Homemaking with office hours?

My “office”

I am learning! I feel grateful that I am finally learning to roll with it, to try new things, and to keep trying new things until I find something that works for me.

Last week I posted that my mid-morning routine wasn’t working for me. My daughter needs a lot of help with schooling and I’m perfectly happy to help her. We just need to find a routine that works for both of us. Her presence is only required online for two hours each morning, four days a week. We were attempting to cram in assignments during the short breaks between classes or between classes and lunch. However, this was leaving us both feeling rushed and frazzled.

My daughter is “in class” from nine to eleven each morning. My husband often has conference calls in the mornings. Both of them have been working upstairs at the kitchen table. I was feeling like my attempts at a routine were being thwarted by everyone else’s schedule. I finally realized that instead of trying to fight their schedule, I should embrace it. On Monday, I decided to try something new.

My very cluttered “office”

Starting at nine every morning, I am moving myself to my bedroom. I haul my coffee and my laptop downstairs and set up in the corner. It’s relatively quiet down here, especially compared to the conference calls and schooling going on upstairs. My lovely noise cancelling headphones remove all distractions if I need absolute quiet.

This has been working really, really well! I worked in my new office from 9-11 four different mornings this week. My introverted self craves the quiet time. My need for productivity is satisfied because I have uninterrupted time to get things done. I’ve been following the mid-morning routine I shared earlier.

Best Decade Ever journaling
Process personal email
Process any business email
Complete all Chinese flashcards
Complete all Japanese flashcards
Respond to language partners on HelloTalk

I have’t quite been able to fit in a formal language lesson but it might happen in time. I do believe that the flashcard review plus posting/chatting on HelloTalk is already helping.

My office view

I am excited to keep following this new routine. I see possibilities!

I’d love to hear from you. How do you keep your office hours?

Best Laid Plans

My apologies to anyone who has left a comment in the past week. My husband is still trying to fix my blog on the back end because it’s not notifying me of new comments. Hopefully it’ll be fixed soon. I do want to connect with anyone who is reading my blog so I apologize if I have not been able to respond to you yet.

Begonia growth!

Earlier this month I brainstormed routines that I felt were doable for this season of life. How does that quote go? Man plans and God laughs. I don’t believe God mocks us but I do suspect He chuckles occasionally and shakes His head at our naivete.

My daughter will graduate high school in four weeks. Last month, the school was still trying to figure out how online learning was going to move forward. At first, it seemed like they were taking the approach that as long as you make an effort, you’ll pass your classes and graduate. But over the past few weeks, teachers have been sending home more and more assignments. My daughter struggles with self-directed learning so I’ve pulled up a chair and started learning alongside her.

High school math

We have learned so much math in the past few weeks! We’ve also worked on a project researching Tesla and their efforts at globalization. We finished reading The Great Gatsby, answered questions, and wrote an essay. All of this takes two or three hours a day and uses most of my brain power. I feel that my brain is not very sharp because I haven’t been stretching it by learning new things. I study languages but it’s a small project, not something that takes up a significant amount of time. So I feel like my brain is a bit rusty!

My mid-morning routine was supposed to look like this:

Make a cup of tea
Best Decade Ever journaling
Process personal email
Process any business email
Complete all Chinese flashcards
Complete all Japanese flashcards
Respond to language partners on HelloTalk
Japanese grammar lesson

Morning journaling

Instead, it currently looks like this:

Process email
Math
English
History
Any other school related things (resume building, financial aid stuff)
Make lunch

Clematis flower

The rest of my time has been spent keeping my family alive and my house from falling apart. I’ve been spending a bit of time in my garden, trying to keep everything alive. I’ve made a few homemade meals but I’ve also made boxed macaroni and cheese because… well, life.

If there is any time left after all of this, I have a new computer game obsession. My husband was rather shocked that I have never played Civilization so he bought me the latest Civilization release with all of the extra content. I have lost several games and I’ve won several games. I had no idea a computer game could be so complex. If this game is anything like running a real government, no wonder politicians look so frazzled.

