Friday, July 22, 2011

Why I won't be shopping the Borders going out of business sale

As you might have heard this week, Borders (the mega-big-box bookstore) is going out of business. In order to liquidate as much inventory as possible, the store is slashing prices up to 40% and all sales are final. Typical stuff when a business closes in the red.

I won't be shopping these sales, even though it would be a great opportunity to stock up for myself or for gifts. A Christmas in July, if you will.

I work in publishing. Borders owes my company money; obviously they aren't alone. If you work in publishing, buying something at Borders these days is equivalent to handing over part of your paycheck to your company. True, it's very indirect and there are many degrees of separation, but I can't see myself helping a company to sell off its inventory faster just so it can pay their bills that have needed to be paid for a long time. Their poor planning is their fault. Why should I help them? This has affected me directly. When bills don't get paid, companies can't hire more staff and can't give raises.

However, I do encourage you, if you don't work in publishing, to PLEASE SPEND YOUR MONEY!!!!  Why not? Many other industries have received bailouts. Let's consider this a bailout for publishing. ;-)

I was never a fan of Borders. They didn't make their way into my area until very recently. I grew up with Waldenbooks, B.Dalton, Barnes and Noble, and independent bookstores in my area. I'm not sad that Borders is closing up shop--out of my list the only stores that are now left are B&N and independent stores--and THOSE numbers are dwindling. Maybe we will see a renewal of interest in buying from your independent bookstore? I have a soft spot in my heart for them, as I worked at one for 2 years before coming to my current job.

I am sad for those people who worked at Borders, now and in the recent past, who are jobless or will soon be jobless. The job market is horrible, as we all know, and this just adds more fuel to a seemingly never-ending fire. I hope that this next phase of their lives is a swift one.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Follow up to yesterday's post

For all of those wondering besides Jessica, yes, C did get that call yesterday and has an interview tomorrow :)

He's happy to have the opportunity, although he is a bit apprehensive. It seems like there are other internal candidates and the schedule is not so great either. I told him that they could be using the "other candidates" schpiel to keep everyone emotionally detached and not get anyone's hopes up--this is applicable on both sides. The schedule is actually worse than it was when he first started working for this company. Back then, he worked 2 late nights and all day on Saturday, with days off being Sunday and Monday. He finally did get Saturday and Sunday off, but it took awhile and other people had to leave first.

This new position would have THREE late nights, but his days off would be Friday and Saturday. He wouldn't have to be into work until 1 PM on Sunday, so it wouldn't affect church--MUCH*. It's much easier for me to take off a Friday than it was a Monday, so if we wanted to spend more time together that would be easier than previously.

I told C that if he received an offer, that taking the job was up to him--just because they wanted him, didn't mean he had to take it. He could wait it out and keep applying. I felt like I pressured him to take his last job, as it was only his second offer in 16 months. I was getting nervous about not having enough money, what if he never found ANYTHING, etc. That job caused him grief in his first or second week, when he got into two car accidents in as many days. Both weren't his fault, but they seriously made him rethink the job!

C feels a lot of internal pressure to take the job. Mostly because our state just laid off 70% of the division that oversaw C's previous facility, which means an already small job pool would dry up. The other facility is under a different state division, which is much more secure. Working at this facility would be a great stepping stone for him, as he has always wanted to work in this particular division. He'd get more exposure to the policies and procedures, as well as getting to know various staff within the department. Other good things about this job: he'd be at the same company, same upper level management, same good benefits, etc. On the other hand, he'd still have a 25-30 mile commute and the wear and tear on the car would continue. Not to mention gas. There wouldn't be much pay increase, either, but that's non-profit work for you.

There isn't much we can do. All C can do is go to the interview, do his best, see what happens, and pray that it goes well and ask if this is in The Plan for us. All I can do is help him to prepare for the interview (mostly ironing his clothes!), not bother him the morning of the interview (he gets nervous) and also pray that it goes well and ask if this is in The Plan for us. That's it. Of course, we'd appreciate your thoughts and prayers as well! :-)


*Our church is 1/2 hour away from our house, and about midpoint between the new job and home. He mentioned to one of the potential bosses that he attends church close by, that it would not be convenient to have to go back and forth, would it be possible to work 11-7 on Sundays instead of 1-9? She didn't see why that would be a problem and could be considered. But that leaves us having to take two cars, since I'd need to get home. We already drive a LOT for work (my commute is about the same as C's), so taking two cars to church seems ridiculous. There's no public transportation to work or church and no carpooling availability. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it, I guess. Someone suggested to me last night that I could go to a different church on Sunday, a closer one, but that's not really something I want to do. Byzantines are dying out. I like worshiping as a family, even if I'm in the choir & C's on the altar. I honestly get more out of Liturgy than I did ANY Roman Mass.

