My bullet journal

So I psyched myself out a little, once I went to take photos of my bullet journal, because it is not Pinterest worthy at all. But then I reminded myself that’s kind of the whole point of why I wanted to share it in the first place. I don’t want people to think bullet journaling has to be perfect and pretty. It so doesn’t.

If you’re new to bullet journaling, start here: BulletJournal.com. Here’s his video to give you the gist:

Here are my bullet journal rules:

  1. It does not have to be pretty.
  2. It does not have to be perfect.
  3. It just needs to work.

I bought a hard-cover green moleskine notebook from Amazon when I got started.  I wasn’t sure if I would like the hard cover, but I do.

green-hardcover-moleskine

I do have kind of a code system, but it’s very basic. And I didn’t make one until I had used it a bit and knew what I would and wouldn’t really use. I use these consistently, though my exclamation points usually end up circled:

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I made an index in the front which I seriously doubted I’d be able to keep up, but it turned out to be pretty helpful.  One of the reasons the bullet journal works so well with me is because I can keep a daily to-do list, but interrupt the ‘layout’ so to speak, to jot down whatever is in my brain.  And if those jots happen to be important jots that I don’t want to lose, I can stick them in the index so I can find them again.  BRILLIANT, and the main reason bullet journals eradicated most of my sticky notes and miscellaneous slips of paper everywhere.

bullet-journal-index

You can make an easy calendar for each month… but I stopped doing these after about March.  I just didn’t reference them as much, and found I’d rather list important stuff in the main index.  To the right below, you can see how you can also make a master task list for each month.  This also stopped about mid-way through the year.  I found it easier to just handle stuff on a day to day basis rather than flip back and forth between this master task list.

bullet-journal-monthly-index

I wanted to show you the difference between a tidy example:

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… and a rougher example:

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Because they both work the same way, and it just shows you that your bullet journal does NOT have to be an artistic expression and/or crazy neat… unless you are into that, and then by all means, knock yourself out.  I just know that for me, if I set the standards of something too high (hello, perfectionist here) as soon as I mess up, it’s over.  The past-me would have wanted every single page to look magazine-perfect, but that past-me would have thrown the whole thing away the second I messed up one of the precious pages.

I had to lower the bar for myself in this regard, and in so doing, I’ve allowed myself to make something really, really useful.

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Again, the beauty of a bullet journal is that the pages are created by you.  When using a regular planner with printed pages, you can’t really interrupt the daily task lists and calendar layouts to jot down a silly memory from 6th grade (above: My neighbor Abby decreeing that we would begin 6th grade at our new school with silky bras… with cups.  We were both flat as a board.)  But with a bullet journal you can — you can just write down / doodle whatever you want, note the info in the index if it’s important, then get back to the to-dos on the next, clean page.

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I LOVE this freedom.  I finally have a place to put all the things rattling around in my brain!  This is very freeing for an INTJ who regularly cannot get her brain to shut up and give her some peace and quiet.

bullet-tracy

(I must have been on the phone with Tracy above, I tend to doodle names or stuff I hear when I’m listening to a conversation.)  See the ‘schedule’ to the right above?  This is another of my favorite things about bullet journaling.  I am not a schedule-oriented person.  There is no possible way I can schedule in yoga every morning at 10am and have it happen on the regular.  But I can, when I have a bunch of junk to fit in, make a loose plan for one day that will help guide me through one 24 hour period.  This is great if I have specific things that need to get done that don’t normally need to get done (like an appointment) or if I’m juggling side jobs around a main gig.

I still frequently forget appointments and am perpetually late to almost everything, but this system has helped a lot.  I juggle a gigantic task list at work and this little book is invaluable for my productivity levels and remembering to make sure I tend to real life stuff:  doctor appointments, meds, making sure the kids don’t starve, etc.

Anyway, that’s it.  If you’ve bounced around a bunch of different planner systems give this one a try.  It’s cheap and easy and 100% customizable.

