Projects To Finish This Month

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Camellia taken at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Making a to do list is a great way to prioritize my time.  Unfortunately, the list of what I want to get done this month is – I suspect – longer than the time actually available to get it all done.  That’s so not a surprise, but still frustrating to me.  Some of it just information gathering, so I hope I can knock off a big chunk of it.

  1. Get caught up on my photography and creativity classes.
  2. Figure out how to use my new camera – I’m upgrading my Canon Rebel to something more substantial.
  3. Learn how to shoot my camera manually – I’m taking Photography 201 over at Big Picture Classes and it’s going at just the right pace for me to be figuring this out.
  4. Blog daily for the 30 Days of Lists.  I’d like to put together a photo album for myself when this is done.
  5. Get my diet back on track.  I stopped losing weight in January, but kept losing inches until early June.  Now I’m stalled out and lately, am not following my diet very well.
  6. Finish decluttering the bookshelves by the kitchen and my downstairs desk drawers.  This decluttering project is actually getting close to the end, at least for the big and obvious stuff.  I think it’ll be done by the end of the year!
  7. Look into downloading my blogs to create a photo album.  Dor, over at Virginia Views, tried blog2print.com and was happy with the result.
  8. Evaluate my goals for the rest of 2014 and choose my priorities.
  9. Start the process to get our wills revised.
  10. Look over the Scrivener tutorials that I recently purchased.  Maybe even start listening to them!
  11. Continue to do 30 minutes a day of something to catch up the crummy projects, which is a whole different list.  Of course, if I’m blogging every day, that might nix that idea.
  12. Keep up with my daily walks.

Whew!  It makes me tired just to look at this, but it would be nice to put a big ol’ dent in my projects.

How about you?  What do you need / want to finish this month?

#30Lists

2013 Goals So Far

I finally posted my 2013 goal ideas which were written up in early January.  I’ve been busy working away at them, which is part of why I’m blogging less frequently than usual.  As much as I enjoy writing and sharing my photographs, I also enjoy getting things done that need or want to get done.

So. . . what have I been doing so far in 2013?

One of the lovely entrances to a mansion in Charleston, South Carolina
One of the lovely entrances to a mansion
in Charleston, South Carolina

Reading

I’ve been reading, lots of reading.  My blogging and photography cut into other interests, which is no surprise to the rest of you.  I’m really missing my books, so I’ve been reading a lot after work.  I will admit that with an electric blanket over my lap, I have no difficulty attracting canine company who want to cuddle closely on a cold night!

Although I have a log-in on Goodreads, I’ve not been keeping it up.  I’ll list some of what I’ve read recently here that I’ve enjoyed:

  • You’re Already Amazing by Holly Gerth; an encouraging book about how we are already enough for God and to enjoy our uniqueness and abilities that He has given us.
  • Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson; a new addition to the series about a Washington D.C. police detective solving crimes while dealing with his family and their issues.
  • A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life by John Kralik; this was  re-read of a non-fiction book from several years ago.  John Kralik was struggling with his law business and personal life when he started the simple act of writing a thank you note every day.  The more he wrote, the more gratitude he found and the more he improved his outlook on life.  I very much enjoyed how he changed and grew over the course of the book.
  • Proof of Guilt by Charles Todd; a new addition to a series set in Britain at the end of World War I.  This story finds the main character trying to solve the mystery of who was killed and why.  I enjoyed it, but some of the earlier books are better.
  • The Cowboy and (Jubilee Texas series) by Lori Wilde.  I read all three of these.  No, they are not hard to read and yes, there was some steamy sex.  Enough said.
This store sold all things honey.  I never made it there while it was open, which was probably a good thing for my wallet.
This store sold all things honey.
I never made it there while it was open,
which was probably a good thing for my wallet.

Organizing Our Finances

This is actually part of my decluttering the house project.  I’ve been busy changing and strengthening passwords and security questions.  I’ve been reviewing all of our savings for retirement and making changes.  That’s taken a long time to research whether my choices several years ago were still good and not all of them were.  So now I’m researching new choices and moving things around.