I don't like when I don't have control over something that should be easy to remedy. How much should you sacrifice? In other countries, people are persecuted for their religious beliefs. I can go anywhere I want, I could even worship my mailbox if I believed in it as a deity, and I couldn't be arrested or tortured. And yet, here I am, getting huffy because we might have to do things differently to get to church. Should I offer it up as a sacrifice? Do I lower our weekly contribution in that case? I'm already singing in the choir and C is an altar server--both started around the time he got laid off, so I did lower our weekly contribution a bit, only because I believe that contributing to a church isn't just giving your treasure (money). It's also giving your time and talent. I don't think the extra car would make THAT much of a dent in our finances or make our cars die out that much sooner, but it does and will add up. It's the impracticality of it that bothers me the most, I think!

And sadly, no, this parish doesn't offer a Saturday night Liturgy. If it did, that would solve everything! But we are too small to have more than one Liturgy, and the older people would complain because of driving in the dark. This possible situation involving when and where we attend Liturgy just feels like one more punishment or annoyance that Byzantine Catholics deal with in a country that is so Roman-focused or doesn't do church at all. C often jokes that he's had a lot of suffering in his life (losing his mom suddenly and at a young age, the accident/recovery hell, being laid off twice in four years) that religion shouldn't be so hard.

I guess we shall wait and see.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Laid Off Spouse Part 3: The Division of Labor

Today marks two months since C was laid off. And he's been busy! He cannot WAIT to go back to work.

Why is that? I said he was busy. Are you paying attention? :-)

Last time we went through the magical layoff experience, there was much that wasn't discussed beforehand. It came suddenly. This time, since we had some warning, we were able to reflect on the past, figure out what worked and what didn't, and attempt a plan for this time around. After C started working again, we went right into "let's buy a house," and we never looked back much on what could have been different, because we figured that we'd never be in this situation again. Ha, WRONG!

What needed to change? It all boiled down to this: I couldn't think of C as my personal manservant. Last time, I had the idea that just because he was home all day, he could do 100% of the chores around the condo we were renting, plus the grocery shopping or any errands that needed to be done, ON TOP OF job searching (and later, interviews) and having some personal time to do things that interested him. ALL IN ONE DAY!

That was a huge mistake, and a valuable one to learn early on in marriage. We hadn't even been married 6 months before he got laid off. I shouldn't have done it then, and I could NOT do it this time. For starters, it wasn't fair to him then and definitely wouldn't be fair to do it again. I didn’t realize this until much after the fact, actually until C went back to work, and have since apologized. Another difference is that we have more stuff to care for now, versus then. A house twice as big as the condo. A YARD. A garden!

With the lay off on the horizon, I didn't feel that it was right or fair to work hard all day (and praying that I didn't do anything stupid to either get fired or get hurt and need to take a leave of absence), to then come home and have to do tons of chores when he wasn’t working. I also didn’t want to fight or to take advantage of my husband. I was willing to do work too.

So we set up a new way of doing things. We divided up the chores and errands, cleanly.

His tasks:
  • dishes
  • cooking
  • grocery shopping
  • meal planning
  • trash from house to garage (as needed), then garage to curb on trash night
  • laundry--he washes and either puts things in the dryer or hangs them up.
  • feeding the cats (he also orders more food when they are low & picks it up from our vet)
  • garden master--he is in charge of the garden; I help when needed.
  • being home for service people (sort of obvious)

