All posts in: goals

30 Jan 2019

unnecessary spending: one month in

In January, I spent more than 850 dollars in at least 40 different unnecessary ways.

This “mostly frugal” girl is a bit shocked.

I’m not going to list everything I bought. Instead, here are some general patterns I observed in this first month of spending, in order of least complex to most.


Automatic payments for online services

Once upon I time, I signed up to give my money away to various causes and companies in regular, small increments. I’m old enough that this still feels like a novel way to spend money – kind of fun, but also kind of dumb? Over the past few years, I’ve felt like I’m in a cycle of wanting to cancel all of these automatic “deductions,” but then I end up signing up for something new to replace it.

Right now I spend 28 dollars a month of my personal money on such subscriptions. This month my Audible subscription reactivated – I paused my account a few months ago and forgot to “un-pause” it, so add 14.95 to that. I also purchased three months of access to an online exercise program. And of course, there’s Netflix – 10.99 paid out of our joint account.

I don’t necessarily feel bad about spending this money. Usually this spending brings me small, daily pleasures – like my NYTimes cooking and crossword subscription – or supports artists whose work I admire and enjoy. But they do add up quickly and definitely aren’t necessary.


Food products and activities that make life feel more fun – especially when hosting guests

This month I was lucky to have some of my immediate family members come and visit. We spent about 125 dollars this month while guests were in town… pretty much all on food products. Is it necessary to eat at restaurants or buy junky snacks when guests are in town? No. But it does feel celebratory – these folks might be sleeping on my living room floor and staying indoors most of the time with me and my crazy children, but it’s still their “vacation!” The reduced time spent on the household labor of preparing meals is also a plus. But to be honest, I mostly I feel called to provide a taste of the East Coast to my deprived Midwestern family members; aka, when in Boston, eat some good pizza, bagels,seafood, and – if you live in my neighborhood – Italian pastries. Food is our familial love language.

Celebratory dining doesn’t feel too problematic for longterm budgeting, as long as you don’t have guests too often. Celebratory Trips to Starbucks, however, feel more insidious. No, now that I’m on maternity leave I cannot go to Starbucks every day. However, I can – and do – go to Starbucks pretty much every day that I leave the house. Because a cold drink makes running errands feel less like drudgery. Because when my husband is with me going through the drive-through with peaceful children in the back seat feels a little like a date. Because I usually spend my own personal money, so I let myself be more frivolous. Because of habit, poor morning caffeination planning, or because I’m having a shitty exhausting day and maybe it will make me feel better. At any rate, I spent more than 50 bucks at Starbucks last month, which isn’t exactly a festive, once-in-a-while kind of expense.


Shopping or coffee to alleviate less-than-ideal scheduling

It’s Friday morning. I get up at 6:15, get dressed, get my baby fed and dressed, help get my toddler out the door, and head out the door as a family. Toddler daycare drop off at 7:30, husband work drop off at 8:00. Baby has a doctor’s appointment at 9:15. What do you do to kill the resulting hour? Drive all the way home so you can go upstairs and unpack a baby only to pack it back up again? Or do you sit in Starbucks for an hour with a book and a coffee? It’s not necessary, but three dollars seems a pleasant way to fill a scheduling gap – especially since you get a cup of coffee out of it.


But then the appointment is over and it’s 10:00 a.m. You need to pick something up at a store that doesn’t open until 11. You’ve already had too much coffee and the store is right next to a Trader Joe’s. You are running low on milk and eggs, and it’s always nice to stock up on TJ’s favorites, but you don’t exactly NEED to be in a grocery store… Needless to say, such a hapless individual would be impossibly fortunate to spend just three dollars to fill this particular scheduling gap. At the very least, this hapless individual should probably make a list before entering.


“Good Deals” (on items I may or may not buy either way)

The on-sale item is a stupidly common spending trap, and one that my cheap-ass self falls for too often. On one hand, nobody would fault a person for researching a necessary purchase, to find the product that meets your quality standards for the lowest price. On the other hand, “research” often results in more generic “shopping” – once I’ve decided to pull out my credit card, spending tends to beget spending.  Is it really a good deal to buy a 40 oz vat of hummus at Costco when you could have made it at home for pennies on the dollar… or when you then need to buy a giant bag of carbs for hummus dipping? Or when you walk out of Target having spent 75.00, no matter how many items were on your list.

In December, against my better values, I signed up for Amazon Prime. My justification: I have a new baby who will probably need some random baby items and also prevent me from doing much out-of-the-house Christmas shopping. I canceled it in mid-January, so naturally I wanted to place One Last Order (as though Amazon would be going out of business after they lost my 12.00/month?). 160 dollars later, I now have an adequate amount of my favorite pens in the house, many, many ounces of protein powder, a year’s supply of water filters for my coffee maker, and more items of dubious necessity.


Too often I find the line between what is necessary and what is just cheap to be rather blurry. I also don’t feel good about purchases born in a vague, consumeristic fear – if I don’t act NOW, then I’ll end up paying more later! But then again, my coffeemaker probably does need water filters, so maybe I just need to chill out?