I’ve also been going over these things with my favorite boy toy to make sure he understands what we have and where it is.  He’s become much more interested in this than he was even several years ago and he’s more adept financially as well.  It’s not taken very long for him to understand what we’re reviewing.  If something were to happen to me, he has a good idea what to do and how to do it, and our daughter does as well.  What he doesn’t know, she can help him figure out.

Walkway to a hotel near Battery Park (not where we stayed).
Walkway to a hotel near Battery Park (not where we stayed).

Exercising

With the cold weather finally settling in, I’ve moved my lunchtime exercise inside to the gym.  I hate the gym and am a good source of amusement for the two women who work there plus my co-workers.  They know the weather is really bad if I stay inside.

I’m working with one of the trainers for a new inside routine for day #1 and I’ve changed up my day #2 routine as well.  Unfortunately, my body really dislikes lifting weights and even with taking it slowly, I’ve been struggling with excess fatigue.  It seems to be getting better, but very slowly.  Still, I’d really like to improve my muscular strength and am really trying to stick with this new program.  I’ve not been sick since my cold last fall – yippee! – but am trying to get enough sleep to compensate for how tired I am.

I’ve been to the doctor before about this and there’s nothing wrong with me.  My body simply does not recover very well from physical exertion.  Part of my new day #2 workout is doing the same workout I’ve done before, but with lighter weights for more repetitions.  So if before I did 2 sets of 12 repetitions (24 altogether) with 20 pound dumbbells, now I’m doing 2 sets of 20 repetitions with 15 pound dumbbells (or even 10 pounds on some days).  I felt very energized afterwards, but a few days after am really tired.

I’m also trying a yoga class after work.  It was good, but not the kind of workout I’m used to.  This week will be the second week, so I’m hoping it will continue to go well.

I loved the colors of these bikes outside the woman's dormitory in Charleston.  Because of the lack of parking, you see a lot of people riding bikes.
I loved the colors of these bikes outside the woman’s dormitory in Charleston. Because of the lack of parking, you see a lot of people riding bikes.

What Else?

I haven’t been going for walks to the botanical gardens or Colonial Williamsburg.  The weather’s been either cold or raining.  There haven’t been many warm weekends with a nice blue sky.  Which is okay as I’m trying to get these other things done.

My favorite boy toy and I have been enjoying watching television at night, especially reruns of a show called The Big Bang Theory.  We only started watching it recently, so most episodes are new to us.  It’s nice late at night to just relax together, turn on the gas fireplace for a while, pet the dogs and laugh together.

We’ve also been busy with just things.  We checked out a new health club as our contract was coming due at the one my husband belongs to.  We didn’t like the new place and signed back up at the old place.  Our television cable / Internet contract came up as well, and that was time spent to decide if we wanted to stay with the same company, change our contract, or go somewhere else.  We changed our contract but stayed with the same company.  We’re considering replacing the windows and door in our house as we are tired of being so cold.  At this time of the year, you can smell the fresh air from all the drafts.  The house isn’t that old, but it was built very poorly.  This should help cut back the heat in the summer and reduce the noise from the outside as well.

View of another mansion; you can see by the sidewalk that it wasn't possible to get far enough away to take a picture straight on from the front.
View of another mansion; you can see by the sidewalk that it wasn’t possible to get far enough away to take a picture straight on from the front.

Today’s Photos

As I spent unreasonable amounts of time on hold to resolve our cable contract (yes, it took multiple calls and waiting forever), I started finally editing up some of the photos from our trip to Charleston, South Carolina last fall.  After we were home and had a chance to look through the photos, we decided the trip turned out better than expected other than not liking the hotel.  I did complain to the hotel and while they sent me a nice note apologizing for what we disliked, they did not ever address that we couldn’t check out and go somewhere else.  Which we definitely will do (go somewhere else) if and when we go back, which will hopefully be on a weekend when it’s not raining and cold.  It would be nice to get some of the architecture with a blue sky in the background and not be needing an umbrella whenever we set up our cameras.

I hope you enjoy them!  I’ll be sharing more – lots more.

Sunsets should be have been more spectacular; I was happy this one turned out this well.
Sunsets should be have been more spectacular; I was happy this one turned out this well.

