Management Monday – Focus on Seven Edition

Focus on Seven Button Design
My new button for my Focus on Seven Project!

There it is – my button for the Focus on Seven in 2014 project.  I’m very excited about the project and the button!  🙂

I am excited about it being New Year‘s Eve tomorrow.  We aren’t doing anything special at all.  My hubby is leaving for nine or ten days early on the first, so we can’t really be out late and I don’t have a sitter, so we will be at home with the four year old.  I’m not really big on going out for New Year’s anyways, although I always love all the cute ideas on Pinterest for parties.  When I was younger I always got to invite a couple of friends for a sleep over and we would watch the TV countdowns and go outside and beat pans and make noise at Midnight.  It will be a few years before my daughter is ready for that, but I have fond memories of those times.  I think my friends’ parents were always excited to have their kids go somewhere else so they could go to parties, but my parents just liked staying at home and didn’t mind three screaming, laughing little girls around.  I guess maybe we’ll be those parents.  Anyways, I’m excited because the next day will be 2014 – a fresh start with my Focus on Seven campaign.

I have already started working on my Focus on Seven.  I found this post about using Google Calendar to make sure you are prioritizing your days and weeks accordingly and I’ve color coded all my Focus on Seven items in my Google Calendar.  I figure I will be able to look at the colors on my calendar and see whether I’m hitting on all Seven in a week or not.  I think it will be really helpful.  I have also gone through my Excel spreadsheet of income and expenses – it isn’t pretty.  We are not even close to breaking even right now.  That is temporary as one of the bills I’m paying off will be done after February and once that is done, we’ll be a bit ahead, but I do need to make the next two months work.  I also have a few other things I need to catch up on in the coming months.  So, I’m trying to find ways of saving and ways of making money.  I have decided to go back to couponing.  I was once doing well with it but fell off the cart and I think it is time I get back on it.  I have also decided to do a little more work on Swagbucks and MyPoints to try to get those gift cards coming.  Every little bit helps.  So, I am already making progress on the project despite it not yet being 2014!

I am also going to do a Pantry Challenge with Good Cheap Eats (she starts one on January 1) to try to really save money on groceries this month.  With my hubby being gone the first ten days of the month, it should be easier (he doesn’t so much like the leftovers or the creative use of pantry items), but it will be tough towards the end with him home, me back teaching, etc.  But, we’ll give it a shot.

So, that is where I am this eve of New Year’s Eve 2013.  How about you?


My 2014 Resolution Challenge – Part Two

New Year's Eve bonfire 2006
New Year’s Eve bonfire 2006

This is Part Two of a two-parter – if you would like to read Part One, go here.

So, the cards have been sorted and I’ve come up with a clever title for my 2014 Challenge:

Focus on Seven in Fourteen

  • Friendship – develop close personal relationships
  • HealthPhysical and psychological wellbeing
  • Inner Harmony – being at peace with oneself
  • Knowledge – understanding gained through study and experience
  • Economic security – having enough money
  • Family happiness – being able to spend quality time and develop relationships with family of origin or family by marriage/relationship
  • Spirituality 

One thing that I notice about a number of these areas is  that I have neglected them in the recent past.  I have not developed close personal relationships since leaving my job in Fullerton over a decade ago.  I’m not sure why or what happened, but I just have not really found “my people” since then.  And it has been very hard.  I have really wanted to have friends, but I seem to have a lot of superficial relationships and I have problems going any deeper than that with others.  Part of it is that I am constantly trying to hide parts of my life from others because I don’t feel at peace with myself (see the third item on the list), part of it is that I have a lack of time to develop these relationships and part of it is that I just don’t always click with people.  But, I have a mom’s group I’ve started to attend lately and I feel like I am comfortable with them and they are a spiritual group, so that helps with the last item of the list as well.