Convenience Foods

I did not find a good way to track my unnecessary food spending this month for the following reasons. A) hanging onto and parsing out unintelligible grocery receipts is difficult for those who aren’t at home with very young children most days and B) diving into what form of calories are “necessary” vs. “unnecessary” is a much bigger challenge than other sorts of spending. If I am supposing this food dichotomy, I am supposing there is some sort of way I *should* be eating. As a recently pregnant, currently nursing person, I’ve been on nutrition autopilot, hoping that whatever I happen to cook or eat is good enough. It’s probably time to think more seriously about my family’s general nutrition again, but for now, I’m relying on habit and instinct – for better or for worse.

One category of calories that draws my attention, however? Convenience foods – especially convenience snacks. In this busy season of my home, this means Delicious (but nutritionally-questionable) Bars of All Sorts. Granola bars. Breakfast bars. Fruit and nut bars. Protein bars. Bars that pretend to be healthy but are really just Rice Krispie Treats dipped in chocolate with a peanut or two on top. Is any such bar a *necessary* part of anyone’s diet? No. But when that  inevitable moment where I am out and about with children and realize I have forgotten to adequately feed myself strikes, a one-handed snack is a really, really nice thing to have in my purse. Ditto to applesauce squeezes for grumpy toddlers. For now, in these Survival Mode months where experimenting with homemade granola bar recipes sounds like a laughably distant luxury, I’m okay with a little convenience, I think. Later this year, I may narrow in on this more complex area of my regular spending.


Impulse purchases, usually to solve a nagging problem (or generally make myself feel better about my life)

This is the the big one for me: the purchases that feel most fraught, that leave me feeling so conflicted about my spending judgment.

Usually, these are household purchases that fall in the middle of the unnecessary-necessary spectrum: less necessary than toilet paper, more necessary than a seasonal throw pillow. Usually, these household purchase purport to solve a problem or annoyance in my daily living. Usually, when I decide to pull the trigger and spend the money, I enjoy having solved said problem, but I also feel bad about it. Why, I’m not quite sure. Because I usually purchase such items in a sudden impulse? Because I feel guilty throwing money at minor problems I should either work around or just endure? Because I usually do such spending at Big Box stores, buying plastic contraptions made in factories on the backs of unprivileged populations that will end up, someday, in a landfill?

Obviously, this kind of spending will take some more unpacking. But yes, I did spend 100 dollars on a baby sleep course this month because I was sitting in the dark for an hour tending to a crying babe who refused to sleep and it made me feel like I wasn’t alone. And I did spend 27 dollars on 4 new ice cube trays because I’m thirsty all the time and tired of having mismatched trays fall on me when I open the freezer and also pinching parts of my hands on the ones that are cracked and broken. I am both enjoying and feeling bad about both purchases.

26 Jan 2019

2019 New Year’s Resolutions

New Year, New Resolutions. Despite my failure to keep my seven-hundred sub-resolutions in 2018, I’m looking back at my original list of annual intentions, and I don’t think I really did that poorly. My resolution to Live Seasonally was more of a complex, not-so-achievable resolution than an out-and-out failure. Looking back, it seems that the goal I set wasn’t so simple; I didn’t want to “live seasonally:” I wanted to set and achieve quarterly goals that took into account the season of the year, and of my life.

And yeah, one of them was to get pregnant, grow a child, birth it, and raise it for a little bit, all while working full time, side hustling, and raising my other child. If that’s not a capital-S Season, then what is?

My second resolution was to play a bunch of board games. Luckily, this was a joint resolution with my husband. My husband is a stickler for his NYRs – he’ll read 30 books this year even if it means mainlining hundreds of pages of graphic novels while listening to children’s books on his headphones, dammit. I may have piggybacked on his success a little, but I’ve put in enough time and work into this relationship that I deserve the payout, imho.

In 2018, we played:

My last resolution I forgot about entirely by the end of the year. No, I did not Beautify One Room of my Home Every Month… but I did Beautify quite a few of them! My living room now has throw pillows, a rug, a plant, and spray-painted picture frames. Our joint office now has storage space for my sewing machine and supplies. My bathroom has matching towels and bins for our bed linens. Our back porch had flowers and plants this summer, and my laundry room has a drying rack and a little landing area for soaps and weird stuff found in pants pockets. My kid’s closet is no longer a death-trap of teetering Rubbermaid containers. The only rooms I didn’t quite get to were the hallway and kitchen, but I did make some small improvements to both! Thinking back to 2017, I feel like I have really changed the way my apartment feels and the way I feel in it, so I think that’s a success.

Onward to 2019! Well, the 49 remaining weeks of 2019, anyway. I tried oh-so-very-hard to narrow my focus down to but a few goals for the year. Three was the best I could do.


Resolution #1: Track all unnecessary spending for 2019

This resolution took the longest for me to focus in on; my relationship with money and spending is not so straightforward. Objectively, I’m a fairly frugal person married to another fairly frugal person. I’m able to pay my bills, afford some extras, and do some savings. But, objectively, I know I could – and probably should – be saving more… so I’m prone to feeling upset and guilty when I do spend money unnecessarily.