Using lynda.com

Over at A Daily Life is a review of using lynda.com.  My skills in using Lightroom and Photoshop CS6 have increased tremendously since using lynda.com for training.  Lynda offers much more besides photography software, which I also discuss in my review.

Review of 2012 Goals

So, how did I do with the goals that I wrote out last January for 2012?  I didn’t do badly – I accomplished the things that were important to me and as the year went on, did good with setting priorities and not spending time on things that were ultimately not the direction I wanted.  [Except for my desk, all the photos are from the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.]

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These are not my accomplishments – those will go into a separate post.  My accomplishments definitely took a turn away from the goals and resulted in a number of these goals getting dropped.

For my own satisfaction though, I like to look over my goals, see how I did, and enjoy their contributions to 2012.  Since I will shortly deleting the 2012 tab for the 2013 list, they were added to this post where I discussed how I set goals and summarized them at the beginning of this year.  For information on accomplishing my goals and determining monthly goals, click here.

Spoiler alert – this is pretty lengthy, so feel free to skip or skim it.  I’ve written it up for my own satisfaction and future reference for setting new goals, determining whether something should still be pursued or if a goal should be dropped permanently.  The astericks are to give a blank line between each goal for some visual space (WordPress removes empty lines in lists).

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  1. Read “Jesus Calling” and its Bible verses each day – Changed
    I didn’t like this book after a while and didn’t feel it was challenging me in a positive way.  I went back to the “Daily Walk” from “Walk Thru The Bible” for a while – they have a great program, but I find that reading through the Bible in a year results in me remembering very little later.  After trying a few other things, I finally settled on using YouVersion, an online Bible and devotional, which I wrote about here.
    *
  2. Take more short trips – Done!
    I did numerous local trips to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens (earlier walks are listed at the end) and Colonial Williamsburg (this is one of many posts).  There were also overnight trips out of state to Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania; Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia.  I even got a day trip to Norfolk, Virginia, where I visited the botanical gardens there.  It all helped satisfy my wanderlust and gave me a number of wonderful photos to share over time.
    *
  3. Declutter and organize the house  – In process
    I really, really meant to do this diligently each and every week.  I didn’t have time and I couldn’t face not having a life in order to do this.  Nonetheless, I did make progress, just not as quickly.  Several large and persistent problems were resolved, including old piles of papers and my rolltop desk.  I also hit on a much better method of dealing with the the on-going excessive mail that comes in every day so that I’m not rebuilding the piles as quickly as I dispose of them.  I posted here about my progress this summer.  Below are some before and after pictures of my desk.

