to move if the husband is serious about continuing in his current career. There just aren’t that many opportunities for him here. We talked about it a bit this weekend, again, and it’s looking more like we’re both accepting that this is the way it may play out.

One thing we both agree on, though, is that we won’t sell the house. We’ll rent it, either to someone we know or to a responsible adult who has been thoroughly vetted. That way, if it doesn’t work out wherever we go, or if we are able to come back in the future, or even if we decide to retire here, we have our little house to come back to.

That being said, I still have to get the husband on board with some hardcore clean out, even if we don’t have to move. So my strategy will be to approach him with, “Just in case we do have to relocate, let’s start clearing out now so we don’t have to do it in a rush with a deadline.” Logic!

Posted in Uncategorized
March 8th, 2013 | Comments Off

While reading this post on Marc and Angel Hack Life this morning, I was particularly struck by item #3. Especially now as I sit here in my effing cubicle (seriously, this job is the first time in 20 years that I haven’t had my own office) listening to everyone else’s conversations, I realize I have got to get out of this hell-scape.

An idea has been taking form over the last few weeks. It is something I have thought about for years, a way to turn a hobby into a business. Jeez, seriously, I cannot concentrate to even write this entry with the girl in the next cubicle chattering and giggling. She can’t stay on the phone forever, can she? … time passes … OMG – why does she call everyone “mama”? WFT is up with that? Okay, she’s off the phone.

Anyway, I need to stick around here for another couple of months at the very least for various reasons, but in the meantime I am going to start perfecting some recipes and patterns and building up some stock and then I am out of here. I’m shooting for end of summer at the latest. August 27th is my goal date.

Oh, good lord, she’s at it again. I give up.

Posted in Uncategorized
March 4th, 2013 | Comments Off

My decision to go all austere on 2013 didn’t happen until February was fully underway, so this report is more qualitative than quantitative. Deal with it.

After making the austerity decision, I stuck to it pretty darn well. I made one splurge purchase that happened before I had time to really think about it, and it was during the first week, so I wasn’t yet out of the habit of just spending as I like. The culprit? A pair of Chiaogoo lace knitting needles for about $14. Not exactly breaking the bank, sure, but it’s the little things that add up. I am pleased to report that I was much more mindful of my spending the rest of the month. We ate out only a handful of times, and those were at inexpensive places like our local coffee shop. I only bought my lunch once or twice.

I do allow myself one splurge per month – and this was my husband’s idea. When I told him about my austerity plan, his first response was, “What about shoes?”

“No new shoes,” I told him. He didn’t think that made sense, given my mad love for Fluevogs, so it was agreed that I treat myself to one pair a month. No, seriously. However, I never pay retail – I always buy on sale or on ebay, or Amazon markdowns. And yes, I bought a pair of Beezies for $89.

The month came in well under budget – meaning I spent less than I earned. I should point out that a huge part of my budget is transfers into my savings, investment, and retirement accounts. So even though I say “spent”, a lot of it isn’t really spending.

March will be my first full month on austerity – I’m looking forward to saving big!

March 1st, 2013 | Comments Off

Sometimes it seems like everything I do, or want to do, is a time-suck. The thing is, there is nothing that does not take at least some time. These days I’m getting a lot of knitting done on the bus. It’s not the fancy beaded lacy knitting I love to do at home, though. It’s just simple basic socks. But those need to get done too, so it’s cool. And the husband was so happy when he got his pair last month.

An added perk – when you’re knitting on the bus, people seldom sit next to you. Maybe they’re afraid you’re going to poke them with your sharp little needles (I do knit socks with size 0 metal needles, and those are kind of lethal looking).

Knitting on the bus gives me an extra hour of knitting time each day, so I have come to love riding the bus.

I also like making soap, but you can’t do that on the bus.

Posted in Uncategorized
February 27th, 2013 | Comments Off

Last week I accomplished almost everything on my to-do list, which felt pretty good. I wasn’t able to sort out my nightstand situation, because the nightstand I wanted was out of stock at Ikea. I’ll try again in a couple of weeks when they expect to have more in. But the room of doom saw progress.