This is the dual-edged problem I want to address this year. I don’t want to spend my money on things that make me feel bad to purchase and own; when I do make purchases, I don’t want to feel bad about them. This resolution will hopefully tap into the “manage what you monitor” technique of habit change – I’m keeping a spreadsheet updated with where I make purchases, what I buy, how much I spend and more. I think the benefits will be threefold. First, the act of documentation will hopefully deter impulse spending. I’m considering some sort of public accountability, too, if I can do it in a beneficial way and not one that lets me give excuses for everything I’ve bought. Second, I’ll have some hard data to examine as the year goes on: is this spending a big problem, dollar-wise, or a small one? Are certain stores or categories showing up over and over again?

And third: in order to accomplish this task, I really do have to think quite carefully about what I consider to be necessary or unnecessary spending. I suspect this might prove to be the most valuable part of the resolution; I’ll be flexing decision-making muscles that will hopefully help me feel more in control of my spending, even if my financial priorities and values change over time.

So far… I am spending a surprising amount of money at Starbucks for someone on maternity leave who doesn’t always have access to a car. Also, I haven’t figured out a great way to keep track of my unnecessary grocery purchases, since they tend to get lost in the mix of legit spending. Additionally, deciding what calories are unnecessary or necessary is a more complex assessment than most anything else I buy.


Resolution #2: Give Ye Old Blog a facelift

Hello! It’s 2019! I really hope you are reading this on some sort of Feed Reader, if that’s even still a thing, because, guess what – I haven’t updated a single pixel on since I moved to WordPress in 2013. At the very least, I’d like to give my blog a cosmetic make over and add some of the fancy, “modern” features that most blogs adopted like, three years ago. Maybe I will be inspired to add some new content as well? Or blog more than once a quarter? The sky is the limit! And by “sky” I mean “Amount of Time That My Children Are Either Asleep or in the Care of Another Adult.”

So far…  I am brainstorming and also trying to make occasional time to write (incredibly timely and not at all delayed) posts. Like this one! Because what is the use of a shiny new blog if you aren’t going to write anything, right? Right.


Resolution #3: Enjoy regular exercise by 2020.

I recognize that this is the least interesting resolution a human can make. I also recognize that it is neither specific nor measurable. Am I setting myself up to fail? Maybe, but I just couldn’t come up with a year-long fitness resolution that seemed achievable when I am recovering from pregnancy and childbirth and also have two young children – I chose an overly vague goal over an aspirational one.

It doesn’t feel vague to me, though – I actually went out of my way to articulate my desire very plainly.  I don’t so much care what kind of exercise I do. I don’t care how often I do it as long as it’s a part of regular life and not my once-in-a-while-when-I’m-in-the-mood life. I *do* care that I enjoy it. I want it to be a fun part of my life and not a perpetually nagging task on my daily endless to-do list. I’m probably going to have to set some additional short-term goals to make this happen – you know how I love a good “I Resolve to Make More Resolutions!”-Resolution.

So far… I am trying *shudder* an online workout program. I am not usually a fan of workout-video type exercise… but I’m starting to realize that I’m “not a fan” of pretty much any form of exercise for some reason or another, so maybe I need to get over myself. I signed up for Every Mother, which provides daily workouts specifically designed for postpartum mothers.  I went this route because  A) I’m too lazy/out-of-shape to deal with high-intensity anything B) I can exercise without having to worry about damaging my healing abdominals C) I’m hoping that dropping a little $$ will inspire me to follow through. (Not *thaaat* much $$$, though; it was about $40 for a 3 month membership) I’m a few weeks in and am having trouble finding time to do my 10-30 minutes every single day (surprise surprise) but I’m getting it done most of the time. It’s so great! So much fun! Watch me fake it ’till I make it! I’ll stick with this for 3 months when I’m feeling a little more healed, or until the weather gets nicer and I can do some outdoor stuff. I also left my dear little baby (and my Dear Giant Toddler…) at gym childcare this morning for 30 minutes of mild cardiovascular exercise, so clearly I’m super-committed.


That’s it! Just three. Well, I mean I also want to read 100 books, but that’s my resolution every year. And have you heard of 19 for 2019. I may or may not have made one of those lists as well. Those aren’t necessarily *resolutions*, though, just stuff I want to do. During this particular year. Entirely different.

17 Dec 2018


A few weeks ago, I had a baby.

I’m still a little sore, still a little wiped out, still bleeding. But I can feel my body healing. Knitting itself back together. It’s recovering from the Olympic-level event that is childbirth, and also returning to a state of equilibrium I forgot I could exist in. I have a body that can bend over and can put on socks and shoes without getting winded. A body that can wear jeans without thick, stretchy waistbands. A body that can properly digest food! The transformation from not-pregnant to pregnant to not-pregnant, this second time around, was familiar yet still entirely startling. Everything changes so slowly while you are gestating – symptoms shifting week by week, belly expanding steadily but gradually  – until bam! It’s all over! Baby ejected. Time to lactate, to heal, and to rebuild.