Civilization VI

I’m not sure why this game is so addicting right now but I have a theory. Some areas of life feel out of control due to the coronavirus. I love to travel but I’m not allowed. I love to spend time at my local library but the libraries are closed. I love meeting with my friend at a coffee shop so we can knit and chat but we can’t do that right now. My life has gotten much smaller over the past three months and there’s no end in sight.

But here’s a game that lets me travel! I can build cities, add amenities, develop cultural attractions, and run a government. Civilization requires a ton of decision making and you have control of your entire civilization. When the real world won’t let you control a large portion of your life, a computer game gives you a semblance of control. In a way, playing Civilization is a coping skill for dealing with a rampant virus, a shut down community, and everyone being at home 24/7.

I would love to hear from you. How have you been doing with routines? Have you found that your routines are still serving you well or have you had to make changes?

The Simple Woman’s Daybook – May 4th

The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Capturing a moment in time, reminding myself to be aware of the present.

My patio garden

Looking out my window, we are blessed with a warm sunny day. It’s so nice after having several wet days.

I am thinking about our Bible study this morning. We are studying Galatians. Why is it so hard to understand the difference between living under law and grace?

I am thankful that I don’t have to go to the grocery store today. Shopping is even more stressful now that the virus is rampant.

One of my favorite things – a hot cup of coffee.

Knitting project

I am creating an infinity scarf. I am so close to being done but it feels like the project that never ends!

I am wearing my chilly weather default – jeans, thick socks, and a hoodie.

I am listening to The Tim Ferris Show. In this particular podcast, Tyler Cowen is discussing scales. A musician practices scales every day so that he/she can become an expert. A basketball player practices free throws. What is the equivalent of scales for a homemaker?

I am hoping to find more time today to work on my language studies. I’ve already completed my flashcards but I’d like to learn something new.

I am learning (or relearning) high school math with my daughter!

Birthday cupcakes

In my kitchen – leftover cupcakes from my daughter’s 18th birthday.

Post Script – If you have a craving for chocolate, I highly recommend ordering vegan chocolate truffles from Creek House Patisserie‘s Etsy shop. The hazelnut flavor is my favorite, followed closely by the espresso truffle.

Shared Quote – “Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.” The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Flowers

A moment from my day. I’m just sharing this giant box of plants sitting on my dining room table. All of these need transplanted!

Closing Notes – This was a fun exercise in embracing the present moment. As I’m writing this, my husband is on a phone conference, my daughter is playing video games, and a very chipper bird is singing right outside our condo. It’s a busy day but there are also moments of calm.

Thanks to The Simple Woman for hosting this!

Reading Goals – May

May’s books

Let’s talk about books! I love that no matter how calm or crazy life is, I can always find a book that will match my mood. Sometimes I can dive deep and contemplate new ideas. At other times, I just need an escape novel. Lately I’ve been reading mostly escapism novels but I do occasionally read a few chapters of something more profound.

Dragonlance Chronicles has been ongoing for awhile. I can’t help but compare it to Lord of the Rings, which is far superior in both storytelling and writing style. My husband said that Dragonlance gets better in later books and I’m trying to give it a good faith effort.

The Hobbit

One of my Facebook book groups suggested that we read The Hobbit this month as a comfort read. I’ve only read The Hobbit once, back in 2016, so I am excited to reread it. I started last night and could feel myself smiling throughout the first chapter. I love this book!

I requested a free copy of We Are Mother Abraham so that I can read and review it. It’s about how mothers learn to release control of their adult children. I feel this is a time appropriate read because my daughter just turned 18. She’s wrapping up her senior year in high school, and even though she won’t be emotionally ready to move out anytime soon, I need to learn how to let her make all of her own choices.

Postern of Fate

My husband and I have a stack of Agatha Christie’s novels and we’ve been steadily working through the stack. Right now I am reading a Tommy and Tuppence mystery called Postern of Fate. The bantering between husband and wife is quite funny and reminds me of my husband and I’s interactions.

