Friday, July 28, 2017

Inspire (fmf)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited flash mob free write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "inspire" takes me.

  1. 1
    fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
    "his passion for romantic literature inspired him to begin writing"
  2. 2
    breathe in (air); inhale.

It's interesting, the variety of things and people that serve as an inspiration. Pieces of art, music, the world around us, poetry, problems or challenges . . . the list is almost endless.

It can be argued that most people know what inspires them. In fact, many people acknowledge that they have "go to" things or activities they rely on when they need a creative spark. 

Words . . . those already recorded on the pages of books and my own, written in journals . . . have always inspired me. 

As a child, books created in me a desire to travel, to become a teacher, and to do a variety of things forgotten with time. More recently, recorded words have inspired me to attend conferences, long to journey Route 66 in a vintage red convertible, and endeavor to write a book. They have driven me to embark on a more healthy eating plan and to exercise 6 days a week, to visit Alaska, to search for hours for an affordable class B+ or class C camper in which I can travel throughout the United States.

I've found in the past few years another, new-to-me sources of inspiration. Although I'm a minimalist and have never had any issues with weight, televisions shows like Hoarders and My 600-pound Life motivate me. Those brief, 30-minute or so glimpses into a person's struggle to battle their own eating habits or their compulsion to collect stuff sparks in me a desire to accomplish something. Oh, not to exercise or lose weight or even to clean out a closet. But to do something with my life. 

More morbidly, perhaps, is the motivation to accomplish something I receive from the obituaries in my local newspaper. My eye flies down the on-line page, honing in on the age of the recently-departed. If they are much older, my body relaxes with the subtle reassurance that a long life is often a reality. And I'm inspired to do something with those years ahead of me. When I see a number near my own age or even, tragically, lower -- even much lower, I'm gripped with an urgency to do something now. 

Inspiration . . . 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is (A Life Redesigned)

Determine my dream life. Check.

Analyze my budget and identifying items that can be cut or even eliminated. Check.

Until last week, following Warren and Betsy Talbot's blueprint for identifying and living the life of my dreams was proving to be easy and enjoyable.

Last Wednesday, though, I ran into a roadblock. Let me explain.

My next mini-steps in the larger step of saving were on my to-do list, and I knew as soon as I glanced at it that I was going to have trouble.

My first assignment was to "secure the vault". In other words, I was to designate an existing account or create a new one to do nothing but hold (no withdrawing allowed save for the most dire of emergencies) the money I hope to accrue in order to live my redesigned life. That took a quick trip to the bank and about 10 minutes with a very helpful account representative there.

Afterward, I stopped by My Daddy's Cheesecake, a wonderful bakery and cafe here in my hometown. I slid into a booth with my slice of the ultra-scrumptious Scarlett O'Hara cheesecake and considered my next assignment -- putting a number, a dollar amount, on my dream life.

In other words, I needed to figure out what it will cost me to live in an RV, traveling as whimsy and the weather moved me. That proved to be a very difficult task.

Countless numbers of hours spent researching led me to the fact that monthly expenses will be quite variable. Finally, though, I arrived at a dollar figure for monthly expenses that I think is fairly realistic. I divided that figure by 30 (days in a month) and then again in half.

I wrote that number on my notepad, circled it, drew stars and curlicues around it.

My sense of satisfaction at completing another step in the process toward living my dream was very short-lived. Gone in less than a minute.

It was obliterated by an emotion I couldn''t quite put a name to. I still can't.

I tried to banish it, and at times this past week I've been fairly successful. Other times, though, it rolls over me like a huge, angry ocean wave, knocking me off-kilter and leaving me unsteady and unsure of myself.

And that is where I've been for the past few days -- vacillating between anticipation and ennui.

It's something I must work through before I can go on to the next step in the process, so I'll be pausing here until, I hope, next time.