    *
  4. Improve my physical self – Partially done
    I had the best intentions of improving my cardio with swimming more diligently.  In the end, I couldn’t sacrifice two hours / three days a week to do it.  I did maintain a good exercise schedule between the gym at work and my lunch hour walks.  My achievement might be less than I desired, but I’m happy to have maintained consistency and done something most days of the week.
    *
  5. Continue to evolve my blog – Done!
    I really had trouble the first few months of this year with not having a random word to use as my prompt as I did in 2011.  Between April and May, I had a major case of discouragement and trying to figure out what to do with my blog.  I wrote about it here and got excellent feedback from my readers.  I thought about it for quite a while before finally posting about it.  Since then, I’ve been much more comfortable with the direction of my blog and what I’m doing with it (remembering my life, sharing it, and being an encouragement to others – click here for more detail).  I also started adding in a great many more photographs after numerous compliments about them and comments on how much they were enjoyed.
    *
  6. Continue taking photos – Done!
    Oh yes, I added thousands of pictures.  I even flipped the counter on my camera, going from picture #9999 back to #1.  In addition to my trips, I took a number of pictures while hanging out in the yard, between the robin who outlasted me and the goldfinches pulling the seeds out of the basil on the deck.
    *
  7. Set up second blog for writers / diarists – In process
    When I switched over to Living The Seasons, I repurposed dogear6.com as a resource for bloggers and diarists in a blog called A Daily Life.  My intention was to write original material and have guest bloggers.  Neither of those worked very well.  I didn’t have time to write material or to even follow up with guests that I thought had something worthy to contribute.  I follow a blog called Everything Scrivener, which reblogs posts about using the writing software, Scrivener.  I find it worthwhile to read and have gotten a number of excellent ideas from it.  I recently had an ah-ha moment to use a similar format for A Daily Life and in 2013, will repost ideas I think are worth knowing and spend less time developing new material.
    *
  8. Scrapbook my life (I found a class to take to help with this) – Dropped
    This class, from the Digital Scrapper, was excellent but in the end, I wasn’t sufficiently interested to keep up with it or do it.  It’s not that it’s unimportant, but my personal journals and blogs contain this material, albeit not in a 24 pages of a photo album.  If I did this, other things wouldn’t have gotten done and so this did not happen.
    20121214-707 Blog
    *
  9. Take a self portrait class – Dropped
    I found a really cool class on this, but wasn’t not sufficiently interested to pursue it further.  I read some articles on taking self portraits and made more effort to both take and post pictures of myself, such as these here (last photo at bottom) and here.
    *
  10. Write & publish an e-book – Dropped
    I actually got this underway and enjoyed the process, but ultimately gave it up due to a lack of time.  I shared a small part of my book about doing a daily challenge here.
    *
  11. Participate in NaNoWriMo – Dropped
    It was an idea that really appealed to me, but I’m glad I didn’t do it.  I wouldn’t have wanted to take away the time from the rest of my life to prepare for it.  In November, I spent ten days away from home as my favorite boy toy and I wandered our way down the east coast before visiting our daughter for Thanksgiving.  There’s no way I could have completed this in only 20 days.
    *
  12. Put together more photo albums – Got one more done
    I wanted to put together several albums from last year’s photos from our trip to Harper’s Ferry and from Christmas 2002 (digital photos, all ready to go).  That didn’t get done, but I did put together an album of 2011 photos for sharing with a friend.  I posted it on-line here.
    *
  13. Organize my photos – In process
    I started using Adobe Lightroom this year.  It’s been a frustrating learning curve, but I am slowly getting everything organized and labelled, making it easier to find photos for my blogs and photo albums.
    *
  14. Scan more photos – Dropped
    There are services that will (for a price), scan photos.  I think this will be better than trying to do it myself.  I’d like to do this, but have not yet taken any action.  I would like to do so before anything more happens to these pictures.
    20121214-670 Blog
    *
  15. Consider continue writing my spiritual memoir – Undone
    I wanted to find my notes, read over what I’ve done (years ago) and consider whether or not to continue.  On the other hand, I have some really good blog entries that do some of what I intended.  I might still get this done before the end of the year.  Maybe.
    *
  16. Print all computer journals – Undone
    I don’t think this would be hard to do, but I didn’t sit down to do it.  They are backed up off-site and should be safe until I do something further with them.
    *
  17. Scan handwritten journals (at least some of them) – Undone
    This would be so time consuming.  I need to find somewhere to take these to have them done.  On the other hand, I really do not want anyone reading them without first editing.  I should check into getting them cut out of the spiral bound notesbooks so I can scan with a feeder.  I can then have them rebound.  Maybe next year.
    *
  18. Put together a cookbook of favorite recipes – Dropped
    I think it’s a great idea, but it has no appeal to me.  It might if I start cooking again.
    *
  19. What do I want to do about food preservation?  I don’t think I want to can, but maybe dehydrate or freeze stuff when produce is cheap and plentiful? – Dropped
    Too much time and effort for the results.
    *
  20. Stay in touch with my niece – Not as successful as I wanted
    I did really good for a while, but fell off.  We’re both busy, but that’s really no excuse.  She lives out in California and will stay there.  If I don’t make an effort to stay in touch, I’ll have no relationship with her.  I need to make this a higher priority for next year.
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    *
  21. Give the dogs more attention – In process
    By January 10, I realized that giving the dogs attention was contradictory to many of the goals that I set for this year.  I’ve struggled off and on with this all year.  I’ve made effort most nights after work to sit on the couch for a while to cuddle and pet the dogs.  They love it and if I don’t leave the table fast enough after supper, they’ll come to nag me.  I haven’t walked them much – two of them don’t like it and the one that does (the beagle) has a bad back and can’t go for very long.  I don’t think there are any easy answers to this, but I don’t want their lives to fly by without me giving them attention either.
    *

And that’s the review of my personal 2012 goals!