Lastly, I am reading a book on my Kobo called Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas. I have no immediate plans to become an expat but living overseas is one of my Best Decade Ever dreams. I didn’t choose this book because it’s written for expats but because people keep raving about how well the author explains investments. We’ve eliminated all of our vehicle and credit card debt and are almost a third of the way done building our six month emergency fund. We need to start saving for retirement but I have an extremely basic understanding of investing. I am hoping this book will serve as a good foundation.

I don’t know that I’ll finish all of these books in May. I have high hopes that I’ll finish reading both The Hobbit and Postern of Fate. We’ll see how much progress I make on the rest of the books.

What about you? What are you reading?

Routines – Mid-morning

Since my post last week, I’ve been working to establish a mid-morning routine, covering the period between breakfast and the start of my lunch prep. This is still very much a work in progress but I think I’m on the right track.

Here is my tentative mid-morning routine. I am going to follow this routine until it becomes habit or until I decide it’s not meeting my needs.

Mid-morning Routine
Make a cup of tea
Best Decade Ever journaling
Process personal email
Process any business email
Complete all Chinese flashcards
Complete all Japanese flashcards
Respond to language partners on HelloTalk
Japanese grammar lesson

Practicing Hanzi

By the time all of these items are completed, it’s almost time for lunch.

I’m glad that I am finally putting a priority on my language studies. Since I really want to travel, I need to keep moving forward in languages. I believe that neither Chinese nor Japanese are languages that you can cram 30 days before traveling, especially if you want to be able to read either of them. This means that I need to study every day, every week, every month so that I can reach conversational fluency in both languages.

The next week will be devoted to turning this new routine into habit. So far I’ve really enjoyed journaling with a hot cup of tea. Hopefully this morning time will prove to be both relaxing and productive.

Routines – Morning & Evening

One of the best decisions I ever made for myself was to implement both a morning and an evening routine. I first read about these two routines on the FlyLady website.

My morning routine is quite simple, which meant that it was easy to adapt when my daughter’s school shifted to online learning for the remainder of the semester.

This cat makes me smile

Morning Routine
Wake up
Take a shower
Wipe down the shower
Get dressed
Enjoy a cup of coffee while playing a computer game
Make breakfast
Brush my teeth
Make the bed
Tidy my bedroom

My evening routine is also fairly simple, though I’m still trying to figure out the best time to run the dishwasher. For a long time, we’ve set the dishwasher on a four hour delay so that it runs in the middle of the night. However, I think this is interrupting our sleep. I am trying to remember to start the dishwasher immediately after dinner so that’s done before bed. This isn’t quite a habit yet, though!

Evening Routine
Set the oil diffuser
Brush my teeth
Change into pj’s
Set out my clothes for tomorrow
Wash my face
Brush my hair
Read until sleepy

My husband and I have recently started heading to our bedroom by 8:30 at the latest. This way, we have time to complete our evening routine and then read for a bit before falling asleep. This evening reading has allowed me to finish several Agatha Christie novels over the past two weeks! I find this bedtime reading to be so much more relaxing than a last minute Facebook scroll, especially these days with all of the coronavirus news.

I don’t have any firm routines for the daytime hours. I know that my best mental hours are between breakfast and lunch. This would be the ideal time to work on my business, write blog posts, and study languages. After lunch, my mental powers drop a bit and I find this is the best time for me to clean, take a walk, or do something else active.

My lack of routines during the day is because I have let my husband’s conference calls control my activities. He’s been working from home for years, so this stay-at-home order is nothing new for us. Some of his conference calls are regular, daily calls. Others are random and unpredictable. When he’s on the phone, I have to be quiet so his clients can’t hear me in the background. I have allowed this challenge of random periods of silence influence my ability to create a routine.

I need to set up my routines and then be willing to move my computer to my room if necessary. This way, I can continue writing or studying without worrying about being able to concentrate. I also need to be more flexible about my cleaning schedule, working around my husband’s conference calls instead of getting frustrated and refusing to clean at all.

