Thursday, January 31, 2013

The goal chart

Before the year 2012 ended, I made up my mind on what kind of goals I wanted to accomplish for the year. Some of these goals were from last year, ones I could not accomplish, so I decided to try again for this year.

The problem is, I did not write any of these goals down. I know they say the first step towards accomplishing a goal is to write it down, but I have been very busy and just didn’t have the chance to do that yet. I was carrying them around in my head for all of January. I kept planning to write these goals down, but never actually got around to it.

Today, I finally got around to it. I had some free time so I sat down, created a chart and wrote down all my goals for this year. I had two goals to accomplish for each month of the year: A personal one and a professional one. One goal is something I really cannot control on WHEN it will be accomplished, so in the event it is resolved by that particular month, I added an alternative goal. Additionally, I left one blank for a professional goal because my writing life has been known to take so many twists, turns and surprises that I can't really say for sure if things will be the same way they are now three or four months later on down the road. So I left that blank in case I need to train for a new gig/job or have to do something (attend a conference, etc.) in light of those developments. But if there's nothing else by that time, I'm sure I will come up with something to do for that month. (As it is, I have been thinking of going back to publishing a magazine or an E-zine but not sure yet if I will actually do such a thing.)
I also had one personal goal I would spend the year accomplishing and one professional goal I also hoped to achieve for the whole year, and not just for a particular month.

Fortunately, I have accomplished my January goals so far, and I have already started putting things in motion for the personal goal I have for February. That said, the status is, so far, so good.

These are important things I feel need to be done this year first of all to get things taken care of instead of waiting them out until it’s too late or the last minute and, second, because they will help me to be a better and more organized writer. Well, the NaNoWriMo goal is there for November because I have had to keep putting it off recently to take care of other things. I REALLY want to participate this year! I just hope I can do that.

After I finished creating this chart, I hung it up on my wall so that I will see it every day. That is the second step to accomplishing a goal: Hang it up where you will see it every day.

And I just felt it was better to have two goals for each month instead of a list of 12 or 20 goals to accomplish sometime this year. Every time I created those lists in the past, I never got all of them done. This particular goal chart is more focused and there are only TWO things to get done in each month, instead of three or ten or twelve. Just two. Maybe that will mean less pressure to do them.

And since I already try to do those two things every month already anyway – something personal and something professional – I feel that it will make it easier for me to work my way through them and get them all done.

That is the plan, anyway!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Final arrangements

For some time now, there is one thing I have been trying to do that seemed like an impossible task to complete: Make final arrangements for my dog, Chewbacca. Chewie is almost 20 years old and, given that he has a bunch of medical problems, I am holding out hope he will live to see his 20th B-day in a couple of months. But I know that he does not have too much time left with us, so I have started the very difficult task of arranging for his burial at a pet cemetery.

But if I thought even getting started with all that was hard, I first had the difficulty of meeting with the lady who manages the pet cemetery!

I first contacted her through email several months ago. At this time, I was subscribed to quite a few newsletters, so I was getting SEVERAL emails a day. It got to be pretty annoying, especially when I did not have time to read those several emails every day. This, however, meant my communication with this lady got buried in that avalanche of emails! I FINALLY got through all of those emails, promptly unsubscribed from all that daily stuff (well, except for the parenting newsletter and book review newsletter) then reached out to her again.

The next problem was setting up a time and day for me to come in. We played email tag for a while there with different days and different times, and then there were times we each had to reschedule.

Finally, I was on my way to see her today. But the “fun” of me having trouble getting there wasn’t over quite yet, because, wouldn’t you know it, I ended up going to the wrong location! I went to the address that was on the web site but that was NOT the correct address. Thankfully, the lady there knew how to sign, so after I told her I am deaf when I could not understand her, she started fingerspelling and telling me where to go. Then she gave me the CORRECT address.

On my way there, I started to wonder, is there a reason WHY I can’t get to this place? I believe things happen for a reason, so I was really wondering if all of these roadblocks were one big stop sign warning me to go no further … for some reason or another.

Nevertheless, I DID make it to the correct address today. I FINALLY got over there! We sat down and talked about what we (as in, me and my family) wanted for Chewie’s final arrangements. I told her we would like a burial and headstone on his grave. I picked out a very lovely casket and we worked out a payment plan. The whole thing is quite pricey (almost $3000!) but fortunately I am able to make payments to cover everything. I also arranged to cover the down payment.