My mind and my emotions seem to be on a less linear path. With my first, the only thing I could predict was the newness of it all, so – somewhat paradoxically – the tasks at hand seemed more clear.  Pregnancy, childbirth, caring for a newborn, raising offspring in general: it was all new, scary, exciting, and mysterious. Everything I knew was likely to be altered in some unpredictable way. My job was to hang on and attempt to enjoy the ride if at all possible, and that’s what I did.

This time, I spent my pregnancy with this lingering – almost haunting – image of what my life and body were like before we decided to have a second child. My firstborn was twenty months – smart and entertaining, pretty well-behaved and sleeping through the night. With a toddler, two full time jobs, and a side hustle or two between us, my husband and I never felt like we had enough time for everything we wanted to do. But we had a little time for some things. I felt moderately in control of my life. It was a good place.

For the 39.5 weeks, while I was nauseous and tired and excited and nervous, I also knew I would get back there, to that good place. My body would be returned to me, and so would my life. My first pregnancy felt like getting ready to jump into an abyss; my second, like taking a break from regularly scheduled life. My life, like my body, would be returned to me, eventually.

Eventually, but not yet. Yes, I’m an optimistic second timer who is used to living in Mom Mode and hoping to enjoy the benefits of my parenting experience this time around; more joy, less obsessive Googling, maybe? But I’m also a wizened second timer who does remember what happened in between my first delivery and that more comfortable time: sleeplessness, worrying illnesses, days and evenings lost to your child’s varying moods or ability to nap when he needs to. Just because I remember my okay-enough parenting life more clearly doesn’t mean I’ll get back there sooner.

And I’m also learning, trial-by-fire style, that there is an Abyss-Jumping element to any major family change. I expected night wakings, but I did not expect a newborn who refused to sleep in her designated safe horizontal sleeping space (this has improved greatly in the last three weeks, but heck if I’m going to get over-confident about anything now…) I expected regressions and behavioral issues with my smart, entertaining firstborn… but I did not expect a complete dissolution of his sleep schedule. I also didn’t anticipate how my own delicate hormonal and somewhat sleep-deprived state might influence my ability to parent a sleepless toddler. I’ve forgotten a lot about the early newborn days in the past two and a half years: one thing that’s coming back to me now with persistence is how you are forced to take each day as it comes. No matter how much you want to schedule, plan, and predict, you can’t know what a day (or night) will bring you until you get there.

But three weeks ago – back when I was still scheduling, planning, and predicting – I set some intentions for this postpartum time. I hoped that I could take adequate, deliberate rest during this first month, even with an active toddler at home. Despite a few busy days and rocky nights, I think I’ve been able to succeed here. I hoped that I might be able to deliberately enjoy getting to know my new baby. Again, sometimes this has been harder than I thought it would be (“just be happy! what is so hard about that?” said the world keeps saying to me, for 33 years and counting…) but I am definitely feeling more chill about a lot of things that stressed me out the first time around. I hoped that I could do what I need to nurture my oldest through this change – this has been the hardest part of this transition, so far, and no, I don’t no if I’m succeeding.

Looking forward, I had hoped to “bounce back” to feeling like myself more quickly. I don’t know if the baby brain fog is dissipating faster this time around because I’m already in Mom Mode, or maybe I’m just giving myself the grace to not do a whole lot right now. I also hoped to prioritize health and fitness as I recover and settle into our new family routines. I’m still feeling a few weeks away from feeling physically ready to exercise – and logistically ready? Who knows… – but I don’t want to squander the powerful clean slate that has been offered to me. I’m working these hopes into my 2019 NYRs, so stay tuned.

And that’s really it. I’m three weeks deep into this new way of life, but still… in between. Transitional. Liminal. I’ll be here for forty days? Six weeks? Three months? I’m not sure yet, but I know I’ll be here for awhile, mostly on the couch, trying to be nice to myself and taking it one day at a time.

05 Apr 2018


A few days before my birthday, I started writing a little something about what’s going on in my life. I mean, there’s nothing really remarkable going on – just work, commuting, family life, reading, and reviewing – so really it was more about how I *feel* about what’s going on in my life. The short and entirely unsurprising answer: I’m feeling a lot of complicated, conflicting things about what is, ultimately, a really good life.

The slightly longer answer is that I’m really struggling with managing time and energy. I know, I know. I have a full time job and an almost two-year-old. These are super hands-on months: the months of constant supervision and constant transitions and inconstant sleep. Building even a single good habit seems an insurmountable challenge, while bad habits seem to slip in without my permission or even notice. When I do occasionally have the wherewithal to make a plan or decision that doesn’t involve my family or my job, I find myself forgetting all about my conviction within days; or worse, I can’t remember why I ever wanted to accomplish that task in the first place.

I was writing about all of those feelings, and more, when I was about to turn 33. And then I reported for jury duty, and after being empaneled on a trial, stayed there for almost two weeks.