Journaling

I think the best place to start is to concentrate on my mid-morning routine. After cleaning up from breakfast, I would like to establish the habit of journaling my Best Decade Ever dreams (more on these later). I’ll do some brainstorming over the next few days to figure out where I should concentrate my morning mental work/studies and then start developing a routine around those goals.

The beauty of routines is that I don’t have to worry about what comes next. I always know! This tends to lower my anxiety and help me feel more confident about my abilities to get things done. Even when I’m having my worst days, I’m still able to complete my morning and evening routines because they are so ingrained. Developing additional daily routines will also help.

What daily routines do you have?

Six Months of Changes

My last blog post was written exactly six months ago. In that post, I talked about how changes were coming. I was correct! I had no idea how drastically different life would be in six months.

Let’s address the obvious first – the coronavirus. We’ve been staying safe at home for over a month now, venturing out only to buy groceries, pick up coffee (drive through!), and take walks. My husband is working from home and my daughter’s school is conducting online classes now. I knew that the time would come when my entire family would be home 24/7. My daughter graduates from high school in June and my husband has been working remotely for the past eight years. Come this summer, everyone will be home unless my daughter is able to obtain her first job. What I didn’t expect is that everyone would be home 24/7 starting in March!

Another big change is that my husband was offered a new job. He shifted from an IT jack-of-all-trades to an IT security position at a huge company. This has been a bit of an adjustment for him as he now has a niche. The position came with a noticeable pay raise and lower health insurance premiums. The two of these things combined led to our third major change – huge debt payoffs.

In the past six months, we have eliminated over $22,000 in debt. We paid off our car and received the title in the mail (woohoo!). We also paid off our last two credit cards. Between these three debt payoffs, we have eliminated over $400 in monthly payments. This has really helped our cash flow. We still have a personal debt to pay as well as two student loans. We started to pay off the student loans but decided that with the shaky economy, it would be better to redirect all of our extra funds into savings. We are now building our six month emergency fund.

The final change is that I enrolled in a free online class during the month of January. This class was titled Best Decade Ever and was taught by Mel Robbins. I am rather in awe of how much this class has shifted my mindset and has given me something to work towards. Mel taught me how to dream again. These aren’t just small dreams but massive dreams that can be worked on over the next 10 years. My dreams are simple but challenging at the same time. I plan to expand on this more in upcoming blog posts.

I can’t believe how much can change in six months. Our finances have dramatically improved. My husband’s career has been given a much-needed burst of energy. My mindset has been expanded and I feel like I am finally working toward emotional healing. Something in our lives shifted six months ago and we declared that we were ready for change. Change has come and I am grateful.

Changes

I sense changes are coming. I can’t say anything specific because nothing is confirmed. Doors seem to be opening and I’m hoping that we can step through each of them in faith that this is the best course of action. The biggest impact these changes will have is financially.

In the last few days, I’ve begun to voice aloud the hope that our family will be able to pay off all of our debts before my 40th birthday. (It seems so monumental to be using the word forty in the context of my life. I just graduated from high school!). My 37th birthday is on Sunday and I’ve been in a goal mindset lately. Is it reasonable to think we might have some financial freedom within the next three years?

We used to be consumer debt free with only student loans to our name. However, adoption is expensive and we had to rely on credit cards to get us to China. Then our car broke down and we financed a used, reliable vehicle. All of that debt adds up and now we are saddled with extra payments that we don’t want.

We currently owe $38,500 to several different creditors. We pay over $700 per month in minimums to these creditors. I know what life is like without consumer debt. I dream of a fresh slate to build wealth instead of pay off debt. I have plans to make a difference through child sponsorship. We sponsor families now but we could make so much more of an impact without the monthly burden of debt.

I am going to be bold and set a goal to reach debt free status by my 40th birthday. There. I’ve proclaimed it to the world. Debt free by 40.

October goals

During the month of September, I completed all three of my goals! I call that a serious win.