Until then, I hope you'll spend some time considering what constitutes your own dream life. I hope you'll share it via a comment. I would love to be inspired by hearing your dream!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Forget that Rainy Day (A Life Redesigned)

Redesigning my life after the death of my husband almost 8 years ago has been a long progress, marked by the proverbial one step forward and two . . . or three or four . . . steps back. But once I finally had the vision of what I wanted (The Dream Defined), it was time to start making it a reality.

The Talbot's plan, as outlined in their book Dream, Save, Do, calls for specific steps completed in a specific order, but they also acknowledge that while that order made sense to and worked well for them, others in search of a different, better life might deviate as their situation and personality dictates.

With that in mind, I skipped ahead a few steps to "Save". I was eager to get started, to make tangible progress toward my goal. I also knew from reading the book completely through to get a lay of the land, that I could do the intervening steps at the same time as I was implementing steps to prepare financially.

I also did the mini-steps within the larger "save" step out of order, and that has worked well for me.

I already had a budget in place, and most months I stayed under or at budget in every category (housing, utilities, food, fun, etc). To be honest, though, my income at the time allowed me some latitude, and I knew there were ways I could cut my spending.

I pored over my budget, looking for ways I could cut back. Some items were easy to eliminate (so long Starbucks), and I haven't missed them at all. Others are a work in progress. For example, I have about a year left on my DirecTV contract and will be checking tomorrow to see what it would cost to get out of my current agreement and if there would be any long-term savings by doing that.

As a result of funneling the newly-freed up money elsewhere, I'm debt-free except for one credit card and my mortgage. My mortgage (including taxes and insurance) is less than the rent on even a much-smaller apartment in my area, plus I appreciate the deduction on my income taxes, so until I've found the RV I want and am able to live in it full-time, the mortgage isn't going anywhere.

One part of me is ecstatic about these changes. Another part of me is absolutely disgusted with myself for not doing this before now. I shudder to think of the money spent for things that didn't last materially and have no lasting value. But that's the past, and I'm determined to only look ahead.

While it may seem that I'll be living my dream life fairly soon, I made a ginormous life change that will in many ways make my life safer, more positive, and less mentally and physically stressful. In May, I resigned my job as of July 31. In mid-August, I will begin a new job . . . at about 22% less pay.

So my dream may be deferred a bit, BUT had I not made those budget and lifestyle changes when I did and unloaded debt, I wouldn't have been able to take this new job.

Perhaps once I'm settled into the new position and know better the amount of work I'll be taking home on a regular basis and how much time that will consume, I'll be able to think about getting some type of part-time job. But that's a thought for another day.

All of that -- reevaluating my budget, adjusting my spending, and applying freed-up funds to debt, has kept me busy for the past 7 or so months.

And I still haven't completed all the mini-tasks under the larger step of "saving"!

After months of employing my left-brain skills, I get to play around this week with some right-brain activities.

I hope you'll come back next Wednesday to see what the left side of my brain comes up with!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Nice Job! (52 Weeks Project, Week 29)

From the time I was able to put pencil to paper, I've been a list-maker; in fact, I've been known to make lists of lists I need to create! As a result, I'm excited to participate this year in Moorea Seal's 52 Lists Project; look for my list every Monday.

Week 29: List your childhood and current dream jobs.

When I was a child, I wanted to be:  

  1. a nun
  2. an attorney
  3. a teacher
  4. a writer

My current dream job:

  1. best-selling author
  2. travel writer/blogger


Friday, July 14, 2017

Comfort from Within

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited flash mob free write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "comfort" takes me.

From without.

For 50+ years, that's where I sought comfort when life was having its way with me, when I was weary from the struggle or hurting from some jab, when my carefully-organized life with it's planner and checklists hit a snag

When I was a child, I sought -- and found -- comfort in books. 

Eventually, though, I also sought comfort in other people. In their friendship, their company. 

Books were always there, of course, and I even had favorites that I could turn to. And I did. Other people were less reliable, but still . . . I sought them, their understanding, their empathy.

