Thursday, January 16, 2014

Halfway - January!

Last year, I had a lot of success with posting "halfway through the month" check-ins to keep me accountable for my progress and my "course corrections," so I'm going to continue that - don't mess with what works, I say!  (And no, we haven't gotten that sort of ice you see in the picture; but it's been COLD!!)

For 2014, I set five goals (they're all laid out in this post) - but in brief, they are all designed to help me be calmer, happier, and healthier.  Tall orders indeed, so I got specific with these five goals:

1.  Work "zone cleaning" into my housekeeping
2.  Keep a stringent budget to lower our household debt
3.  Train to participate in a 5K race sometime this year
4.  Read six "good books" that had slipped past me
5.  Watch 24 "good movies" that had slipped past me

So - two weeks into the New Year, how's it going?

I've been told that success is rarely total in science.  The same can be said for resolutions, but there is progress to report, so yay.

I'm working in the zone cleaning, although it's going to take a while for it to become an automatic "thing."  The FlyLady system gives you a daily task to do Monday through Friday and I'd worked those in (they're easy, quick to do, and yes - you feel like you've accomplished something when you take ten minutes and tear through your overstuffed sock drawer to get rid of the orphan socks!), but I was intimidated by the longer checklists for the "deep cleaning."  Turns out - pshaw! - just keep in mind that anything you do is more than you have been doing and move on.  For instance, last week was the "kitchen week."  I did really well in there - even cleaned the baked-on gunk in the oven - but didn't get everything done.  Well, that's okay; I'll get it next month when I'm back there.  I also didn't insist that I do the whole thing in one day.  By picking a couple of small things off the checklist each day (mornings are best for me), it wasn't so bad.

The budget.  Sigh.  January is a harsh month.  There were a couple of large unplanned for expenses (such as paying my annual fee to access an unlimited amount of legal continuing education seminars - a great deal, but a limited time offer) that have set me back this month.  But there's light at the end of that tunnel.  I've been employed at my state job long enough to qualify (for the first time ever!) for something called "longevity pay."  Essentially, it's a annual bonus given to employees to reward them for not running screaming into the night before certain benchmarks have passed - in my case, ten years.  (Bureaucracy at work - last January marked my ten-year anniversary; you wait another entire year [the anniversary of your anniversary] to be awarded the bonus.)  I had hoped to put the entire thing toward bills, but that's okay.  It'll get us back on track when I receive it at the end of the month.

The 5K training - okay, here's some joy.  I started an app called "Couch to 5K" and have been huffing and puffing around my neighborhood and the college's walking track for three weeks now.  The third week was just about to kill me, so I reluctantly decided to repeat it.  At that point, I also found a similar program in podcast form, which allowed me to put down the iPad and use a much smaller iPod.  (No smartphone for this girl.)  The podcast talks me through things, instead of just serving as a glorified stopwatch and yesterday (Day 2 of the three-day session), I managed to do the entire thing without stopping.  Mind you, there's not much grace or power involved and my speed resembles a three-toed sloth much more than a lean cheetah, but I've been reassured that it'll come, it'll come.  And the support I've received with this goal has been amazing! Thank you all!

On the book side, I've picked my first one - Forster's A Passage to India.  I'm in the middle of finishing The Round House for my book club, then I'll start on Passage.  I'm looking forward to it; I've always enjoyed Forster's work.

On the movie side, I've watched Orson Welles' Touch of Evil and I have Bad Day at Black Rock recorded (thanks, TCM!).  Honestly, Touch of Evil confounded me a bit.  Typical Welles - it's gorgeously shot, with intricate framing and (of course) that incredible opening one-take crane shot.  (We watched the restored version - Welles was famous with fighting with the studios over editing and apparently the studio wanted opening credits to roll over that crane shot - Welles was right to fight over that one.)  I have to say, though, despite the subject matter being interesting - race, corruption, border turf wars - the plot's just a mess.  Charlton Heston said that one of his biggest mistakes as an actor was not using an accent for his character in this movie - his Mexican D.A. sounds all Hollywood Hills, so I have to agree with him there.  All in all, an interesting film that I'm glad I saw, but I'm not entirely sure I'd recommend.