Back to School
Overall, we had a fairly smooth transition into my daughter’s senior year of high school. One of her recent goals has been to take responsibility for her own waking times and to successfully get herself ready for school each morning. She has succeeded! We’ve had zero tardies for school and I am so proud of my daughter for this step toward adulthood.

Smart Girl Edits
I was able to successfully sign a contract with one client. Between that client’s work and my trip to Canada, I haven’t been able to do much marketing. I am thrilled to have my first paying client but have so much more work to do. It’s still a great step forward.

PEI trip
My trip was amazing! I learned so much and had such great adventures. I am in the process of starting a separate travel blog and plan to write blog posts about the trip highlights.

Green Gables, Prince Edward Island

New month, new goals! My focus on goals and travel plans worked out so well last month that I want to focus on several new goals for the month of October.

Birthdays
Both my husband and I have October birthdays! We have started a family tradition that the birthday guy or gal gets to choose a movie and a restaurant from which we have food delivered on the actual birthday. Last year, we watched Namaste London and ate Thai food and cheesecake for my birthday. It was so much fun!

Birthday cheesecake

I still need to finish shopping for birthday presents for my husband. Then I need to figure out what movie and food I want for my birthday. I will likely pick cheesecake again but want to find a better option than The Cheesecake Factory. I can’t wait!

Baking Day
I read an article about fall activities for introverts. One of the suggested activities is a baking day. I love this idea! I’ve been buying a ton of pumpkins so I think I’ll pick a day specifically for baking several pumpkin recipes that I’ve pinned but have never made.

Pumpkin spice everything!

Smart Girl Edits
My third goal for the month is to make forward progress with my business, Smart Girl Edits. I know that my next step is to decide on a niche. I want to offer writing and editing services but have no idea who I am marketing to. Consequently, my website has very little traffic and is so generic that it does not appeal to anyone.

I purchased an online class that will help me determine my niche and grow my business. It’s a 90 day class so I want to make significant progress toward creating and clarifying a solid business and marketing plan. I am grateful for my one paying client but need more than one. Right now I have a flurry of work for my client and then days with nothing to do. I need to use that non-client time to work on the back end of my business so that I can gain more clients.

October is going to be a great month! Do you have any specific goals for this month?

Wish list progress report

I leave for Boston on Tuesday morning! This trip felt so far away and now, all of a sudden, I’m finishing up some last minute items. Tomorrow morning, I can check into my flight and get my seat assignment.

I’ve somehow managed to complete all items on my wish list. Originally, I was hoping to complete at least half but I’ve finished all four items. I had to take things one item at a time and break them up in small pieces but I managed to complete everything.

Wish list item #1 – a haircut
It took some searching, but I found a great hair stylist who took the time to talk with me about what I wanted. This haircut isn’t a drastic change; I only cut off four inches and added some framing around my face. I like it, though I think next time I’ll go shorter.

Wish list item #2 – a new knitting project
I combed through hundreds of knitting patterns before settling on Dotted Rays by Stephen West. It looks like the perfect vacation knit, though I’m a bit intimidated by the length of the pattern. The description says that it’s the perfect travel knit. Hopefully that’s the case!

Wish list item #3 – a new book
A bit different from my normal book selection, I am excited to read Story Thieves by James Riley. I was intrigued by the description on Goodreads – a girl who can jump in and out of library books. Sounds wonderful! An added bonus is that the entire series is rated well.

Wish list item #4 – assemble a trip itinerary
I had so much fun assembling a trip itinerary! It’s not a set in stone list of destinations. It’s more of a list of suggestions of places we can visit dependent on the amount of time and energy we have on any given day.

Prince Edward Island
Image Credit

We are spending time in three different cities. In each, I found one or two possible used book stores, yarn stores, quilting stores, and a highly rated local coffee shop. I know we won’t visit every destination but I look forward to the adventure! My priority is the coffee. Always the coffee.

My priority is the coffee. Always the coffee. If I could, I’d visit every local coffee shop around the world.

No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee’s frothy goodness.

Sheik Abd-al-Kadir