My tasks:
  • the triple B's: budget, bills, and banking. Anything to do with money is my turf. I've always done it and I'm better at it ;-) (C will agree!) For us, it makes more sense for one person to have "control" but the other person is still knowledgeable about what's going on.
  • making sure all clothes are dried, folded and put away.
  • ALL cleaning--except for messes that are made by one's self.
  • litter box cleaning
  • errand running--Target, post office, wherever. He hates Target and Walmart, and I don't mind doing those things. Plus, I tend to notice more when we're low on something.
  • arranging any service appointments, including our cars
  • taking our cars in for service. Yeah, I'm sure this is more of a "man" thing to many couples, but the dealership we use is 1 mile from my office. It makes more sense for me to do this.
So far, this has really worked for us. And there are times when I'll start a load of laundry before I head to work, leaving him a note with what I did and what he needs to do (throw in dryer vs. hang up, depending on what is in the washer). Or I'll run the dishwasher. He's even gone to Walmart once or twice ;-) It's not 100% even, but when is marriage, really? This system will have to be modified again when he goes back to work, but here are some important lessons we both got out of these experiences.
  1. Don’t have super high expectations for yourself or for each other. I shouldn’t have crammed in as much work as I was doing before—running to the grocery store after work, coming home, unpacking, throwing a load in the washer, making dinner, cleaning up, then collapsing into bed. I shouldn’t have treated my husband as I did the last time around. It wasn’t intentional, it just sort of happened. Probably because I know how I would be if I was in his shoes. But that’s me—the rabbit who runs around crazy to get everything done. He’s not like that.
  2. Never take the other person (or their schedule!) for granted. Layoffs are not a vacation, true, but the other person does not suddenly become your slave.
  3. Don’t assume. Again, just because they are laid off doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a day of fishing or going out with friends. This includes double checking with them before you schedule repairs or appointments.
  4. Talk about things before you run off with your ideas. This might sound repetitive of “don’t assume” but it’s still a good idea to talk about EVERYTHING. Even if it’s as silly as “I’m going to wash my car on Sunday afternoon.” Maybe the partner who is home all day wants to take you on a fun day trip to spend more time with you :-)
I wrote all of this before I realized that I didn’t get specific about how chores and such worked after we moved into our house, but before C got laid off. Back then, I was doing a lot of the inside work and was getting pretty resentful at times because of it. We didn’t have a set system of things, which probably was the first cause of my resentment. Because of a few different things, including C coming home stressed out and exhausted, I tried to do too much because I didn’t want to bother him or have things in disarray. Another problem. Plus, I felt that as the woman, I needed to MAKE MY HOME. I also hate asking for help, or fear that I sound whiney or bitchy when I do so. I wasn’t asking for help, and the resentment would bottle it up and explode and we’d fight. That was dumb. VERY DUMB.

Here’s how things went, most of the time.
  • dishes—mostly me
  • cooking—depended on the day, but mostly me.
  • grocery shopping—either of us, whoever felt like it or had the time, sometimes we’d both go
  • meal planning—we’d try to do it together
  • trash from house to garage (as needed)—mostly me
  • trash from garage to curb on trash night—mostly him, although sometimes I’d do it
  • laundry—mostly me
  • feeding the cats–him
  • being home for service people—we’d try to schedule things on the days where he didn’t have to leave the house until 11. Otherwise, I’d take the day off.
  • the triple B's—me
  • ALL cleaning—me, but sometimes C would vacuum or clean the bathrooms when he thought it had been too long
  • litter box cleaning—me
  • errand running—depended on what, but mostly me
  • arranging any service appointments, including our cars—me
  • taking our cars in for service—me
I wrote most of this post today while at work, but wanted to work on it later. Good thing, because I have some related new. I got home this afternoon, and C told me that he was contacted about a position at his old company. His facility had been closed after the budget cuts, but there was an equivalent position at another facility that the company owns. He is expecting a call tomorrow regarding an interview. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I've got a star

Not one that I adopted and named , like KCJayhawk's sons did.

I have a 5 pounds lost star on my Weight Watchers weight tracking profile. I did it. In 4 weeks, I've lost 5.2 pounds, to be exact.

I've always been bigger. Off the charts when I was a baby and young child, then I got to be just a little fat, then really fat. In college, I slimmed down when everyone else was packing it on--hello, anxiety and bad food and cute boys and NOT drinking! Even though I could still shop in regular stores/regular sizes, I was still "bigger" than most of the ladies. After college, it came back on. A lot. I met C and it kept coming. You'd think a wedding would have put me into high gear to do something, but no.

I went to see my primary doctor on Thursday to do a blood pressure check in. I do this every 4 months to make sure I'm not stroking out or anything, and yes, they weigh me.

[I don't get this weighing at every appointment deal. They weighed me when I went to see if my hand was really broken. The nurse was like, "Let's get a weight for you" and I was thinking, "How about NO, because I don't think I can get my SHOES back on." I hopped on anyway, and walked in socks to the exam room.]