Wellbeing-wise, I have been focused on my daughter mostly, but a lot of times that is just an easy excuse.  I would like to start exercising more.  I need to change that phrasing.  I will start exercising more as part of my “Focus on Seven”.  I think this will help both my physical and psychological wellbeing.  I have been pretty sedentary for a long time and when I was growing up, I was SUPER active!  I swam competitively (can’t do that anymore because of a shoulder injury), I dove competitively (can’t do that anymore because it is scary and takes a lot of flexibility I no longer have), I did acrobats and competitive gymnastics (can’t do that anymore because of the flexibility issue) and I played water polo (can’t do that anymore because it would be insane).  So, I’ve just stopped doing anything.  I like yoga a lot and it seems to be good for my back, but also good for my stress.  So, I would like to start doing a regular yoga class – or an at home video (but the class seems more likely to get me going).  And I would just like to walk regularly.  Walking is easy, cheap (see the fifth item on the list for why cheap is important) and you can do it anywhere (traveling or not, visiting family, etc.).  I am thinking that I should aim to do EITHER yoga or walk seven times a week.  At least one thing once a day.

The Inner Harmony is a little more complicated and a little more of a mystery.  How exactly does one achieve “peace with oneself”?  I know I have not achieved it.  I feel in constant struggle to even figure out who exactly I am, let alone achieve peace with that person.  So, I guess step one in the process towards achieving Inner Harmony is figuring out who exactly I am.  I will have to start figuring out how to do that effectively, although I guess this “Focus on Seven” is one step towards it.  At least I know what my priorities are.  I also think my inner harmony really thrives when I am organized, in a routine and feeling in control of things.  I’ve written before about my feelings of lack of control since my daughter’s illness and it is apparent all around me as well as in my levels of stress.  As an action item, I have bought the Motivated Moms app for my phone:

Click here to visit Motivated Moms.

I am a phone junkie and I set reminders for all my appointments in Google Calendar already.  But this app gives me a list of things to do each day to keep my house in order, my self in working order (exercise, mentioned above), my financial house in order and even my spiritual house in order (she has verses from the Bible to read on each day’s schedule – you CAN turn that option off if you are n0t feeling like that will help you though).  So, really, it is like a little electronic “Focus on Seven” with some household chores mixed in.  I am really looking forward to using it.  I had used her printed out ebook a couple of years ago for a while and I really liked it, but I’m just not one to be checking a binder all the time.  My phone and some reminders does the trick though!  Check it out and let me know what you think!

Knowledge is the one area where I feel I am succeeding.  The only thing I want to change about that area is that I want to read more books.  I read A LOT on the internet.  And what I read is not often fluff, but is good stuff.  So, I feel like I am reading things of value, but I’ve also lost my attention span for reading.  I often don’t read books until I’m getting ready to go to sleep at the end of the day and I fall asleep quickly and then can’t remember what I’ve read when I try to revisit the book later.  So, I’ve decided that I will try to read for 30 minutes to an hour in the morning.  I will read mostly for pleasure.  I “belong” to a number of book clubs – I put the quotation marks there because I rarely finish reading the book.  Often, I don’t even start to read the book.  But, this is a way for me to achieve some progress towards my first item while also maintaining and maybe even gaining in the knowledge area.  I would love to be an active member of active book clubs and have fun and make friends while doing it!  I’m sure I will continue my internet devotion as well.

Economic Security.  This one makes me want to run and hide under the covers.  Seriously scary stuff for me.  This has actually been, by far, the MOST stressful part of my existence for the last three years probably.  Part of it is that I am in denial about our financial situation and I keep things to myself so as not to have to deal with a lot of questions from my husband.  Part of it is that we are both spenders.  Not big spenders, but almost worse, we penny and dime ourselves into big, fat, deep money holes.  So, I’ve taken step one, which was to go through the pile of stuff that I’ve had collecting in my notebook for months.  And folks, it is scary stuff.  So, I have decided to try to use Dave Ramsey‘s method for financial management.  I have to start cutting my expenses and spending like crazy in the new year.  I already try to bring in extra money through stipend programs at school, my second teaching job, etc., but I think I’m going to try to make better use of my time online as well.  I will do a few affiliate things on this blog for things I believe in and trust and I may do some advertising posts here and there as well.  I don’t like to do that, but if it is for things that I use and trust, then it doesn’t seem as bad to me.  I promise not to inundate you with selling though – not my style at all.  In addition, I may look into some online job that I can do to make some extra money.  If any of you have ideas or things you have done that have worked, please share with me and my readers in the comments area.  I am horrible at selling things on Craigs List, etc., so I don’t want to do that.  But, I am good at typing, editing, etc. so maybe I can find some extra jobs doing that sort of thing here and there.  I will need to make something happen beyond our normal income to make this work, but I really, really want to do it.  It won’t be easy though.  This is probably, by far, the most difficult of the seven.