New Year’s Resolutions & Review

Wow, that is the driest, most boring title ever. Maybe I should have gone for one of those click-bait type headlines you see all over The Facebook. “WOW! This mom made a goal and you won’t BELIEVE what happened next!” Spoiler: She rewarded herself with pie.

I’m the type of person who likes making lists and checking things off (so satisfying) and even writing things on the list I’ve already done JUST so I can check it off, so reviewing the previous year’s goals is generally very satisfying for me. Let’s take a look at my resolutions from last year and see how I did.

Goal #1

Hasten healing. I’m stealing this phrase from Tracy; it’s great. It gives a frustrating process a proactive word. This means continuing on in trying to get good, regular sleep; regularly taking supplements / meds, working towards the POTS exercise protocol; adhering to the recommended diet; charting my vitals; working with my doctors (and, if necessary standing up for the care I need); reminding myself to be patient and kind to myself and my body; and to be accepting of of the situation.

How’d I do?

We’re off to a good start, I did really well on this one. I don’t know if I can give myself huge head-pats though, because honestly, when you have a chronic condition you don’t have much of a choice in dealing with it, you just deal, you know? It was certainly not all daisies, I get frustrated with my limitations frequently — especially after a long ‘good’ period. It’s so easy to think, “Hey, life is back to normal, everything is in remission, life is GREAT!” even though it’s all of two weeks since the last episode. Then, when the episode hits it’s all gnashing of teeth and wailing and ‘wo is me, the world is ending.’ So please, never mistakenly believe I’m handling this stuff with total grace, but one does get accustomed to it all.

parking pass

Notwithstanding my not-a-saint disclaimer, I have made lots of progress in this area. I work hard to go to bed at a decent hour and get plenty of sleep consistently (tracking my sleep hours on my Fitbit has helped a ton) — I’m a night owl no more (!). I’ve finally accepted my need to take a bowlful of pills every night regardless of how I’m feeling, I adhere to my recommended diet, work with my doctors even when I don’t want to, and am generally accepting of the situation (even allowing for the occasional meltdown).

My hives have been in remission since the summer (at least I think, I didn’t blog very much so I’m not sure), and my POTS is currently quite manageable. I have episodes once or twice a month, but it’s generally a-okay and all par-for-the-course type stuff. Excluding of course, public pass-outs in reverent places and Costco. Yes. Costco. It was embarrassing. I must have blocked it out when doing my recap. 911 was involved. Please, 2016, no public episodes, thanks.

I did develop a very annoying reoccurring runner’s knee problem that threw a wrench into my up-to-that-point very consistent exercise protocol. I’m struggling to figure out a work around. So only half points on the exercise thing, but I’m working on it.

Goal #2

I want to maximize quality time with my family. I know. It sounds so cliche, but we sacrifice a lot because of my health issues. I want to make sure that good days and good moments are spent well, and that even on bad days I make sure to connect with my loved ones.

How’d I do?

Can I get partial points for this one too? Even though it was tough, we did really well on this goal during the first part of the year while we were still homeschooling. The summer was also great, even though we had a move in there and my work schedule was tricky. However, when the kids enrolled in school in the fall, this was a much harder goal to achieve. The school experience has been a good one, but it makes quality family time pretty challenging.

family time

Before we had to deal with early alarm clocks and piles of homework, reading together at night was a huge priority for us all. But now? We just don’t have the time to read long chapters between homework, dinner, and the need for an early bedtime. We all find the schedule required for school pretty exhausting and miss this time together. Still, we try to connect and do the best with the time and opportunities we do have.

Goal #3

Regain financial footing. We are debt free now that the house has sold, and I am so grateful that E has found good, steady work (with stellar health benefits, oh my goodness!). I want 2015 to be a year of careful budgeting and saving. I don’t know if we’ll be able to purchase land or build a home this year, but I want to be working towards that by living frugally and growing our savings.

How’d I do?

Progress! I continue to love and adore YNAB (You Need A Budget) Software and highly recommend it. Not an affiliate link.