There was a four pound difference since I'd last been there, and I told the doctor when I started, what I was doing, how I was tracking. She was all for it and wished me well.

This time, for whatever reason, it feels like it's working. Something that I can stick with, over the long term. I think a lot of it has to do with the iPad. I know, it's a paradox because there's so much out there saying that technology is making us lazier, and in turn, leads to weight gain. In my case, it's helping because it's so much easier to track food with a small tablet than to weigh or measure my food, scribble it down on a piece of paper, run two rooms away to the computer, track it all, etc. I was doing this when I was just tracking calories, and it grew old, fast. And I'm not cutting out any food. Well, no more Dunkin Donuts muffins. But I'm still having ice cream, chips, BREAD, haha.

And I won the iPad through a work event, so my job that I am not happy with all of the time, actually contributed to my health! Who knew?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Healthy eating at work and on the go

This post was originally going to be a simple comment over at Jessica's blog, after her post about taking care of yourself, but it grew too long and I felt it was sort of rude to just dump an almost-essay in someone's comments. So I turned it into a "real" post, expanding it to a reasl essay and adding more tips for the general population.

If you've got blood sugar issues, or just feel better when you eat every few hours, you need to keep a lot of snacks on hand and find the time to snack frequently. This can be a challenge no matter your life situation, but even more daunting when you're at work. You can start your day on a great note, but lunch schedules, rules about food, meetings, extended days can all take a toll on our so-called plans. Also, when you're on the go, be it after work running errands or on the weekend while volunteering or road-tripping, it can be tough to make sure you've got the right fuel in you.

[I've been told I have insulin resistance, but all of my test results are fine, I've never had to do the challenge with the drinks, so I try to watch my starchy carb intake and eat small meals/snacks throughout the day. My anxiety is also kept at bay with frequent food in take. Strange.]

Healthy eating isn't just about what you put in your mouth. It's about making time to eat, eating good food, and avoiding traps.

Making time to eat at work

I'm fortunate that I don't have a set lunch time and that there are no rules about food in my office. So I eat what I want, when I want, where I want. 95% of the time I bring food from home and eat at my desk. Obviously I don't bring in anything stinky since we don't have a closed off lunch area and I don't want to gross out my coworkers. I know, I should really take a lunch break but the lunch table is 10 steps from my desk, people don't care if you're eating and they have a question, and I'd much rather prefer to go out and run errands or stay in to read blogs, check email, go on Facebook for my breaks.

If you have a set time or can only eat in a break room, it's harder to make that time for yourself. Hopefully you can get on a schedule that works for you and your body, and if you have to eat away from your desk, remember to GO to lunch. You'll be doing yourself a huge favor. I used to skip lunch a lot and would pay for it later. Sometimes I still forget to eat, I just get absorbed in a project and think "after I've coded this" or "let me insert 3 more images, then I'll go heat up my lunch." Then it's 2:30 and I wonder why I feel horrible.

Eating good food, no matter where you are

Often times, people are daunted by eating healthy in general, but especially at work. You might hear "I always go out with my coworkers" or "the cafeteria is soooo good" or "Subway is cheap and fast!"

For me, I don't have the coworker peer pressure of going out--most people in my office bring from home. There's no cafeteria. There are places to get food, but since you have to drive everywhere, by the time you run out, order, wait, come back, you'll have to end up eating at your desk since we only get a half hour for lunch. Some work places will be harder to break the habit...but if you have to get take out, there are healthy options in almost every place. Yes, even at the Chinese restaurant! A simple search of "eating healthy while dining out" will give you over 3 million hits. And you can do it right before you head out with your coworkers to the new place up the street.

Lunch can get boring, which can lead us back into temptation of junk food and not-so-great lunches. For years, I ate turkey and cheese with mustard on wheat bread. Then I got SICK of turkey. Couldn't even look at it without feeling nauseous kind of sick. C kept buying it, I wouldn't eat it and it went bad. I've started back up, alternating with things like tuna salad, lean roast beef, and leftovers. Plus salads and soups.

My newest favorite sandwich, which is only five points on Weight Watchers is something out of Victorian England: a Sandwich Thin (3 pts), two wedges of Laughing Cow cheese (1 pt each)--the other day I used garlic & herb, and slices of cucumber. Delicious, satisfying and fun, since it was so different. The rest of the cucumber I ate on the side. [We have many since they are finally coming in...]