Family happiness.  I would say this is second hardest.  It isn’t that we are “un”happy so much as we are disconnected.  The way our lives have worked has created this distance between us.  Whether that distance comes in actual geographic distance or in the way the three of us sit in the same room staring at computer screens rather than each other doesn’t really matter in the end.  But, I must admit that I find it tiring to plan things and do them.  That is truly a sad thing to type.  So, I’m doing a few things to get the ball rolling in this department.  One of my Christmas gifts to my husband is a DIY Dining Passport for our local town.  We have a ton of great restaurants, bars and coffee shops locally, so when I saw this idea, I thought it was perfect.  It can also be a way of controlling our eating out, but I’m not sure if it will work that way.  My thought is to make a weekly date night where we go out to lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants.  So, tonight I will be making the Passport book with some papers I have and giving it to him tomorrow.  Hopefully it isn’t a flop.  Second way I’m planning on doing this is a chore chart with my daughter with rewards being “experiences” – so weekly rewards are local free or cheap activities – going to the park for an hour, visiting the nature center, the indoor mall play place, etc.  Monthly rewards will come with some cost – $10 or less per person – so a movie night or the Friday swim night or Friday Gymnastics free gym time, etc.  Then Quarterly there will be larger rewards (if she does her chores regularly) – something like visit to Six Flags (we buy season passes, so it isn’t terribly expensive, but we do have to plan in advance for this) or the zoo that is an hour and a half away, etc.  The expense isn’t necessarily the difficult part, but the time to do it.  Which is what we really need to focus on.  With those two things in place, I think we should be in good shape to start connecting more.  I would also like to institute game night at our house where we invite another family or a friend or something over and have pizza, appetizers and play games once a month.  We could even do this as adults once a quarter as well.

Spirituality has weaved itself through a few of the above items and it is something that I think I can enjoy in many different ways.  But, I do think the community of church is important to me.  I have found a church I very much enjoy, but I have not made much time for it in my life lately.  So, that is one area on which I would like to work.  I want to attend church every Sunday that I am in town (and prioritize it so I make an effort to be here when I can) and I would like to join a group outside of Sunday services to enjoy regularly to make connections and meet people. I think I will be more likely to attend regularly if I have people to talk to and sit with and enjoy before and after services.  Right now, Mackenzie and I go, but I don’t really converse with anyone at all.  And I find it a little intimidating to just go to people and start talking to them.  So, the group thing will be a help.  That will also hopefully help with item number one as well.

As I type all this out (sorry for the length), I realize how so many things in my Seven our interrelated and interconnected and how one thing really can do more than just that one thing for me.  I am excited to embark on this journey in 2014.

*This post contains affiliate links.  I am an affiliate for products that work for me and that I personally endorse.

Six Word Saturday

Six Word Saturday – Shopping Edition

Christmas money – new hair, jeans, boots!

Today was a rarity for me.  I got some money for Christmas (usual) and decided to go get my hair done and do some shopping (rarity)!  Now, before I get to far into this, I will tell you that I only got $100 in Christmas money so my hair and shopping were of the frugal sort, but I’m still excited about them!

First, I got my hair down at our local beauty school, Marinello.  I have been there before for both hair and nails and I must say that I usually love the results but they take longer than at a professional place (understandable).  Today I had someone who graduates in two months and she was awesome and I love my hair.  I got what they call “Mini Highlights” which is basically 10 foils.  Since my hair is so short, that was perfect for me.  I also got a trim (didn’t need much since I got it cut about four weeks ago) and a wash and blow dry and the total was…wait for it…$15!!!  I tipped the woman $5 so for $20 I got a wash, color, cut and blow dry!  Not bad, not bad at all.  Here are the results (I don’t have before pictures – I should have thought of that, but I didn’t).  I actually hate taking pictures of myself, so the fact I have these is pretty surprising in itself.  Here is my hair post-coloring – much brighter (it looks dark here – bathroom lights must be somewhat yellowish).  I really like the way it brightened it up though!