This was an unexpected life-shake-up. Like I said, I’ve been struggling. Amidst the struggle, I thought that I could really use a vacation. Not a trip, where I’d wind up exhausted and playing catch up at the end of my “time off” – but just a week away from my normal routine. I thought it, and it appeared – a pseudo-vacation! I mean, I still had to show up every day, but I also found myself with this strange thing called “down time.” Jury duty involves plenty of waiting, ideal for working on book reviews or reading, while the more relaxed schedule and 20-minute commute left me with a few hours a day by myself. In my own home. With nothing to do.

I used some of that down time to read Cal Newport’s Deep Work, a book that I might describe as… profoundly moving. His central message: arrange your schedule and train your brain toward the singular goal of doing the kind of work you have to concentrate on – and the kind of work you find exceptionally important or meaningful. It’s nothing entirely revolutionary, especially if you, like me, are a productivity book junkie, but there was something about the way Newport put it that really made a lot of sense to me. One reason I find concentrating on my work to be hard is because I don’t feel strongly about it: maybe I’m trying to work on things that I think I should find meaningful, but I don’t. Another reason: I’m of the Internet addicted era. My neurons are not necessarily wired to do deep work.

A perk of jury duty: ample time where I needed concentrate very hard on what lawyers and witnesses were saying, even though what they were saying might not be terribly interesting. I found it surprisingly difficult, especially at first, to avoid tuning out what everyone was saying in favor of running over my own quotidian concerns in my mind. Also, trials include all sorts of 1-5 minute breaks where lawyers speak in heated whispers and the jury just gets to… sit there. Without our phones. Torturous, but good practice for my neurons.

I enjoyed a cushy schedule for two weeks and happened to read a brain-changing book during the week I turned 33. All of that was nice. But after two weeks of hanging out with 15 other strangers in a very small room and thinking about the serious, unfortunate, and complicated case we were considering… and then the thoughtful, liberal introverted empath’s nightmare that is a Jury Deliberation? I was just so, so grateful, for basically every single thing in my life.

I’m grateful to live in a country with a justice system that operates so professionally.

I’m grateful to live in a community where a random selection of jurors can include doctors, teachers, PhD holders, psychologists, and other well-educated, considerate, and fair-minded adults.

I’m grateful to have a job that covers my pay while I’m doing my civic duty.

I’m grateful that nobody in my family has been a victim of a violent crime.

I’m grateful that my husband and I do not have jobs where we work unpredictable, dangerous hours or are confronted with violent crimes every day.

I’m grateful that other people do have those jobs.

I’m grateful for my family, for my husband, for my crazy-smart, delightful child, and for a life where I’m allowed the privilege of struggling over, of all things, my time, my energy, and my feelings.


32 | 31 |30 | 29 | 28 | 27 | 26 | 25 | 24

22 Jan 2015

in 2015


The Boy and I returned from our family vacation on January 3rd. We caught an early flight, so I spent most of the day napping and watching House Hunters. Not exactly seizing the new year. In fact, it is the 21st as I write this and am currently seizing very little. 2015 definitely didn’t start on the 1st – I was on vacation for heaven’s sake! I thought it would start after I met a post-vacation deadline, but then I couldn’t make the deadline and it’s really better I don’t talk about that. Then I threw a baby shower, and now that my immediate concerns have ended the month is halfway done. 2015 should be starting annnnnny minute now.

I’m not taking on any traditional New Year’s resolutions for 2015. No one little word (which really just reminds me of Skyrim, actually). No 30 before 30. Ignoring the chance to turn over a new leaf is a bit out of character, but I suspect that 2015 will be a bit of a wild ride. I’m sure I won’t be able to resist the siren song of self-improvement as the year moves on, so I’m bowing out of the NYR game in favor of whatever small goals I dream up for myself over the course of the year.

So I won’t be Resolving in 2015, but I won’t be sitting on the couch all year, either. Well, actually, I probably will be sitting on the couch all year, so never mind. Anyway, here’s what I will be up to in 2015.


Reading some YA nonfiction

Yes, I have returned yet again to the Cybils YA nonfiction committee, but after two years as a Round One judge I am trying my hand at Round Two! For the layman, this means that instead of reading a butt-ton of nonfiction books between October and December 31st, I waited for Round One to do their thing. Now, my first order of 2015 business is to read the seven nominees! Don’t worry,  I’m not waiting to “settle in” with 2015 to get this one going; I’m a book and a half away from the finish line. Check back with the Cybils folks on Valentine’s Day to see which of the seven we select!


Examining my relationship with processed foods

I’m not going as far as to call this one a New Year’s Diet or anything, but I’m pretty much always on a never-ending quest to find Peace with Eating. In an ideal world, everything that I ingest would be healthful, delicious, quick-ish to prepare, and produced in a manner that doesn’t offend my morals. While also fitting into my budget. Easy as pie. Once in awhile pie. Not every weekend pie.

Anyway, this year I’d like to winnow away at my processed food consumption. Processed foods are quick-ish but not usually healthful, and after reading Salt Sugar Fat I’d really rather not actively give my paycheck away to giant corporations who have hired scientists to engineer their products in such a way that my powerful human sensory system overrides my pitiful stores of willpower to just keeeeep eating until I am obese and die. Also: processed foods? Rarely as delicious as you thought they’d be. Right now I’m being mindful of my current habits and making small changes – swapping out my usual afternoon Triscuits and cheese for some nuts or deviled eggs, for example. I might go cold turkey later in the year, but for now I think the slow and observant track is working out okay.

