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

September goals

I am so excited that today is September first! I love New Year’s day because I establish new goals for the year. The first of each month is a miniature reboot of New Year’s goals.

This month I want to concentrate on just a couple of areas.

Back to School
My daughter starts her senior year of high school on Wednesday. She is excited and nervous at the same time. She’s thrilled that she’ll be able to hang out with her friends again. But she’s nervous because this is the start of the end of her high school experience.

Lazy summer days

My goal is to help make this back to school transition as easy as possible. This afternoon we’ll visit a salon to get her all prettied for the first day of school. A new haircut is definitely a confidence booster!

Smart Girl Edits
I am in the process of preparing a proposal and quote for several potential clients. If either of them signs a contract with me, I’ll be busy this month working toward their deadlines.

If neither client signs a contract with me, I want to continue developing connections on LinkedIn. I also want to resume one of my business classes so that I can refine my business niche and make a plan for the rest of this year.

Travel
My third and final focus this month is my Prince Edward Island trip! Last month, I posted several goals I want to complete in preparation for my vacation. I have selected and purchased a book to read on my flight. I have also selected my knitting pattern but still need to go yarn shopping. I will post about these things later in more detail.

Hoping to pack lighter…

Here’s to a productive and fun September! What are your September goals?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s summertime and that means our family has had more time to relax. We’ve watched a lot of movies and television shows this summer. We introduced our daughter to The Fresh Prince of Bel-air, a huge hit. I also introduced her to one of my childhood favorites – Lois & Clark: the New Adventures of Superman.

The first season of the show brought back so many memories. I remember eagerly anticipating each new episode as it aired. I remember being incredibly frustrated with the cliff hanger at the end of season three, lamenting (loudly) over having to wait months for season four to start. At least I was young enough to not realize that sometimes shows get canceled! I can only imagine how disappointed I would have been if the story arc had not completed and happily ever after was not found.

Watching Lois & Clark reminded me of how much I wanted to be a journalist. I was inspired by Lois, impressed with her bravery and tenacity. I was enthralled with her job as a reporter at the Daily Planet newspaper. I so desperately wanted to be a writer just like her.

I thought it would be interesting to try to recall what answers I gave when people asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Feeding the baby

Mom – elementary school. All I wanted to do was to be a mom. I took such good care of my dolls! I even had an imaginary baby that I would take to school with me and nurture while learning basic algebra and Bible stories and how to craft a piggy bank out of clay (it didn’t turn out well).

Journalist – ages 12 and 13. Before this point, I had already started writing journals. My brother and I, inspired by Harriet the Spy, used to sneak around and spy on people while taking notes and writing stories about the people we were spying on. Watching Lois & Clark on weeknights refined my writing aspirations to journalism.

Chickens, chickens, chickens

Any animal related career – ages 13 through 17. I don’t remember why my dream changed from journalism to an animal related career, but something must have changed. I have always loved animals. I trained our dog to walk on a leash and imagined being a dog trainer. I helped our cat extricate her captured paw from her collar, dreaming of being a wildly successful veterinarian. I obsessively followed horse racing and wanted to become a jockey, even as I recognized that I was already too tall. Can’t be a jockey? Then I’ll train to be a show jumper.

Future Olympian!

Somewhere in there, I also dreamed of being an archaeologist, a librarian, and an astronomer. These were the short lived dreams, but I daydreamed about each of these careers in turn.

Always a dreamer but enough of a realist to truly plan for the future, I chose my high school classes with the goal of enrolling at university with a declared pre-vet major. I took an extra year of biology my junior year of high school, dissecting everything from worms to baby pigs and a shark. I was even one of the few girls in our class who had a front row seat during the cadaver field trip (most of the girls were outside puking).

Bandit & I, best friends

Sometime during my freshman or sophomore year of college, I became overwhelmed with the number of math and science classes required for a pre-vet major. I concurrently developed a queasy stomach at the thought of any bodily fluids and dropped my major.

What was I to do when I felt too introverted and shy to chase a journalism career and too intimidated by the veterinary program? A literature degree, of course! I took American lit, British lit, and an entire semester devoted to Shakespeare. I took creative writing and novel writing classes.

Sammy, such a good dog!

After being asked a myriad of times what in the world I was going to do with a literature degree, I finally decided to finish my literature degree and then enroll in the education program to get a teaching certificate. I could then spend all of my time teaching literature to high school students.

The Great Ideas

Unfortunately, I dropped out of college due to a sudden realization of just how much student loan debt I was acquiring. By this point, I was married and my husband and I were struggling with our finances. I felt it was better to drop out of college to avoid accruing any more debt.

Naptime with Bruno

Over the next few years, I worked at an insurance company as a receptionist and then a mail clerk/administrative assistant. It did not feed my creative side and did not take into account my introverted nature but it did pay the bills. Eventually I got laid off and, by the grace of God, I was able to become a full time homemaker and then a mom.

All the pretty stationary!

Throughout this entire time, though, I never lost the desire to write. There was always a bit of Lois Lane inside of me, wanting out but never feeling quite brave enough. I’ve been an intermittent blogger for years and have written several novels, but I’ve never done anything more serious with my writing. Revisiting Lois & Clark has reignited that passion for the written word. I’m not sure where this passion will take me, but I’m eager for the ride.

What about you? What did you dream of being when you were a child?