I also walked around the cemetery with her and the two groundskeepers and picked out his space. The cemetery was so pretty and Chewie’s space is near a gazebo as well as a little area for children to play or for someone to sit and read.

To say the least, the whole process was depressing. I know this was an important thing to do but it still made me sad. But I am glad I did it. Chewie deserves a proper burial. After almost 20 years with us, he has earned it! He has been such a wonderful, loyal and sweet friend and a cherished member of the family. At the very least, I am glad I did this for him, because now I know that if anything happens to him, he’ll have a permanent place of rest.

This certainly made me think that maybe I should take care of my own final arrangements, too. I have read stories of people who lost an aunt or a parent and how that person took care of ALL of their final arrangements themselves in their lives, and what a relief it had been to the surviving family members. So I think I should do that, too. I’d hate to have something happen to me and leave my husband and/or children with the cost of a casket and funeral! I don’t want to put that on them. I would rather they be able to move on with everything without worrying about what is paid for or how to pay for it or where I’ll be buried. I know, it’s a depressing topic and pretty morbid, but it is certainly something a person of my age (late 30s) should think about. Taking care of important things is one of my resolutions for the year, so this might as well be one more thing to put on that list. Maybe it will give me peace of mind for what happens after it is my time, too.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Horror master

For some time, my daughter, Jennifer, has had a “horror fixation.” Specifically, a fixation on horror movies. She LOVES horror movies. This has not been easy for me to accept because, as a horror movie fan myself, I know for a fact that there is a lot of material that is NOT appropriate for young viewers. So even as I understand her fascination with horror movies, at the same time I’m mentally banging my head against a wall and wishing it was Disney movies instead.

But we can’t have everything!

So I have resorted to monitoring exactly WHAT horror movies she can watch. After all, she is 11 years old and not 18. The blood and gore gets a pass, but the movies containing rape, sex and nudity do not.

Recently, she told me she wanted to be a “horror master.” When I asked her what this was, she told me that it is someone who has seen ALL of the horror movies. I asked her where she got that idea from and she said from a friend at school. Apparently, her friend at school has seen ALL of the horror movies. And knowing that some horror flicks contain content that children should not see, I told her I seriously doubted that. She kept insisting it was true. When I asked her, “What about the naughty scenes?” she said her friend covers her eyes. (Does she also mute it?) I then wanted to know if this particular friend’s adults were actually letting her watch the movies and she said, “They don’t care.” (The adults she lives with are not her parents.)

Still, I wasn’t buying it. And there was NO WAY I was going to let Jen watch any old horror movie she wanted to watch. So, we struck a deal: Any R-rated movie has to get my okay first. If I feel it is okay to watch, then I’ll let her watch it. But if it gets graphically naughty, then … not.

So that’s what happened with the movie The Cabin in the Woods. Jen saw it in my Netflix queue and OF COURSE she wanted to watch it. I rented it for her but had to watch it first. There was a scene in this movie that made me want to throw up. I was so bothered by it, I could not watch the rest. (And, yes, it was a naughty scene!) So I told Jennifer this movie gets a “no” and then I told her why. She made a disgusted look and said, “Mom! TMI!”

Later, I thought more about this “horror master” thing. I didn’t want my refusal of her seeing certain movies to cause any competition or problems with her friend. So we sat down and had a talk about this. I asked her if she would wait until she was a little older – say, 17 or even 18 – to watch the movies I don’t want her to see just yet. She thought that was a better compromise and said she would do that. This sure made me feel pretty relieved and I’m glad we could continue with our system of me checking horror movies first before she watches them.

As for me, I do love horror movies, too, but with some of them, I just have to draw the line.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Not all store brand or generic foods are bad

Ordinarily, we don’t buy the generic or store brand stuff at the grocery stores. It’s not that we’re snobs, or anything. It’s just that we have found that the brands we trust – like Folgers, Stouffers, General Mills, etc. – are the brands that produce food that is actually good. We have tried a lot of generic brands in the past and, if it didn’t taste good, opted not to buy that product again. If we DO buy a generic brand that is good and has quality, then we buy it. This has happened with tuna (can’t go wrong with the Albertsons brand tuna!) and bread (and once again, I’m talkin’ Albertsons!).