Buying a car

We’ve been enjoying car-free living for two years now. I like not paying for gas or emergency car repairs or emergency save-my-stranded-husband-from-the-side-of-the-road repairs or car insurance. I like not worrying about any of that at all. However, we moved to our new neighborhood knowing that we’d be a little farther away from some of our favorite parts (and people) of Boston, so we’ve been stashing $$ away since then. And now that our third car-less winter has arrived… well, it’s time. I’m looking forward to feeling more mobile, to carrying fewer belongings on my elderly aching back, and to taking some New England excursions in 2015.

(Learning to be a badass city driver? Not looking forward to that so much…)


Taking some trips

New year, new stash of vacation days. Last year we took it reasonably easy, travel-wise, both to spend some extra time with family and to save money for some more ambitious travel plans. If we can strategically apply those vacation days and stashed dollars, 2015 might be the year of another Big Trip. But we’d also like to spend a week in the Kansas City area to visit Favorite Roommate and The Boy’s little brother, hit the beach with my family, bus down to New York for a weekend or two, and mayyyyyybe visit my friends and her already-year-old-baby in San Antonio. So what I am saying is we’ll be headed some places.


Keeping a Log Book

Okay, so this one is kiiiiind of like a New Year’s Resolution. Except that it’s easy, fun, and serves no significant daily function. As a calendar connoisseur, I’ve been intrigued by Austin Kleon’s concept of a personal log book for quite some time now. I’m actually pretty sure I read that original post, back in the day, so we are talking five years now. Anyway, The Boy was buying his own work planner online so I asked if he would buy me a smaller version, and here I am – logging away. It’s like a journal… but simpler, more fun, and without room for the “woe is me” that usually comes pouring out when I try to keep a proper diary. I’m digging it.

Reading Like an Absolutely Insane Person

If you are wondering why I am not posting on this blog in 2015, it is because I am busy reading.

If you are wondering why I can’t seem to string a sentence together, it is because I am busy reading.

If you are wondering why the above log book photo does not include anything about reading, I would encourage you to shove it but I am too busy reading. And I promise, I was reading – both days.

If you see me in the wild and I look as though I have not showered for a week, that is because I hate showering. And also, I am too busy to shower. Because I am reading.

Mad reading. If nothing else, 2015 will be a year of mad, mad reading. Can’t wait to tell y’all all about it.


03 Jan 2014



I was only sick once.

I kept an extra t-shirt and a pair of socks in my desk at work. Like an actual grown up.

I flew on eighteen different airplanes. Apologies, atmosphere. You may be pleased to hear, though, that I did not own a car for one single day in 2013.

I completed any number of tasks related to Getting Married. Most of them were difficult, unpleasant, vaguely mortifying, and made me feel like I was imposing unnecessarily on my loved ones and the world at large.

At the end of it, however, I got married. It should be stated that this was not always a thing I thought would happen in my life.

I fit into my wedding dress.

For all of 2013, I took cream in my coffee and never bought skim milk.

I still fit into my wedding dress.

In fact, I remain roughly the same shape and size as I was on the first day of 2013. My thighs might be slightly more powerful, as I walked and ran at least 300 miles this year.Not including daily Get From Here to There walking.

I also walked all over Rome.

I also walked all over Venice.

I bought embarrassing feminine products in an Italian farmacia.

I bought an iPhone and a new laptop and a couch.

We put 10,000 dollars towards The Boy’s student loans.

I read 145 books.

I sent out Christmas cards.

I averted all imminent disasters.



My official New Year’s Resolution is to write. Every day. Fiction. At least 200 words, or else what’s the point.

That’s it.

I am entertaining a few more recreational pursuits for 2014, as well as some Be a Better Person stuff. Of course. Because if I don’t make way, way too many resolutions, then I will have to accept the frightening reality that This Is It for me. I’ve peaked. I’ve settled. Change is futile, I’m just going to be sitting here on the same couch under the same electric blanket in January 2015 and go completely stagnant.

To review:

New Year’s Resolution #1: face identity.

New Year’s Resolution #2: face mortality.

New Year’s Resolution #3: write fiction.

New Year’s Resolution #4-#9: some generic do-goody things that are difficult to measure.

New Year’s Resolution #10: maybe try a new cocktail every week or something else that isn’t so dour.

Continue to avert imminent disasters.

And read as many good books as I can.

Cheers to a New Year, friends.


23 Apr 2013

things you do when you can’t do the things you do

It is hard to make any statements or judgements regarding the last seven days because, well, I am not sure that this seven days can be compared to anything else in the history of The Weeks of My Life. Or maybe the weeks of anyone’s lives, I don’t know. A holiday weekend followed shortly by a large-scale national tragedy, followed by unscheduled downtime in which I basically joined The Boy in his spring break, and a day-long, Stay-In-Your-Houses-This-Kid-Is-Armed stand-off. For good measure.