The room of doom is the front bedroom of our two-bedroom bungalow. Most of us have one – a room that becomes a dumping ground or storage room. Ours is a combination of the two, but I’d like to turn it into a home office/studio. It is the only room in the house that still needs painting (desperately), and is where the cat box lives, so it’s an uphill battle on a lot of fronts. But I’m chipping away at it, one box or pile at a time.

I am a list-maker. That’s the only way I can get things done. I’ve tried different systems over the years, based on what’s hot in the blogiverse at the moment, or what book on productivity I’ve happened to come across. But the only thing that has worked for me long term is my lists, and here’s how they work.

Way back when I would use a small notebook, and I may give this a try again when I run out of or get tired of index cards, but right now I’m using 5″ x 8″ ruled index cards. I have colored ones I got at the office supply store by my house – the colors help me find the card quickly if it gets mixed up with other papers, and also I just like color.

On Monday morning, I take a ruler and draw a vertical line about 1/3 from the left of the card. The left-hand section I label “week” and the right hand section I label “weekend”. However, these categories are fluid and non-binding. In the “week” section I list a handful of things that I would like to or need to get done during the week. Not too many, because I’m usually tired and unmotivated when I get home in the evening. I try to keep it ambitious, but also realistic.

Everything else that needs to get done, I put in the “weekend” section. It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s when I’ll do it, or that it has to be done, but it gives me something to shoot for. In the weekend section I list a 20/10 for each room of the house. A 20/10 is jargon from UfYH, and means 20 minutes of work, 10 minutes of rest. You’ll be amazed what you can accomplish in 20 minutes, and since my house only has five rooms this gets done pretty quickly. Laundry is in there, but there’s not usually too much of it since the husband usually does a load or two during the week and there’s only the two of us. Also, he runs the Roomba during the week so the floors are usually in pretty good shape. My regular weekend 20/10s are primarily for maintenance cleaning and tidying up little messes that have popped up during the week. If I have extra time in a room I’ll use it for digging deeper, like cleaning out a drawer or some special project. Last weekend I deep-cleaned my microwave.

But what about automating, you ask? And forming habits? Routines? That’s fine, if it works for you. It doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried and tried, but my brain doesn’t work like that. I have personal routines for getting ready in the morning and winding down at night, but when it comes to the things that need to be done around the house, the weekend 20/10s are my routine. I need to make the new list each week because priorities change each week, and new things pop up. I need to actively engage in the process for anything to happen. By writing it down each week, I remind myself, I think about it, and I have my pretty blue or pink card as a talisman to help me remember.

Posted in clutter, everyday life
February 25th, 2013 | Comments Off

Some people think the work “austere” is too, well, austere. It doesn’t have a negative connotation for me, necessarily. I first started doing austerity months around 1993 or so. I was making very little money and I needed a way to focus myself on saving. There was one month that I had to sell some collectibles and jewelry to make my mortgage payment, and I swore I would never have to do that again. I haven’t.

Austerity months saved my financial life. Back then I was single and didn’t have much of a social life, so it was easy to stay home, stay out of the shops, and eat from my pantry since there were no other tastes to accommodate. Bottom line, though, is that I have a soft spot for financial austerity and true gratitude for what it has helped me accomplish.

So, how have I done this past week? We bought some kitty litter (a necessity) and a package of tea lights at Ikea (~$5.00). I’m calling those a necessity since I got home from work one day last week and the electricity was off – this happens occasionally thanks to a finicky transformer on our block. Also, some groceries. I’m calling it a win. No new books, no new yarn, no beauty products (and I was tempted by some nail polish more than once). Patting myself on the back.