Apropos of nothing, here is my desk

Apropos of nothing, here is my desk

As far as purchasing land or building a home, that didn’t happen. In fact, we took a pretty big step back and reevaluated some of our long term goals. We took a good, hard look at what would be best for the kids, and what would be reasonably feasible with my health (maybe not a huge farm). We’ve been planning our next step a lot more carefully this time, and including the kids in the process. I’ll have more to share on this soonish.

Goal #4

I’d like to prioritize my creative interests. I worked towards that somewhat this year: I tried to make good use of bed-ridden days by taking a novel writing class and starting a portrait drawing class as well. I want to remember to give myself a break from reading medical journals (and, let’s be honest, drowning the blues by reading junky celebrity gossip) to do these things I love.

How’d I do?

Well, I can’t say I read less junky celebrity gossip, I still have a weakness for GFY, though wait! I did mindfully back off my Daily Mail habit, so there’s that.

This is a picture of my book project in Scrivener, a writing program I adore.

This is a picture of my book project in Scrivener, a writing program I adore.

And it may be 100% horrible, but I wrote that Nanowrimo novel I won’t shut up about, am currently editing/re-writing it, planned out its sequel, and took another writing class. I’d call that a win. Full points, please.

Goal #5

This goal didn’t make it onto my blog because I didn’t really consider it a goal, more like a trial run of something interesting. Last January I discovered bullet journals through Tracy, I think. I was able to order a new moleskine notebook and start on January 1st. You guys. Life changing. For real. I LOVE my bullet journal.

bullet journal

Now, if you are interested, you can fall down a rabbit hole of overwhelming bullet journal ideas on Pinterest. People get insane about their bullet journals — Tracy is insane about her bullet journal. You might be too, and that is okay. But please let it be noted, I am not insane about mine, and I think this is why it is a huge success for me — there is no internal pressure to make it look perfect.

I do not use stencils or rulers or guides to make my boxes. My system is extremely simple. I do not draw calendars or tables, I do not color code anything, I do not force myself to use a consistent pen color and type, and my pages can look like a total disaster. But it is seriously my brain on paper, and I love it. After years and years of trying all kinds of planners, I can’t believe I’ve found a system that works so well. I used it consistently for an entire year, am still using it, and will probably use it forever. It’s that amazing. I’ll post more in detail about mine and how I do it later.

Drumroll please: 2016 Goals

  • Health – This will probably be a forever goal, but more of the same as last year: Continuing good sleep habits, taking my meds and supplements, being willing to fight for the care I need, following the diet plans that seem to help me the most, working with my doctors, doing POTS exercise protocols — not letting the knee issue keep me from doing what I can. I would like to lose the 10 – 15lbs I put on during bed rest in 2014, but that’s secondary, and I’m pretty sure any weight-related New Year’s resolutions are cursed to fail anyway.
  • Meal Planning – I don’t do well with hard and fast schedules but I would like to look into something that would work for our somewhat crazy life. Freezer meals? Subscription service? Grocery delivery? Something that would help us eat less take out and not make us lose our minds in the kitchen during the ‘witching hour’ spawned from after school fatigue, homework, chores, and looming evening work hours .
  • Building – I’ve always been pretty intimidated by some of the power tools in the garage. My husband and I recently built a new bed (which we loooove) and I realized I could tackle some smaller projects on my own if I could get over my fear of the table saw and the nail gun thing that hooks up to the compressor. So, goal #3: have E. teach me proper tool use and safety and do a few projects on my own.
  • Financial Security – Continue to work towards financial security, build up savings, remain debt free, and — some redacted personal stuff that I’ll share with y’all as we get closer to some decisions.—
  • Work/Homelife/Homeschooling – If it is in the stars, so to speak, I’d love to work towards not working, or working less. We love E’s employer, but we’d like to explore possibilities for E. to work locally so we can see him more. I’d love to be able to homeschool again and even work on other projects. If these things are not in the stars, and working full time is going to be a regular fixture in my life, my goal would be to focus on a ‘bloom where you are planted’ mentality and a contentment mindset. I think last year’s goal to prioritize quality time fits in here as well. No matter what our work situation, I need to continue making those familial connections a priority — the kids are growing up SO fast.