highlights in hair


Second, I came home and got the eight bags/boxes of donation items from the garage (wow, that was a lot I got rid of and it didn’t make a dent) and took it to our local American Cancer thrift shop and then went shopping.  I found a couple of pairs of Levi’s that are tighter than any that I own (I’ve lost a little weight) and narrow at the bottom because I’ve really been coveting the riding boots craze, but didn’t have any appropriate pants to wear with them.  I also found a couple of cute pillows for our couch that fit in with our color scheme (whatever there is of one), a few pieces of clothing for my daughter, a couple of Angry Birds plush animals for my daughter and a beautiful large vase made my a local potter.  All for $33!  But, after finding the jeans, I knew I needed to take the plunge and get the boots, so I went over to Payless Shoe Source and got a pair of riding boots.  Here I am in one of the pair of jeans and the boots:

Me in riding boots


I’ve decided that the lighting in my bedroom is heinous and I can’t figure out how people take selfies of their outfits in mirrors at all.  Any guidance would be appreciated.  But, there I am.  Phone in hand and the boots don’t really show up much, so here is a closer look at those:

Riding Boots


I love them.  I hope that I can put together the myriad of outfits I find online and post on my Pinterest “Fashion and Such” board that include riding boots.  Like these:

Black pants, scarf, creamy sweater and long boots combination for fall      

After that, I came home, put everything away and continued where I had left off earlier in the day.  Cleaning up the house (never ending it seems), grading (deadline is Monday, so that can not be never ending…I am getting close to finalizing them all and hope to enter them tomorrow afternoon/evening), reading blogs, looking at Facebook and Pinterest and reading all the great ideas for the New Year.  I pre-ordered a book.  And now, I must go to bed, play some Candy Crush and sleep.  Tomorrow will be Church in the morning and much of the same throughout the day!

Sleep well!

Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday – Free For All


It looks like Five Minute Friday may be on a little Winter vacation, but I like the idea of writing for five minutes, so I’m going to go ahead and do it.  Since there is no topic to use, I’m going to have a Free For All.  If you decide to do a Five Minute Friday today, please feel free to link up in the comments and I will try get over and comment!

Christmas is over but the remnants of it are all. over. my. house!  And my daughter is in rare form this morning, bouncing from one activity to another and another and another and then stating “There is nothing to do.  Nothing to do.”  It is a little entertaining but also a little disturbing.  I’m hoping if I can get things cleaned up and organized, she will calm down a bit and be able to focus on doing something for more than a few minutes at a time.

I am also a bit overwhelmed with everything and we don’t even get that much stuff/gifts really.  I can only imagine what it would be like if we had a bigger family and more gifts to deal with!  We do have a second Christmas to do at my in-laws on the 11th of January, but by then, hopefully she will have calmed down and adjusted to all the new stuff.  Then she will have adjust to all the new-new stuff.  Then she has a birthday in February and will have new-new-new stuff to adjust to.  It is a bit overwhelming!

So, that’s been my day after the day after Christmas so far…what about you?

Thursday Thumbs Up

Thumbs Up Thursday #10 – Christmas Edition


Hope everyone who celebrated yesterday had a good day.  Our day was pretty good, minus the tire blowout on the freeway on the way to pick up my mom.  Luckily it did not cause any lasting damage to us or our car and AAA was out within an hour and my sister was able to go pick up my mom so we could just go straight to her house, so it really didn’t impact us negatively a whole bunch.  $90 of our Christmas money went to a new tire today and we’re all home safely!  I am not feeling like posting much tonight, so this will be a short edition of the thumbs up!

  1. Christmas!  I love the holiday.  I love the way it brings families together.  I like that there are traditions tied to it.  I like that it is followed up by a brand new year, so you are feeling good and immediately get to take that momentum into the new year.  I know it isn’t a perfect holiday with the commercialization and gift-giving discomfort, but overall I really enjoy the day a lot!
  2. Hospice.  My dad has been in hospice care for about six months now (maybe a little longer) and they have been fantastic.  I know that my mom has been comforted knowing that nurses are coming a couple of times of week to check on him and that the medication he needs to make him comfortable is available and even delivered.  The whole dying process really kind of angers me in this country (where I feel we often are more compassionate about the care of our animals than the care of humans, but that is another post), but hospice definitely is one of those places where true angels are to be found.
  3. Time off of work.  I can’t imagine having to go back to work right now.  Our house is a disaster, we are all sleep deprived after only one night away from home and Bean has two weeks out of school.  I know that I would make it work if I had to, but I really respect those individuals who have to get out of the house and go to their 9-5 jobs a day or two after Christmas and figure out how to make school breaks work for them and such.  I am thankful I have an academic job whose schedule matches up with my daughters pretty well.  Now if I could just figure out how to keep my house cleaner…oh, wait…I think I may have figured that out too!  But, that is to come in a later post.  Stay tuned!