Posted in year of austerity
February 22nd, 2013 | Comments Off

For the last decade I had a pretty sweet deal, work-wise. I worked in a casual atmosphere, many of my co-workers became good friends, and my supervisor was actually an old friend from high school, which is how I found out about the job in the first place. The money was good, I excelled at my work and was respected in my field. When things were good there, I would have been content to stick around until retirement. But all good things come to an end, and when you’ve got a good thing going, there will always be those who will be happy to contribute to that end. Our enterprise fell victim to upper level politics and greed. We had a big budget, someone else wanted that budget, you know how it goes. One by one services were cut, people were cut, we all sat in our offices updating our LinkedIn profiles and surfing job postings.

My “special day” came at the beginning of November. Lucky me, I had a new job within days – not as sweet a deal, but I’m making it work for now. Most of us have moved on to new positions or are developing opportunities. The last of us left less than two weeks ago, so for some of us the upheaval is still fresh. We are all in different stages of moving on, and some of us are just not. We all still have contacts within the organization, but one of us can’t stop talking about the situation, speculating, gossiping, etc. It has been hard for her to move on, and hard to watch her – she seems kind of stuck. She had the sweetest deal of all of us: six-figure salary, international travel, the whole nine yards.

This whole situation, the past nine months, watching things deteriorate at work really got me thinking about my career and what I really wanted. A few years ago, after an 18-month stint living in the DC area and working from home and being thoroughly miserable and lonely, I swore I would never move away from Houston again. My social circle, my support network, were too important to leave. Until that experience I had never really thought of myself as particularly social. Now I know better. But…

There’s always a “but”, and you know what they say about saying “never”. I am actually considering the possibilities of relocating. I have committed to myself to give this new position until the end of the year. At the same time, the husband is developing some consulting projects and he needs some time to see how that works out. My parents are elderly – like, seriously elderly – and I can’t move far away from them. On top of all that, my house is still more cluttered than I would like, we have more stuff than I would want to move, and that dang front bedroom still needs to be painted. So in addition to being a year of austerity, 2013 will also be a year of preparing. Not just decluttering, but home improvement projects, resume revising, and thinking long and hard about what I want my life to be for the next ten years.

Posted in work
February 20th, 2013 | Comments Off

Some people think routines are boring, or that they stifle creativity, blah blah blah. It’s been so long since I’ve given this serious thought or credence that I can’t even remember the arguments any more. I know I need routines and lists to get anything done. But knowing that and practicing it are two different things.

One of my favorite sites these days is Unfuck Your Habitat. I find it comforting and reassuring to know I’m not the only person who liked the basic fundamentals of the Flylady system, but had trouble dealing with the family/god/kids-centered tone. I also find the before & after entries encouraging and inspiring. I now buy giant containers of vinegar and baking soda at Costco. I feel more at home with the Un-Fuckers who get frustrated and curse than with the Flybabies who… well, I’ll stop here before this becomes a Flylady rant. That would be non-productive.

So back to my real world. The husband is trying out adding a new step to his routine this week. Since he is not going in to a traditional office, the temptation to stay in bed late is pretty strong, especially for someone (like my husband) who is not a morning person and has an almost infinite capacity for sleep. This week he is getting up when I get up and fixing breakfast while I get ready to leave for work. This is awesomeness for me, and I have been able to bring my lunch to work and not have to buy breakfast in the deli for three days in a row now. I hope he can keep it up, and I will tell him how helpful it has been for me because he is one of those people who likes to be helpful and will be glad to know that what he is doing is having good consequences.

The house is looking good, too. He is much better at clutter control than I am. I have a tendency to spread out and leave things lying about. If I do not make a concentrated effort, the area surrounding my spot on the sofa starts looking like a magpie nest. If I listen really hard I can hear my mother’s voice, all the way from 1982, nagging me about my mess, and we all know how helpful THAT is. Not. I don’t want to feel like a messy teenager in my own home, so I will add a new step to my routine – tidying up my space every night before heading off to bed. If I can start doing this, then maybe I’ll be ready to tackle some larger messes before too long.

Posted in clutter, everyday life