Oh, and this was also the week I didn’t read any books… or watch any TV or movies, listen to podcasts or audiobooks, or read anything substantial on the Internet beyond my emails.

Weirdest. Week. Ever.

I will confess that I did not achieve 100% abstinence. You try not watching the news or reading anything on Twitter the next time your city seems to be on the brink of descending into violent chaos. I also read about 50 pages of Janie Face to Face, which has been a trip because I was totally into Face on the Milk Carton…. when I was about TEN. And I just realized that I didn’t even read book #4.

Other than that, though, I did pretty good. And by did pretty good, I mean…

I ran a lot

The weather was gorgeous all week, and after five weeks of coercion, of “pretty please,” of running solo, The Boy is finally more into it than I am. Ran Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday again. Only one run under 2 miles. Completed Couch to 5k in just under 7 weeks. Said this phrase: “Hmm… we’ve already run 3 days out of the last 4… I know – let’s just do a nice short run into town and then buy a bottle of wine and take the bus home!”

I Instagrammed my cat a lot

What can I say? The weather’s warming up. I don’t want to say she’s cuter when it’s warm. It’s more like a different season of cute. Winter cute, snuggled up with blankets and cuddling on my chest, is ending; Summer cute, sprawling out of the floor and sleeping in spots of sun, is here.

I socialized

I know that I am a person who puts off making phone calls, doesn’t return Facebook messages, who begs off weeknight socializing nine times out of ten. This week, though, I answered my phone, I chatted with friends, I went out more than once, without thinking of a single excuse. Highly unusual. Maybe I am not as anti-social as I assumed, but really just someone adept at keeping herself busy, even when that busy-ness gets in the way of other things that are good to do (like interacting with other humans)

I did puzzles

I love puzzles. I pulled out a copy of Games Magazine and decided that in the absence of books and Internet surfing, my default “I don’t know what to do and I don’t really feel like being productive” activity would be puzzles. This was pleasantly nostalgic because I think I got my hands on my first Games Magazine in about third grade. Also, puzzles make your brain smarter. I’m not sure the same is true about Twitter.

And, I cleaned the CRAP out of my apartment.

Everything was put away, everything vacuumed, everything folded and everything scrubbed. I actively cleaned up after myself. I did the dishes every day. This was surprisingly time consuming, but that’s exactly why I was doing it.

And that’s the real take-away, I think. Usually, my days feel rigid. There are things that must be done at certain times – commuting, working, laundry, shopping, bed, etc. I can fill in the cracks with things of my choosing, but most of the time I am not really choosing them. Most of the time, I am just doing habitual things because they are habitual. Eliminating habitual things forced me to actually think about that extra time. To make conscious decisions. I didn’t feel like I was pouring sand into the cracks of an already full life. My free hours opened themselves up before me.

I could paint a picture. I could clean the kitchen. I could sit with The Boy at the kitchen table for thirty minutes after dinner, chatting. I could walk into town for some groceries, call my sister on the phone, or work on the family budget or send an overdue email. I couldn’t pick up a book or turn on the TV or do most things on the Internet, but the simple limitations opened up other options.

Not a lifestyle change, but definitely an exercise worth repeating a few times a year.

(Says the girl who broke her fast with three episodes of Switched at Birth…..)


14 Jan 2013


In accordance with my self-imposed More Documenting credo, I have been filling three little notebooks with The Things That I Do. The red notebook is for books (because one list isn’t enough), the pink notebook is for meals (because I am in a perpetual state of Meal Planning Angst, unable to remember a single dish that I am capable of cooking).

But the blue notebook is filling up the fastest. The blue notebook is for TV shows, movies, and podcasts. And it’s telling a pretty ridiculous tale.

In the past two weeks, I have ingested:

  • 9 episodes of Breaking Bad
  • 7 episodes of Arrested Development
  • 5 random episodes of other TV shows
  • 3 feature films
  • 3 Netflix documentaries
  • 3-5 podcasts A DAY

In fourteen days. FOURTEEN DAYS!

Don’t worry, I have tidy excuses for all of it. And I am a consummate multi-tasker – the only inputs that are single-tasked are movies and Breaking Bad, the rest are coupled with more productive work. But FOURTEEN DAYS?!? Really??

I think that I started this little blue notebook not only because I wanted to keep track of my listenings and watchings, but also so I can earn some kind of metaphorical gold star for all the media I ingest. Credit for being culturally informed. But instead, I am feeling a little sheepish, like perhaps I am not able to sit in a quiet room, or worse, my brain is being filled up faster than I can process.

So I will limit my aural intake, because I am a person who likes limits. I will make up an arbitrary rule to help me achieve this because I am a person who responds strongly to arbitrary rules.

From here on out, podcasts are for Outside of the House and audiobooks are for Inside of the House. And the walking in between is for thinking.

Not for stewing, not for planning, not for obsessing, not for worrying. Just thinking, while I walk, stopping only to contemplate a nice view.


01 Jan 2013

more in 2013

Aside from my Super-Secret New Year’s Resolutions which I am still not going to tell you about, I am hoping that 2013 is a year of more.