Then there's the matter of storage. Luckily, my office only has about 45 people in it and we have a full sized fridge in our kitchenette. Obviously tons of food won't fit (unlike some of my coworkers who have gone grocery shopping at lunch) but I can always stash a yogurt, cheese, some fruit & veggies, hummus, etc. Recently at work, I've had Greek yogurt (more protein & less sugar than regular), nectarines, apples, baby carrots, raw sugar snap peas, hummus, pre-packaged cheddar cheese cuts. Plus anything I bring from home.

If you've also got a fridge at work, great! Use it to its fullest extent, but please be mindful of your coworkers--make sure you don't take up too much room, throw out old food, and be neat. If you don't have access to a fridge, you can still eat healthy. The climate of each workplace is vastly different, but some produce can be left out if you don't have a fridge or if there isn't much space--apples are good, tomatoes are as well. I've even left out a peach or nectarine for a day or two to ripen.

Additionally, get an insulated bag and some of those freezable packs and you're ready to go. I bought mine at Walmart, years ago for less than $10. It's so big, I can put a 6 pack in there. I don't use mine very often, since my ride is a half hour and I make my lunch right before I leave. I figure the car ride won't make anything spoil. On days where I have appointments prior to work, and going straight in from there, I pack my bag and don't have to worry about my salad wilting in a hot car.

Speaking of my car, I find that I need to keep snacks in there, in case I have a dip in my blood sugar. Snacks can also help you stay on track, if you're attempting to eat healthy or lose weight. Ever try to find a suitable snack while at a gas station? Even the packages of nuts aren't that great for you, especially if a bag contains 3 servings. It's so easy to wolf down the entire thing, and you've just consumed 500+ calories! Which brings me to another point...

Avoiding traps
My last job, working in a bookstore with an in-store cafe was DANGEROUS. A cookie or a scone was always a stairwell away. Then I came to my current company, where I got used to not having food around. I had to go out, even for a soda. Four years went by, then we got a vending machine. For a long time, I avoided it, but one day I caved. And then caved again. It was SO easy, and I always had change. I've managed to break the habit again, but it's always there...

Solution: having snacks at your desk or nearby, and definitely in your car, as I mentioned above. Besides what I keep in our fridge at work, I also always have a can of soup in my desk, in case my lunch ends up terrible, or I forgot it at home, or have to work late and am starving. I think I also have some oatmeal packets and a Special K bar or two.

It's tough when you want to eat healthy and/or "whole foods" as possible, but you are on the go. Carrying fresh fruit is a challenge! My go-to fruits have been apples or bananas, since bananas are wrapped already and apples are a bit more durable than other fruits. Summer time is when all of the easy damaged fruits are in season--berries, peaches, nectarines--I've managed to wrap them up in wads of paper towels, and they've been unscathed but that can be wasteful. Sometimes, I'll use a clean, dry dishcloth to protect the fruit. Baby carrots are good for a purse or bag, as well.

In the cooler months, I was keeping Special K bars or cereal bars in my car, but now that it's summer, things melt. My summer snack will be raisins and unsalted peanut, portioned out into baggies. I made some today; it felt like I was creating party favors! There's 2 tablespoons of raisins and 3 tablespoons of peanuts in there, for 6 points. That's almost what some of my sandwiches are, but if I need it, they are there in the car for me.

I keep mentioning Special K bars; no, I am not being paid for this endorsement. They have been a life saver for me. Only 90 calories, portable, individually wrapped. There are better options out there, but with more calories; maybe something by Kashi with a bit more protein? Those are stashable, too. I avoid them only because I have an almond sensitivity and they really like using almonds. I used to like eating them...

I hope my tips and tricks are useful to you! Remember, as I said in the beginning, healthy eating isn't just about what you put in your mouth. It's about making time to eat, eating good food, and avoiding traps. No matter what your reason is for wanting to be healthier, it can be done with a little planning ahead and preparation.

Good luck!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Liturgical changes in this house

Before I begin, I'm really tired of referring to my husband as Turtle. I don't know, it's been bothering me for awhile. I am now going to refer to him by his first initial, which is C. And I will refer to myself as J (my first initial). I'm about to just say our names, because this is getting slightly ridiculous.