Not bad for two weeks in!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Building on the Foundation

Happy New Year, everybody!!  Last year was the first year I used this blog to post publicly about my personal goals.  While I know full well that the Wider World at Large probably couldn't care less than a scrawny rodent's posterior about one person's ramblings and musings, well, it's my blog. Plus, I found that posting every month on my progress was a very useful method of keeping myself accountable, so here goes for 2014.

As I worked through the "try something new every day" challenge I wrote about in the previous post, I found myself stretching beyond my usual comfort zone.  And the kicker was, I liked it.  I kept each day's "something new" on the teensy side since I believe in small, manageable, concrete goals as opposed to generic ones like "I'll eat better this year."  That's a worthy goal, to be sure, but it helps me more to say, "I'll have at least 5 servings of fruit and/or vegetables every day."  Setting specific goals like "5 servings" made me grab a handful of baby carrots and "something new every day" made me use the pretty things I so often "save" for company until they get dusty and useless.  With that foundation in place, here are my 2014 goals/resolutions/schemes:

The FlyLady system has revolutionized my approach to taking care of our home and I've made big strides in keeping the house more organized, which has had the lovely side effect of making me a calmer person.  Right now, I have my morning and evening routines and I work the daily "mission" (which every week includes family and "me" time, so more yay! there), but there are large chunks of the system I haven't managed to work into my routine.  I hope to change that this year.  So the goal is to add the weekly FlyLady "zone cleaning" to my routine of taking care of the house. 

In the same vein, FryDaddy and I got serious about our finances this year (Christmas shook us a little, but we're back on the financially-astute horse) and I plan to continue that as well in 2014.  It's great to see our debt load shrink, and I want to see that sucker get noticeably smaller this year.  So my goal is to put $5,000 toward our debt this year. (That's in addition to regular payments, of course.)

Exercising has become a much more "everyday" notion for me, and that's the third thing I plan to continue.  Just before Christmas, I started the "Couch to 5K" program and already I'm less sore and, while I still huff, puff, and gasp doing a gentle jogging lap around a flat parking lot, you start where you are, right?  So the goal is to participate in a 5K race.  (I I don't have to run the whole thing, but I have to finish.)

Now for the uncomfortable part.  See, a large chunk of my 2014 resolutions involve something that's a bit embarrassing - confessing.  See, I write about television and I co-host a movie show.  Yet, there are so many movies - really good ones - that I have never seen, at least not all the way through in one sitting.  The same goes for books.  I'm a reader - I often have two books going at the same time, and I usually read 3 - 4 books a month, but I'll also get swamped in work and not pick up a "fun book" for a couple of weeks and there are many, many classics I've never read.  In the past, it's been hard to admit that I have what I consider to be pretty massive holes in my experience, but as I've said in this post, I've come to accept that you start where you are.  Figuring movies are much, much shorter than books, I decided I can handle two movies every month and a book every two months.  (Keep in mind these are all in addition to the movies I see for the show and the books I read for my book club [wonderful group of women, BTW] or that I just come across and want to read for pleasure.)  So the goal is to read:
  • Beloved (Morrison)
  • Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky)
  • Light in August (Faulkner)
  • A Passage to India (Forster)
  • The Three Musketeers (Dumas) and 
  • Walden (Thoreau). 
No particular order and, please, don't bother replying that you're shocked that I haven't read these.  You start where you are, remember?

For movies, I picked classics from a number of genres, plus a few that I just really wanted to see and never have gotten around to. The goal is to see (again, no particular order and please don't gasp and clutch your pearls):
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (science fiction)
  • Apocalypse Now (war drama)
  • Bad Day at Black Rock (Western noir)
  • The Dark Crystal (family)
  • Giant (drama)
  • Godfather (crime drama)
  • Godfather Part 2 (crime drama)
  • Harold & Maude (comedy)
  • Ikiru (drama, Japan)
  • The Iron Giant (family)
  • Mame (musical)
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (Western)
  • Moneyball (sports drama)
  • Psycho (horror)
  • Raging Bull (sports drama)
  • Raise the Red Lantern (drama, China)
  • Red Beard (drama, Japan)
  • Rent (musical)
  • Stagecoach (Western)
  • Sunday in the Park with George (musical)
  • Sunrise (silent drama)
  • Top Hat (musical)
  • Touch of Evil (film noir)
  • The Wild Bunch (Western)
Ambitious, maybe.  But that's what the first week of January is all about!  I'll check in soon and I'd love to hear what goals you're setting and achieving this year!