Last Few Days Of Summer

I’ve been enjoying these last few days off.

The tax returns were in good shape heading into the weekend, so I took Friday off to go Colonial Williamsburg.  Did I ever take the pictures!  I’m still working on them, but here’s one of many from my camera that day.  Right now I couldn’t even tell you what my favorite picture is – I’m still reviewing them trying to decide what even turned out.

The Governor’s Palace had two beds of lantanas that was full of butterflies and moths, as well as a type of sphinx moth known as a hummingbird moth.  The hummingbird moths don’t stop moving, even when they’re sipping from the flower.  I cranked up my ISO to a faster speed and put my camera to continous shoot, but even with that a great many didn’t turn out.  In other words, I got this.  Can you find a moth in this picture?  I couldn’t.

I haven’t seen sphinx moths since we lived in Iowa.  As soon as I saw it, I knew it wasn’t a bee, but I had to watch it for a minute before I realized what it was.  I have some pictures in sharper focus, but it was hard trying to find one in focus that was sharp yet showed the moth sipping its nectar.  I have several that show how transparent its wings are, but I have to go through more photos to find one that’s sharp enough to share.

The flowers were beautiful of course.  Some of last spring’s flowers are now pomegrantes that look pretty edible to me after they finish ripening.

I’m glad I went on Friday.  The rest of the weekend has been hot, humid and rainy.  I decluttered more piles, tossing and shredding several garbage bags worth of paper.  I also went through the current month’s pile of papers, paid bills, and got some “to do” items done that were in the piles.

I’ve also had some relaxation.  I’ve been reading “Dearie” by Bob Spitz about Julia Child.  I’m up to the part where she has just met Simca and they’ve started a teaching school for other American women living in Paris who want to learn French cooking.  Up to this point in her life, Julia Child’s had little focus or purpose in her life.  She’s nearly 40 by the time she’s learned French cooking and hasn’t even started contributing to the book that she would eventually be famous for.

I’ve also done some much lighter reading – Kathy Reichs’ new book, Bones Are Forever and Tess Gerritsen’s Last to Die (Rizzoli and Isles).  Both were good entertainment for a few hours.  Thankfully it’s been cool enough in the mornings to just sit on the deck, supervise the dogs, and enjoy some fresh air.

I haven’t done much in the garden.  It needs to be cleaned out and dead plants removed.  I did pick some ripe tomatos (finally!  yippee!) and squished caterpillars on the collard greens.  Some of those poor leaves are practically skeletal.

That’s not all that’s skeletal – my parsley has caterpillars again!  I watched them this morning eating quickly and voraciously.  When I looked again this afternoon, they’ve already doubled in size.  There’s no sign of the robin – yet.

The beagle’s been back in the lantana again and it’s looking pretty beat down.  I think I’ll have to get a little cheap fence around it to keep him out.  Of course, if the watermelon in the middle of it would ever ripen, that would help it too!

As I was working on my photos last night, I watched last season’s Doctor Who and this year’s season premiere.  I hadn’t watched much of it last year as the storyline didn’t appeal to me.  But the season opener was really good – quite a twist to the Dalek story.  I’m glad I saw it.

Here’s another Williamsburg picture for you as a reward for reading this rambling post.

Enjoy your holiday (those of you who aren’t having to work)!  Hopefully your weather is good enough to spend some time outside.

Keeping What Resolution Makes Me Happiest?

Recently on the Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin asked,

What resolution (successfully kept) would make you happiest?

That didn’t take much thought – getting the house decluttered and these piles gone would make me soooooo happy.

Now, I want to enjoy my accomplishments also.  I’ve decluttered quite a bit since the beginning of the year when I set this as a 2012 goal.  Our little extra room in the attic got cleaned early on.  I didn’t think to take a before picture, but here’s how it still looks now.  Before I decluttered it, you could barely walk to the bike and that was all you could do.  The floor was deep in wall to wall stuff and junk.  It looks pretty good, eh?

Thankfully the camera isn’t showing how dirty the floor is! I might have kept it cleaned up,
but I haven’t done quite so well keeping it actually clean.
It’s much more fun taking pictures at Williamsburg than vacuuming.