Anyway. I think I may have mentioned this before, but C had been approached a few months ago by our priest, Father T, about being an altar server. Those of you familiar with Catholicism might be thinking "isn't he a little...old to be up there?" Another difference between the Roman church and the Byzantine church: any male, between the ages of 7 and 70, may serve on the altar in our church. (I think they can be older than 70, but that's what our priest wrote in the bulletin as a call for servers.) And no girls, either, which used to bother me, but now I get it--women can't be priests, so WHY allow them to be up there in the first place? I think that's a worse be told "Oh you can be an altar server!!! But that's all, while your co-altar server could be a priest when he grows up." I can't think of a more eloquent way to say it, but it's half-assed, in my opinion.

C had been bothering Father about starting training for awhile, in a nice way, don't worry. Finally, the Saturday after Pentecost, C went up to our church and did a training session. The following day was his first Sunday on the altar. Today was his third week; I'd been meaning to write something...but you know how it is. C is currently serving with a little boy (I) who is 7 or 8. It's really funny to see the two of them up their cassocks and sticharions. (I might have the wrong word for the cassock--Priest's Wife, feel free to correct me! It's a black tunic that the servers wear over their street clothes, and the sticharion goes over that.)

Father T picked a great time to have C start serving. It's been at least 80 degrees by 9 am when Liturgy starts, so he's feeling lovely by the time the service is over. On the altar, there are fans, but they do little to help when you've got fifty candles (if not more) blazing away right near you. ;-)

After his first Liturgy on the altar, Father asked C how he felt, and C said "It's like I was always supposed to be up there, it felt almost like home." I don't know if I've ever mentioned this here, but C is also discerning whether or not he is being called to be a Deacon. That's a huge responsibility, and the church requires you to be married for seven or eight years before you can start your training, so we have time. (Not to mention, we live far from all of the seminaries, so...a lot would have to change.)

You might be wondering what I'm doing, now that my seat mate has gone to a more public location. Oh don't worry...I got roped into the choir. Well, not really, I CHOSE to be in the choir, but I was recruited heavily. It's hard to turn the cantor down when she moved the group from the
choir loft into the congregation, just ONE pew up from where you usually sit. How timely! Joining the choir wasn't a huge deal; I always sang the entire Liturgy anyway. Now I just have a "part" instead of singing with the book. There are two other altos, I believer, but one doesn't come every week.

Singing has always been a part of my life. And I had been curious about the choir for some time, but just didn't feel comfortable back when I was originally asked. Now it works. I like having something to do during Liturgy and being more involved. Although it's still a little strange, with everyone else old enough (save one woman) to be my grandparents.

That's the sad part about our church, which I'll write about in another post--everyone is OLD. It's hard to "fit in" but then again, I've never really fit in anywhere, so I should just accept it. :-)

ETA: oh, and I've also changed my design/layout. I wanted something a little brighter, with more space devoted to the actual posts. I didn't like the empty side nonsense.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

So much to say...and half-year goal review

Yet so little time to get OVER here to post.

I think I need to start carrying a little notebook with me so that I can jot down my thoughts and keep the blog posts growing somewhere. I'll think of something that I want to write about, and then forget it.

Onto the half-year goal review. I wrote these goals down in December, and followed up in February, but haven't done anything since then...good job!

Personal goals:
1. Like everyone and their mother, work on exercising more and getting healthier.
Hahaha, I can finally say that I've gotten my butt in gear and am doing something about it! [of course, I always worry about falling off the wagon, like I've done SO. MANY. TIMES.]

Today's weigh in shows a 2.9 pound loss this week, and I've lost 1/2" from my waist, another 1/2 inch from my hips, 1/4 inch from my arms, 1/2 inch from my thighs. Last week during my weigh-in, I'd only lost 0.3 pounds and a 1/2 inch from my hips. I'm glad I stuck with it and didn't freak out too much over slow beginning progress. I guess it's OK to be the Turtle sometimes ;-)

2. Enjoy my free time more, by working on hobbies, taking classes, etc.
Well, I was, then work got SUPER busy, but I can say that I'm doing more things that I want to do in my free time, versus things that I feel like I have to do. Gardening is a pleasure, not a chore. Even setting up a planted area around my mailbox was fun. It took three weekends, and was a lot of hard, manual labor, but in the end I love how it looks and there's a feeling of accomplishment, the "I did that!" feeling that comes over you. My father in law was thoroughly impressed that I did it all by myself, too. My parents haven't seen it yet. (pictures to come)