More movies

because I enjoy movies and never make enough time to watch them. I’m not setting a hard goal, but maybe 50? 50 seems like a nice, round number.


More documenting

because I love documenting. It might seem silly or self-indulgent to fixate so much on one’s own existence, but it brings me pleasure to record my own goings on. I bought some little Clairefontaines to record things such as movies watched, books read, and dinners enjoyed. Also: a new paper journal.


More autopilot

Not everything requires daily stress, frequent attention. Some things should just run well mostly by themselves. This year, meal planning, family finances, and blogging logistics all go on autopilot.


More tea drinking

I don’t like tea, but maybe I do. I don’t know. It’s no coffee, but coffee is expensive and a pain to acquire/brew properly and keeps you up at night, as where tea can be consumed in nearly unlimited quantities, and it makes you feel fancy. I drink a cup or two a day now in addition to my coffee habits and okay fine, I like it and I want to drink more.


More social media engagement

This is like an anti-resolution, like resolving to start smoking and gain 20 pounds. But I haven’t been as active on Twitter and other social media places lately, and I think it’s out of laziness rather than a conscious decision to cut back. Less sitting around and reading your Twitter-stream, your Facebook feed, and more joining in on the fun!


More meditation

I am not good at meditation but it seems like exactly the kind of skill that I should try to get better at – the skill of shutting yourself up. Practice makes perfect, however, so this year, more practice is in store.


More owning my decisions

It’s okay to make decisions for yourself without the excessive input of other people, and it’s okay to talk about those decisions, and it’s okay to ask that others respect them. This sounds like a big deal that I am being deliberately vague about, but it’s not. It’s just little every day stuff, but I am happier when I make my own choices and take responsibility for them every day, that’s all.


Also, I wanted to make a Do Something Every Day resolution that would actually improve my quality of life immediately and tangibly, so in 2013, I am going to make my bed every day. Today this task was completed at 8:30 p.m. which still totally counts. Also, although I do love my mismatched pillowcases, one from Target and one from my grandmother’s house, and our hand-me-down quilt, maybe I will also acquire some more grown up bedroom linens in 2013 as well? One step at a time. If you make the bed, they will come. Or something like that.

28 Dec 2012

to share or not to share?

Listen guys. You know I enjoy telling y’all about the minutiae of my life, despite the fact that this habit may some day get me murdered or fired, and has more than once led to uncomfortable encounters with colleagues and family members alike. This doesn’t stop me. My big mouth is unstoppable. And you also know that I enjoy revealing my deepest desires and life’s grandest wishes. Someday I will indeed change the world/run a marathon/write the Next Great American Novel/actually floss my teeth, and I will be happy to share my ups and downs along the way and then write self-righteous advice once I achieve my myriad of goals.

It is December 28th, which means I am thinking about my New Year’s Resolutions. As per usual, I would like to make about 50 and I would like to tell you all about them and then update you as the year rolls on. Accountability is good for goal-making. Also, I am a raging narcissist, so any excuse to talk about myself.

I’ve been trying to talk myself down to 5 or 6 goals, but the ones that I feel really strongly about, the ones that really move me? Well, I just don’t want to tell you about them.

Maybe because I am learning the difference between public and private (haha). Maybe because I am afraid I might fail and would prefer to keep the option of a graceful bow out available without having to confess to you guys that I just suck.

But also, I have reason to believe that now that I have reached an extremely advanced age, I feel comfortable enough in my own skin to believe, deep down, that I can live my life the way I want to live it without making public proclamations. Without turning over a new leaf. I honestly spent many, many years of my life feeling miserable most days of the week because I wasn’t living up to my own standards. I felt lazy, ate the wrong foods, was messy, watched too much TV, didn’t do enough work. I’d write up a little schedule of “my ideal day” at nighttime, and then fail myself in the morning. The self-help solution to this problem would be to practice being kinder to oneself, forgiving of ones own humanness, etc. I did some of that, and I could do some more, but really, I just started living on my own and some time later, I was able to wake up and just DO all the things I wanted to do and be done with it.

I don’t feel that way any more. I rarely have “ideal days,” but most of the time I go to bed exhausted and feeling like I just had a day reasonably well-lived. I don’t need a New Year’s Resolution to help me turn over a new leaf. I’m here, on the other side of the leaf, living.

Some of the things I want to do this year are big and scary. Some of them aren’t “good” resolutions – easy to measure, to work toward. Some I will probably fail at. I think the heart of me is telling me to keep these goals close to my chest this year, to practice intrinsic motivation, to keep on living on the other side of the leaf.

I just read Nova Ren Sum’s post about her 2012 resolutions – she wrote down 7 writing goals in January but didn’t share them on her blog, and just this week revealed her successes and failures. This I love, because her goals were big and burly and there were too many of them, just like my own goals are wont to be. And because she missed the mark on so many, but still admits to a good 2012.

Maybe I’ll do a big reveal in  2014, let you know how things worked out. Or maybe I’ll break down and tell you about every last detail. Maybe I’ve changed a lot, maybe I’ve changed a little. Maybe I’ve got a long way to go, or maybe I’m already there.