I’ve kept up on the piles of paper coming into the house.  I cleaned out our master bedroom closet.  I also cleaned out the pantry, getting rid of old and unused items.  Unfortunately, I had to do a second time after it got all messed up.  I’ve been more diligent in keeping it straightened up since the second cleaning, but I think it could use another clean again.

Let’s see – what else have I done since January?  I made inroads in organizing my home computer photos and documents.  I cleaned out files and the fileroom at work.  That felt good and it was nice to not have the files so crammed in.

But I haven’t made much progress on the old piles and it’s frustrating me.  I WANT THEM GONE GONE GONE.  It helps to do this with some company to keep me amused and provide short breaks for lovin’.

My faithful companion. He’s the best company and would rather stay with me than occupy the couch (like another dog in our household). Notice all the boxes as I sorted, organized, and put stuff away?

So a few weekends ago when it was lethally hot out, I spent the weekend working off and on trying to tame more piles.  I realized that huge stack of magazines in my office had no place to go if I wanted to keep them.  I know this is not going to sound very profound, but I really had to start small if I was going to accomplish this.

I decided that one of the shelves in my office had stuff that could be mostly tossed out.  I had literature from our move to Virginia that was no longer applicable.  There were old Photoshop magazines to toss, outdated because of the changes in the software in the last few years.  I also got rid of tourism information from other states we lived in.  If we ever go back, I’ll replace it then.

Can you believe it? A whole shelf open and free.
That is a GREAT accomplishment and really encouraged me.

With a free shelf, I went through the magazine piles on my table and floor.  Many went into a pile to go to a friend.  A few more got tossed.  Ultimately, I cleared a big area on my table and floor between the magazines and reshelving books that I was done reading.  I could spend hours sorting through my books, so I resisted that and only evaluated the books I was putting away.

I also cleaned a bookshelf outside my office.  I’d never transitioned the books to it as planned and it eventually became another pile of stuff.  I put away old receipts, office supplies, stuffed animals, some pantry items (I keep an overflow pantry upstairs), and a bunch of other things.

It’s easy to get derailed with this kind of project, at least for me.  I hate doing it and I dislike trying to figure out what to do with all of it.  What should I keep, what should I toss, what will or will not be important later.  One of the things on this other bookshelf was 5 years of my Dayrunner daily calendars.  Five years!  I think they got pushed around since we moved in here and eventually accumulated in a corner.

I’d put rubberbands around them, which were already sagged or broken.  I’ve never been able to get rid of these and have them going back 15+ years in the unfinished part of the attic.  I still can’t stand to get rid of them.  They have no value.  The phone calls, questions, and projects are long done and stale, even the ones from just a year ago.  If my notes were important enough, they were copied or scanned and put into a permanent project file.

But each time I open up my daily sheets, I’m transported back to work, what I did, who I worked with, my joys and frustrations in the workplace.

So I got my cooking twine and tied them up into a sturdy bundle, got a storage box out and put them in the unfinished half of the attic with the other ones.  Someday I’ll toss them, but not today.  I didn’t want to stop decluttering to argue with myself why I didn’t need to keep them any longer.  That’s an argument for a different day when I’m not getting rid of so many other things.

All those years of history. . . I couldn’t toss them out.

Each time I left the room – to get a box, go up to the attic, whatever – the beagle followed me.  He’s not too big on cuddling, but he’s great on staying in the room and being there with me.

He’s also a restless sleeper and changes positions every 10 minutes or so.  At one point, he took over the easy chair.  I don’t think he looks very comfortable, but he didn’t seem to notice.

Notice how squished his face is? He does that a lot.

I made a huge dent in the piles.  There’s still a lot to go, but I’m happy to have some working room and to have cleaned off the table and floor at least.  I haven’t done much since this weekend.  Between going to Atlanta and doing regular chores the other weekends, it wasn’t a high enough priority.

But framing this question to myself – what resolution (successfully kept) would make me that happiest – plus some success with this goal, is helping keep me motivated to stay after it.

How about you?  What resolution do you need to work on that would make YOU the happiest?