But the day came, as it always does, when the outer things simply weren't enough. Oh, they provided a temporary respite from pain or disappointment, but when I turned the last page of the book or when lunch with a friend ended and I was back home, alone, again . . . 

Now you might wonder why, as a Christian, I didn't find comfort in my faith, in God. The fact is, I didn't try. 

But then, in the span of three years, I suffered two blows, the second significantly stronger, more devastating than the first.

I needed comfort.

And I've finally begun to look for it not from the outside, but from within.

From my faith, yes.

But also from learning who I am, from being true to myself, from being comfortable in my own skin.

I'm a work in progress. 

But the process . . . even that is a comfort. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Trailer Park Princess with her Knickers in a Twist (Book Review)

With The Trailer Park Princess with her Knickers in a Twist, Kim Hunt Harris offers readers a cozy mystery that is refreshingly unique and extremely-well crafted. 

Just as in the previous three books in the "Trailer Park Princess" series, Harris has constructed a plot that is complex enough to keep the reader's attention without being overly-complex and convoluted. Fast-paced without feeling rushed, the storyline quickly captures the reader's attention and keeps it until the very last page.

In Knickers in a Twist, a prominent newsman has been murdered, and Salem Grimes, dog-groomer and recovering alcoholic, and her senior citizen sidekick Viv are back in action. At the same time, Salem adjusts to changes in her relationship with Tony, the man to whom she is "somewhat married", and Viv tries everything in her power to capture the attention of the newly-arrived and dashing Brit, Nigel.

Harris has created in Salem a character that is realistic -- complex, imperfect, struggling at times to make sense of the world and her role in it. In Knickers in a Twist, she continues to mature as a Christian, and her struggles are ones readers will no doubt identify with. 

Other characters -- Tony and Tri-Patrice, in particular -- are equally realistic and believable. On the other hand, in this latest book Viv's antics become more outlandish, almost to the point of distraction. At the same time, glimpses of the real Viv emerge, and it is in those moments when she reveals her vulnerability that Viv is at her best and most realistic. 

Harris' deftness in incorporating issues of faith into the storyline sets her apart as a writer. Elements of faith and how it impacts peoples' lives are smoothly and naturally integrated into the story. Never is there a hint of preachiness or heavy-handedness. 

The dialogue is sometimes witty and others quite serious, but consistently fresh and believable. Additionally, the book is well-edited and free of grammatical and mechanical errors that are unfortunately so prevalent in contemporary fiction. 

In short, Knickers in a Twist is a delightful book, a welcome breath of fresh air in the world of cozy mysteries. 

I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, which I have provided here.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Wildest Dreams

From the time I was able to put pencil to paper, I've been a list-maker; in fact, I've been known to make lists of lists I need to create! As a result, I'm excited to participate this year in Moorea Seal's 52 Lists Project; look for my list every Monday.

Week 28: List the wildest things you want to try.

1. Living full-time in a Class B+ RV and . . .

2. Staying in each state a couple of weeks

3. White-water rafting on even "wilder" water than we encountered in Alaska

4. Section-hike the Appalachian Trail

5. Participate in some sort of extended bike ride -- across a state or on a specific themed route

6. Slowly drive Route 66, stopping for whatever catches my eye

7. Knit socks, two at a time, toe-up . . . . and not with a magic loop!

8. Get a small tattoo seashell on the top of my right foot or the inside of my left wrist.

Friday, July 7, 2017

"Hi, Mrs. D. Can Mary Come out and Play?"

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited flash mob free write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "play" takes me.

Summertime when I was a child growing up in a mid-sized mid-western town in a fairly close-knit community with only one road in/out was filled with play.

Once I'd exchanged my jammies for shorts and a t-shirt, waited impatiently for my Cheerios to reach that perfect place between crunchy and mushy, and then scarfed them down, I was out the door. It was time to play with my best friend, Mary, and the other kids in the neighborhood.