If we are able to buy the brands we prefer, then we will do so. Lately, however, we have been financially strapped and only have so much money available for food. So we have had to buy generic brand foods most of the time lately. Now, my heart will always belong to Folgers coffee, even if we can’t always afford to buy it! However, my husband had to buy generic coffee after we ran out of the good stuff and he got French roast. I have never really liked French roast coffee, but I decided to try it this morning, anyway.

And, you know what? It was good! No need to put any sugar or anything in it at all.

That’s not all, though. Last night, I asked hubby to get dinner rolls to serve with dinner. Of course I mentioned the brand we like, but he could not get it. He got the store brand instead. I was hesitant to try it, but I gave them a go. And they were delicious! Jennifer even commented that they were fluffy.

And out of those 12 rolls in the package, only one was left over after dinner!

I am glad we had some good finds on generic and store brand foods this week. I guess that is one good thing to be thankful for when times are hard and there’s only so much money available to buy food. We’ll definitely be adding these generic items to our grocery list in the event we can’t afford the usual items we prefer.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

For us, there is a different kind of toy doctor in the house

For a long time, I have been the one to pull out the needle and thread to fix some thing or another. A button needs to be sewed on? I’m on it! A pillow has a hole in it? No problem! Something needs to be stitched up? It’s doable!

But now my daughter Jennifer is also using the needle and thread – only, she’s developed something of a specialty with it. She fixes stuffed animals.

That’s right, stuffed animals. Any kind of stuffed animal that has a hole, a missing eye or needs sewing up in some way is a stuffed animal she can fix. And every one of them is her “patient.”

Jennifer has been at this for a while – sewing eyes or button-eyes on stuffed animals who lost an eye, fixing a torn ear or a limpy neck. But today, she fixed one of Jesse’s stuffed animals that was losing its sown-on glasses, and she did a fabulous job with it, too. In fact, she said it was easy to fix. She just sewed the glasses back onto the “band” that was falling off! Jesse was very happy to be reunited with that stuffed animal (which was Walden, from his favorite TV show Wow, Wow Wubbzy!) and I was happy she did such a nice job.

In fact, I’ve started calling her a toy doctor.

We realize there is already a famous toy doctor in a TV show called Doc McStuffins – another fave TV show Jesse likes to watch – and every time it’s on, I can’t help but smile. And if Jennifer’s around, she’ll have that smile, too. Because we both know she, too, is a toy doctor – only, she fixes toys up and makes them better in a different way.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Decision day

Leave it to a day’s worth of plans being spoiled to rekindle that fire of determination. I believe that things happen for a reason. Maybe my plans to take the kids to church then to the library were ruined by my upset stomach for a reason. Because while on one hand I was disappointed we couldn’t go out today, I was, on the other, thinking about how to at least get SOMETHING right out of my day. (And not just an email from one pf my publishers that practically had me dancing with glee – well, as best as I could on account of my stomach.)

First of all, I have decided that I’m not going to stress out over the failed job hunt anymore. I’m not going to let it upset me. There’s no reason to; I am TRYING to get a job and that is the best that I can do. Everything else is out of my control and in God’s hands. Sometimes I wonder if there’s a reason why I haven’t been able to get a new job. Like maybe there’s something else coming my way. In any event, I figure, whatever will be will be. I’m still gonna press on and do the things I have planned to do in the new year – like volunteer and join a writer’s group and try out some new things. Just get out and do SOMETHING even if it’s not work. At least it’s something. I will keep trying to get a job and I suppose that will happen in its own time.

Second, I have decided I’m going to proceed with my “reading goal” for the year after all. Before the end of the year, I resolved to read 100 books in a year. I thought that was a big deal. Turns out it’s not so much of a big deal; I read about this lady who read 101 books in a year! So I figured that since someone else already did that, why do it, too? But today, I decided I WILL do that. Because I HAVEN’T done that. I haven’t read 100 books in one year! So I’ll go through with it. So far I have read two books this year. I have 51 weeks left to read 98 more books!