3. Make more of an effort to be social.
Always could be better. I'm making plans to see people who I haven't seen in a while, but often times it feels one-sided. Of course, the search for more friends for both of us is still there. I'm also thinking about volunteering, just to get out there and do something different, and hopefully meet some like-minded people. Both of us miss having the "call up, pick up and go" friends like we used to have, years ago. Everyone gets so busy and then you stop, realize "I haven't seen so and so in forever!" and you call them and they've been crazy busy too. I've thought more about branching out at work. My coworkers are really fun people, but everyone lives so far away, I don't know if they'd drive an hour to my house for a get-together. Once in awhile, we'll do a happy hour thing, but they've always been when I have something going on! Can't win :)

4. GET OUT of my hellish job that I've been at for over 4 years and MOVE ON with my life.
Going on 4 years and 10 months in a few days. I did have an interview at the beginning of June, and as most of you know, I didn't get the job, but it was a good interview. I know it really wasn't something "wrong" with me, there was just someone a bit better. Then I found out that the company was doing layoffs, so I averted a possible disaster! I haven't been actively looking or applying. I still get Indeed emails every day and skim through them; I will only apply if it's something that interests me a LOT. Nothing casual.

5. Keep improving my relationship with Turtle.
It's been super great, and keeps getting better. Hmm, perhaps it's because HE isn't stressed and I'm not feeling like I need to shoulder all of the work around here? (Granted, a lot of it in the past was self-assumed; he didn't make me do everything or wouldn't help.) With him home, he has picked up a lot of the chores that I was cramming into a day, then feeling stressed and resentful, instead of opening up my BIG MOUTH and asking for help. Life is much more relaxed around here and enjoyable. For the first time in a long time, I'm not running around like a mad woman and am just...very content. (I plan on writing about what exactly has changed in the division of labor soon, as part of my Laid Off Spouse series.)

6. This goes with #4 but find a new job that allows me to shine and share my talents with others; where I am appreciated for who I am and what I contribute. Also, one that is family-friendly and has great benefits.
While I haven't found a new job, I do have new benefits which are much cheaper. I can't wait to see my first paycheck since the new plan has gone into effect (next Thursday!) and see the savings. Which of course will be headed to my 401(k) so that I can do what I want with my money, not be over-taxed.

Work itself has gotten a bit better. My boss is still a wack job nut case, but I've stepped up more, taken on more responsibility and work, and I actually plan on talking to my department head (the wife-owner; I work for a married couple) about a change of title and possibly...a small increase? Just wondering if it's better to do this week, before she leaves for a two-week vacation, or when she gets back...

House goals:
1. Really finish fixing up and getting settled into our house.
In some rooms, yes; other rooms, not so much. There is one room (my future craft/sewing room) that has become the catch-all for random things that do have a home. We just need to put them IN their home! Then I can make it my own space. I'm very excited about this. I snagged an awesome antique desk at a tag sale and can't wait to add it to the room.

2. Getting this house PAINTED top to bottom. I can do a lot myself, but for some rooms, I will need to call in the pros. The kitchen and our bedroom need to be done by pros b/c I take a long time, and we kinda need those two rooms to live in.
Almost done! In April, I had the kitchen, dining room, library, downstairs hallway, stairwell, upstairs hallway, and the master bedroom painted by a professional. She did a fabulous job in just over a week. And as I documented a few weeks ago, I finished the half bath after two months. The house looks SO much better, and feels more like OURS. The boring white was getting to me. I like white, don't get me wrong, but when you've rented for so many years and had no choice BUT white (and before that, grew up in a post and beam house with NO paint), you want a touch of color.

What's left: master bath, center bath, my craft room, the exercise room, and the guest room. I will probably do the bathrooms and the craft room myself, but I think I'll call back my painter lady for the other two rooms. Someday, God willing, they will be bedrooms for our kids, and I am not really into gender-specific decorating (when it comes to paint, I mean). I'll pick out some cheery neutrals, maybe a yellow in one room and a green in another? and go with that for now. The exercise room consists of a TV on a table, a treadmill, random workout gear (yoga mat, exercise ball, weights) and another table with our seed starting apparatus. It's really classy. Haha. The cats like it!

3. Start our garden in the early spring. We're already looking at seed catalogs (DORKS).
We did this!!! We started lots of stuff from seed and had SUCH a good yield, I was giving plants away! And it is amazing how much the plants took off--we're already harvesting cucumbers!!

4a. Buy new doors for the two bedrooms where the previous owners' sons bashed them in.
Not yet. Probably after the rooms are painted?