Wish list item #3 – a new book

A few days ago, I posted a wish list of things that I hope to accomplish before I leave for Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Wish list item #1 – a haircut
Wish list item #2 – a new knitting project
Wish list item #3 – a new book
Wish list item #4 – assemble a trip itinerary

Today I have been happily perusing my to-read list on Goodreads. My to-read list is quite long, coming in at a hefty 1,756 books.

SO many options!

The photo above shows just how many books caught my eye today, each tab open to one book on Goodreads. I even took this screenshot after eliminating a few options. I am noticing a trend – bookstore or library themes, mysteries, historical fiction, time travel, and the occasional memoir.

I thought it would be fun to share a couple of the books under consideration in hopes that someone might chime in with, “Hey, I’ve read that book! It was great!” or “That one was pretty good but I found a similar book that was even better.” If you look at my list and have any thoughts, please share! I’d love to read your bookish thoughts.

Goodreads photo

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – set in France, 1939. This novel was recommended by my bookclub as a recently written novel with tons of character development. I lean toward character driven novels rather than plot driven, though it’s a huge bonus if the novel has both strong character development and a great plot!

Goodreads photo

The Heroine’s Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore – essays about inspirational women in literature. I really want to read this book but I’m not sure it’s a good pick for a flight and then trying to relax after a long day of traveling.

Goodreads photo

The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson – a contemporary novel featuring a bookshop scavenger hunt! This might be a really fun read though the reviews are all over the place, mainly due to readers disliking the main character.

Goodreads photo

The Lumby Lines by Gail Fraser – I know so little about this book, only that it’s part of a series and I know that people love the series! The cover reminds me of Jan Karon’s Mitford series, which I love.

Goodreads photo

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone – time travel!! Need I say more? I know very little about this, other than the fact that it involves romance, time travel, and it’s rated fairly well on Goodreads.

While writing this post, I somehow managed to reduce my overall to-read list by one. Let’s see how many more books I add as I try to finalize my book decision. And if you have any suggestions, please let me know! Maybe someday my to-read list will grow to 2,000 books.

Getting ready for PEI

Next month I am traveling to Prince Edward Island, Canada, and I am so excited! My last getaway was in March, a two day women’s church retreat in Fall City, WA. For this trip, I’ll be gone for an entire week!

This week, I’ve been working on a to-do list specifically for my trip. This list is more of an “I hope I can get all this done” list rather than a list based in reality. But I’m still going to see what I can get done. Maybe I should just call it a wish list.

Wish list item #1 – a haircut

I tend to cut a lot of inches off my hair and then not get another haircut for years. I cut about 12 inches off around Valentine’s Day 2018 and have not gotten a haircut since. My hair is now almost down to my elbows and looks rather scraggly. I hope to take a lot of pictures on my trip and hope to actually be in some of those photos. I want to feel more confident in my photos and a haircut would go a long way toward that confidence.

Wish list item #2 – a new knitting project

Current knitting project

My current knitting project, a cowl, is almost complete! (Side note – the pattern designer is really nice and answered several of my questions about her pattern). I really hope to take a new knitting project on my trip, knowing full well that I may be overwhelmed by everything else going on and may not actually knit. On the other hand, I did knit in both Taiwan and China, so…

For my new knitting project, I am looking for a pattern that reminds me of autumn. We are headed to Canada at a time when the leaves should be changing colors and I want to knit something that reflects that season change. I’m not sure if I want to incorporate falling leaves in my pattern or just knit in fall colors. If you have a pattern suggestion, please let me know!

Wish list item #3 – a new book

I definitely need a new book to read while waiting for my flight and while relaxing in the evenings. My husband suggested that I take my e-reader but I want a book I can hold in my hands. I have no idea what specific book I’m looking for, but I have a few ideas. I’m hoping for a lighter read, but not complete brain candy. Good character development. Again, something that reminds me of autumn. A cozy book, heartfelt. I’m open to suggestions!

Wish list item #4 – assemble a trip itinerary

Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

Neither myself or my best friend want to be locked into specific activities on specific days. However, we have already made Airbnb reservations in different towns along our route. Between now and our date of departure, I want to compile a list of places to see, things to do, and food to eat in each of the cities we’ll be visiting. Of course, my number one priority is going to be a list of coffee houses to try! This list will just give us options to choose from based on how we’re feeling that day. I think a list of options will be beneficial so we aren’t completely aimless, but both of us will be approaching the list as “suggestions” rather than “requirements.” If we spot something along the way, I want the freedom to say, “Hey, let’s go check that out!”

Reality

I am well aware that my current reality may not allow me to accomplish every item on this list. I don’t have a hair stylist and will have to find one. I may not own the right knitting needles for my project and will have to buy those in addition to yarn. Each item on this list requires multiple steps and the next month already looks quite busy.

In the next month, my daughter is starting her senior year in high school. Before school starts, we need to stock up on homework supplies, shop for school clothes, get a haircut for her, and visit her school for the “taking care of business” day.

I also have to get my daughter’s last name changed with the school system (we just completed her WA state readoption!), make an appointment for senior photos, and possibly visit the doctor for a sports clearance.

Our car is due for some transmission work. I’m currently in a back and forth discussion with the State of Arizona over previous tax years. Plus, I’m trying to get my editing business off the ground!

Life is busy. I will have to prioritize what gets done and then just do my best.