I made the third decision after watching a movie with Jennifer today. We were watching The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and that was a hard movie to watch because it made me sad about how I can’t go back and change some things in the past. Of course, I have had those “if only” moments. But the truth is, I can’t change the past. I can’t. As much as it hurts, as much as my heart aches, things I want to change in the past just won’t change at all. Ever. And I have to accept that. I HAVE been bitter about it from time to time but I decided today that I think it is time to give that bitterness a rest. To heal my heart. It’s time to stop being angry and sad and remorseful. Just keep moving forward even if it is hard to do so. I will love those who have hurt me and forgive those who have been cruel. I know that only God can judge and that He will set things right and as they should be. I also know karma will have its way, as it has. So there’s no point in being angry or sad or bitter. Just be loving, forgiving and accepting.

The fourth decision came after I read that book, One Crazy Summer. The character, Delphine, is only 11 years old and yet she can cook, clean, and act very responsibly with her sisters. That made me think of my own daughter, who is 11. I started doing chores when I was 11, so I figured I'd give my own daughter a break and give her small jobs to do. Like clean her room or dust. But now I think maybe it is time she learned how to do other things – like cook a simple meal or wash a load of clothes. It wouldn’t kill her to learn these things. She needs to know how to take care of herself AND her brother if it was just the two of them. So I decided I will make sure she knows how to do that. Maybe I have been too easy on her for too long. Hah!

And of course, there is a fifth thing I decided on today: Blog more often. The only thing that stays the same is that this will NOT be a “thought blog.” I’m not using it to share my thoughts or as a platform for some column or another. Just blog about any old thing that happened during many day, even the small things. I think it’s time I started keeping up with the blogging a little more often.

I am surprised I decided on so many things today. But maybe it is a good thing I did. Maybe these decisions will help make other things happen, too.  

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

Today I finished reading a book and it is the first book I read for the new year: The Mysteries of Creation: The Genesis Story by Rocco A. Errico. As I read this book, I had hoped it would answer some questions I’ve had about the creation story in the book of Genesis. Like how was the Earth and everything made in just 7 days? Why does God say “let us” at the beginning? And is it true God only wanted humans to eat the plants and not the animals? This book did touch on those questions but it didn’t really “answer” those questions. It just explored different opinions about what the answer could be. It didn’t give anything concrete. I was going to review this book but after I finished reading it, I was just too disappointed with it to write a review. It does offer some interesting information but I wouldn’t really recommend it. And I would have to WANT to recommend a book that I review on my book review blog.

Well, I finished reading one book today and started on another: One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. It is really good. Jennifer recommended it to me after she finished reading it (she read it for OBOB – Oregon Battle of the Books). I am halfway through it. Reading about the three sisters in Oakland reminded me of when my family lived in Oakland a long time ago. We lived in a predominantly black neighborhood. We wanted to be FRIENDS with the kids in that neighborhood but just couldn’t because they kept calling us “crackers” and hating on us. We just ended up not trying to be friends with them anymore and just fighting right along with them. At least the grownups were nice to us. I shared all this with Jennifer at dinner and told her I got nothing against having black friends. Some of the best friends I have had were black. She told me she feels the same and she has a best friend who is black.

And speaking of books, I went to the bookstore today. I was looking for a new book that just came out. I saw this book advertised in a newsletter I am subscribed to about new books by different publishing companies and I just knew I HAD to have that book! (It helps it had some good reviews on Amazon.) But the bookstore didn’t have the book, because it was published by a print on demand (POD) publisher. So I ordered the book. They said it would ship directly to my house. Later on after I got home, I logged in to my email account and was surprised to see that the order had been processed lickety-split and the book was already shipped to me. Wow! That was fast!

It made me think about my own POD books. I started to wonder if that is the norm for bookstores now. That they DO list POD books but the books will be shipped directly from the publisher to the customer. I made a mental note to ask my publisher about that. (With one of them, I ordered the book and it arrived at the bookstore, not at my house. But that was years ago.)

Today I also finished reading the January issue of Astronomy Magazine. It said that Jupiter is visible this month after sunset in the western part of the sky until the 24th. I went outside looking for it but all I saw was the Big Dipper.

Today is ending on a depressing note. Was reminded just how badly I need to get a job and mulled over my failure to get one. Then I started to remember how, at one job interview, the lady made a fuss over how she was supposed to contact me if she can’t call me on the phone. Apparently, it’s not enough to have text and email. I just hope something comes up.

Now I’m off to watch a movie and I hope it will cheer me up.