4b. New carpet and have the kitchen floor re-done.
I'm adding this in now because at first, I thought I'd wait until our (future) kids were past the puking, spilling, peeing stage, but then I realized, that won't be for at least another 10 years and the carpets are eight years old NOW.

So the plan is to do it sooner rather than later, getting nice DARKER colors that hide ALL stains. We have carpet in our family room, all of the bedrooms and the upstairs hallway. I'd love to go all hardwood (like the downstairs hallway, stairs, library, dining room, and kitchen), since that's how I grew up and it IS so much easier to clean, but I'm constantly vetoed, because it's "too cold in the winter." Boo. Put on some socks!

The kitchen floor needs some serious work. It looks like someone ice skated on it; there are some very weird gashes. And the usual wear and tear that happens when the most popular room in the house is...used. I hope they can just strip and re-do the varnish on the floor without having it look too obvious in the doorways to the dining room and hallway, but that's why I'll let an expert come see it and do the job. My parents house, while all wood, had linoleum (now tile) in their kitchen, so I'm not used to seeing hardwood look THIS beat up!

5. Paint our basement hatchway door.
Not yet, but soon.

6. Figure out a new/better method for firewood storage.
We have a nice box on our front porch for wood to use in the house, and the rest is kept out in our backyard on racks built by Turtle and his dad, covered with tarps. Works for us.

7. Possibly build a shed in our backyard.
Much to my husband's dismay, this is not going to happen for awhile, if ever. His father doesn't want to do it, and keeps finding other projects to help us with instead. Honestly, I don't think we need one yet. Maybe when we have kids with bikes and outside toys? For now, the garage holds our cars, the lawn mower, the snow blower, tools, and other stuff. Plus, they tax you on ANY outdoor buildings around here, and I don't feel like paying more money every year for a SHED.

8. Continue to keep things neat!
Going pretty well, and we're on a much better cleaning routine.

9. Put up some kind of tile/backsplash behind the stove. It gets messy back there and what's the sense in painting it if it's just going to keep getting gross?
On hold for now as I have yet to get the other half on board with this AMAZING idea.

10. More planting! Especially some trees.
Besides the garden, we've also put in two more hydrangeas, a sage bush, and lavender plants. Plus the mailbox area. More in a future post.

Financial goals:
1. I've been trying to put away ~$500/month into savings, and I'd like to keep that up, if not increase it.
Ha, no, not with a layoff. But we haven't had to touch our savings in awhile, either. So I'll take it.

2. I've been socking away ~$150/month for a vacation, which I'm still going to do. We were going to go on a "big trip" in 2012/13 for our 5th anniversary, but I think instead we're going to try and go to Maine this summer. Besides a long weekend in Philly for our 1st anniversary, we haven't been away ANYWHERE since our honeymoon. We can still go away for our 5th anniversary, but not a "big trip." Maybe another small one. Who knows where things will be in 2 or 3 years?
Oh, the plans we make. No big trip next year, most likely. No Maine this summer.

3. Get Turtle enrolled in his 403b or whatever it's called. His company matches!
We did this! And they matched SUPER well. Then he got laid off. I'm laughing while typing this, it's SO ridiculous, how everything happened.

4. Get us in to see a financial planner and have him help us make the best of our money.
We did this too! We set up Roth IRAs for both of us, and contributed the maximum for 2010 and 2011. Yes, that is a lot of money. No, we're not crazy. No, no one died and left us money. Maybe some day I will explain more about how that all works, here.

Our financial guy also helped us get Turtle's 403b from a previous job, and invested that in a regular IRA. He's also looking at the Roth I started years ago when I was first out of college and will help grow that too. I am still contributing to my (unmatched) 401k.

5. Keep avoiding credit card debt. We've done GREAT with this for years, and I just want to keep it going.
YES!!!! We only charge if we have the money to pay it off and it's just more convenient than a check or debit card (phone/online orders, for example).

6. As I'm looking for a new job, I hope to be making more money (don't we all!). I want to increase my retirement contributions AND sock more into savings instead of going crazy with more money. Of course, then I'll be too paranoid to spend the money, haha.
As I said earlier, I'm still putting money into my 401k and will be increasing the contributions soon, thank you cheaper health insurance. I've also gotten better about not being so tight with money--not in a careless way, but when the issue of the dress code reared its ugly head, I had to go shopping. I think I did quite well for not too much money and didn't feel panicked about spending.