Hop-scotch, Red Rover Red Rover, Mother May I, Barbies, bike-riding, freeze tag, hide-and-seek, jumping rope. Just a few of the activities that consumed those precious hours between running out the door after breakfast and returning for lunch eaten with my mom, sister, Chris and Nancy Hughes, their son Bob and wife Kim and his son Tom, and a whole cast of interesting characters in Oakdale.

By the way, I'm somewhat surprised that Tom didn't cause me to have some sort of inferiority complex. He was born to Bob and first-wife Lisa when I was 3 years old. But by the time I was 12, he'd been shipped off to boarding school (twice), used drugs, joined the Army and served in Viet Nam, and well . . . done all sorts of things. All I'd been doing was playing with my friends, reading Tiger Beat,  and daydreaming about Davy Jones, Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy.

But I digress.

After lunch, I was out the door again. More bike-riding and other activities, popsicles eaten while hunched over slightly-spread legs, and drinks from a garden hose in the back yard until my dad's car pulled into the neighborhood. A foolproof sign that dinner was almost ready. I'd hop on my bike or run home to help set the table. But again, after I'd eaten (left-over-from-Sunday-dinner fried chicken or roast on Monday, meat loaf on Tuesday . . . ), it was time to play again until the streetlights came on. 

Play. I could play for hours.

I quit playing for many years. Laying out in the sun with my friends, coated with iodine-enhanced baby oil, became much cooler than bike riding and Barbies. And then there was college . . . and work.

But then I had children, and play became part of my life again.

But they moved on to high school and college and work.

And it occurs to me this morning that I haven't played in quite some time.

I have chores to do and errands to run today.

But while I'm out, I'm going to buy a box of 64 crayons and some coloring books.

On my way home, I'm going to stop at the park and swing on the huge playground swing set.

Then I'm going to buy a chocolate milkshake and come back home and color.

I'm going to play. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Do-Overs and Living the Healthy Life (52 Weeks Project, weeks 26 & 27)

From the time I was able to put pencil to paper, I've been a list-maker; in fact, I've been known to make lists of lists I need to create! As a result, I'm excited to participate this year in Moorea Seal's 52 Lists Project; look for my list every Monday.

I'm not sure why, but I didn't post a list last week, so I'm posting two this week. I'm a little late, but I was working feverishly on a project with a looming deadline. 

Week 26: List the things you would change in your life right now if you could

The biggest, most-obvious change I would make is that my nest would have more than one occupant. My late husband would be here and my son & daughter would visit frequently

But since the first is impossible and the 2nd one very difficult (due to their location, jobs, etc), I'm going to focus on changes in my that are more doable.

1. I would not live in this house.
2. Instead of a "normal" job, I would have adequate income from writing and other creative
3. I would travel extensively, primarily in a Class B+ rv (see next change) throughout the US and
    Canada, with some trips to Europe and a few other places
4. Instead of my Prius, I'd own a very reliable Class B+ rv and a hybrid soft-top Jeep (do they even
    make them??)
5. I'd be totally debt-free.
6. My shoulder and knee would be completely healed and discomfort/pain-free.
7. My arms would be toned.
8. I wouldn't need reading glasses, or any type of glasses.
9. I'd be completely finished with both my son's and daughter's scrapbooks, and they would be digital
    works of art!
10. I would be filled with joy -- not because of all of these changes, but just because.

Week 27: List the things that make you feel healthy: mind, body, and soul

1. Prayer
2. Attending church
3. Fellowship with family and friends -- in person
4. An uncluttered environment, both home and work
5. Checklists, and checking off items as I accomplish them
6. Exploring new things -- new places and new things/topics
7. Being around large bodies of water -- large lakes and the ocean
8. Better yet, being on the beach
9. Eating healthy -- I'm sure it's a body thing, but for me it's more a matter of mind. I feel pretty
darned proud of myself and have a sense of accomplishment when I forego the candy bar and eat
an apple instead. :)
10. Exercise -- Like eating healthy, although it's really more a body thing, I like knowing I did
something I didn't want to do but know I should.