So, that’s it for me.  I’m pooped.  I forgot to pay our internet bill, so we’re using our phone bandwith until the internet comes back on (I paid it upon arriving home tonight, but it usually takes a couple of hours to kick back on).   I will probably head to bed soon and hope to wake up early to deal with the house that was obviously hit by some kind of tornado while we were gone, clean out the refrigerator of all the gross leftovers from our Christmas Eve Chinese Food fest (the food was good at the time, but now it just looks…unappetizing), and try to figure out a good breakfast to make for everyone.  I will also be drinking my Vanilla Nut coffee my hubby got me for Christmas, which may be on next week’s Thursday’s Thumbs Up (maybe).

Wishing you a good night and lots of thumbs ups for this Thursday!


Tuesday To-Do’s – Temporary Short List

It_is_stocking_time_Merry Christmas to all those celebrating this evening.  We opened stockings and one gift.  Tomorrow, we will rise early and open the remaining few gifts here then hop on the road for a 2 1/2 hour drive to my mom’s, where we will pick her up and take her to my sister’s house for Christmas dinner (she lives 45 minutes back towards us).  We will then drive my mom back to her house and stay the night there tomorrow.  Then we will get back on the road to come home (probably after a breakfast with my mom).  So, my to-do list for the next couple of days is relatively limited.  I plan to watch my daughter open many presents (many with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle themed) and quickly lose interest in them (because that is what a four year old does after all).  Other than that, not much.

Enjoy the day whatever your plans!



My 2014 Resolution Challenge Part One


I’ve been poking around on the internets for ideas on how exactly to best come up with resolutions AND keep them in 2014.  I found a lot of challenges I’m interested in – reading challenges, fitness challenges, etc. but I want to have well-rounded resolutions that provide me with a balanced life and gives me some things that I’ve been wanting in my life.  So, I’ve thought about having a monthly challenge.  But, I tried that back in 2011 and it failed miserably.  So, then I thought maybe I should do a 52 week challenge.  But, I was a little intimidated with coming up with 52 things to do by January 1 and I want to have something well-planned when the year begins.  So, I’ve decided to have “focus areas” and each week, I will dedicate at least three hours (I admit the three hours is a totally random amount of time – but, it seemed doable – 180 minutes a week, divided up however it works out) to EACH of the focus areas.  That way, I have balance on a weekly basis.  So, you’re probably wondering what my focus areas are going to be.  I am too!  🙂  I am actually going back to an exercise we did in one of my leadership workshops this semester.  The leader of the workshop is a counselor in the student counseling center (not academic counselor, but psychiatric counselor) and her presentation was on prioritization and making good, healthy choices during a busy time (aimed at students, but us fellows were probably equally in need of the message).  She gave us a stack of cards, a little smaller than playing cards, kind of the size of business cards.  On each card was a word with a short description when necessary.  So, here are some examples:

And so it goes.  There are 20 cards.  She first had us go through and “discard” anything that wasn’t in our top concerns.  Then she had us repeat that – obviously, taking into consideration that at first we though all of the things left were “top” concerns.  We did it three or four times until we got down to five or six cards.  So, I’m feeling good about getting down to seven.  And those seven can become my “focus areas”.

If you would like a list of all 20, email me and I will send them to you with the short descriptions.  It is a fantastic exercise to do with family, friends and even workmates to see where different people’s priorities lie.  It also is good for decision-making since you can easily identify your top concerns and make your prioritized to-dos based on that knowledge.

So, tonight I will identify my seven areas and then I hope to continue this post in Part Two by identifying some specific action ideas/steps I can identify for each of those areas.  So, there is a priority and a to-do list based on that priority.  Some, I am sure, I will have many to-dos based on, others I may only have a few that will be repeated over and over again.  I’m kind of looking forward to this as it will help me to really be specific about my resolutions!   See you in Part Two!