How did your 2015 goals turn out and what do you have planned for 2016? I sincerely want to know.

xo

Year in Review: 2015

Normally I do a year in review by picking highlights from my archives. However, 2015 was one of my lighter posting years so my rough draft looks pretty pathetic. Instead of breaking it into months, I’m just going to break it into general time periods. Good, right? Yeah, I know, you missed all this riveting stuff during my broken-feed hiatus.

First Half

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We were living in Wyoming for my husband’s work; winter was harsh, though not unlike winters in Idaho. I was still dealing with chronic hives and fainting and juggling full time work with full time homeschooling (wow, do not recommend), and looking back I’m kind of stunned we made it through in one piece.

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I announced my involvement with Sun Tail Mermaid, and shared some of the process in launching their new product with Kickstarter. I wrote a little bit about working with creatives and geek productivity.

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We moved again (oy) and I started some house projects at the new rental. Say what you will about the futility of my efforts, I’m happy every single day I see the new and improved door.

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I didn’t write about it here, but had a mortifying experience shortly after we moved in. The rental agency sent someone over to fix a broken window and stain the back deck. One of my littles let him in, and he (the window fixing, deck staining stranger) walked in on me while I was getting dressed. I cried in the closet for like, six hours. I think I might be finally recovered. But at least the deck looked great.

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And my second horrifying experience of the year. I went up to Idaho to go to Tracy’s daughter’s endowment (temple service prior to her departure for her service mission in California). Tracy and I *both* had episodes and fainted in the temple. I… I can’t even explain to you how embarrassing this was, but I will say the temple matron was lovely and I guess not everyone can say they have been dragged to the fancy bride’s room and helped out of their clothes. So, that’s something.

Second Half

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After a lot of deliberation the kids enrolled at a charter school in the fall. They have enjoyed it but we are all tired of waking up so early and are all counting the days to summer break.

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The best part of my job: fabric design! I finally got to see the actual fabric before it got sewn into mermaid tails. I might have draped them around my neck and worn them as scarves for a while.

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J. had a party with a bunch of friends on the aforementioned deck and it reminded me how much I enjoy throwing a good party. Especially parties where I get to hide out in the next room.

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I wrote over 90K words for 2015 Nanowrimo!

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Winter is so much prettier when there are mountains involved.

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And finally, Christmas. Without matching Christmas Eve jammies because we all forgot to put them on.

Aaaaand… that’s all I wrote (or posted on Insta). Happy New Year! (It’s still January, so I can still say that, right?)

2015 in Books

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I drove myself crazy inserting book covers in last year’s book post and then they didn’t even show up if you had an ad-blocker on, so I’m not bothering this year. Asterisked my favorites :)

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Time’s Edge (The Chronos Files Book 2) This is the sequel to Timebound (The Chronos Files). Good! Gets a little complicated as the time travel trope often does, but the author handles it pretty deftly. I found the male voices in the audiobook distractingly similar, FYI.

***The Seven Realms Box Set (A Seven Realms Novel) You know I adore this series, and last year I was able to read it to my kids. They were riveted and I was so glad! N. has read this probably 3 – 4 times on his own since.

Heir Chronicles (5 Book Series) Written by the same author of The Seven Realms series, but in my humble opinion, not as good as the former. Still, I read this aloud to the kids after we finished the above because we were so hungry for more. They liked it more than I do.

*Shadow Scale (Seraphina) Sequel to Seraphina. Amazing. Really unique and incredibly well-written. Lots of fun vocabulary (that sounds like a boring recommendation… vocabulary! but don’t be fooled, it’s full of magic and dragons and fighting and romance.)

*A Beginner’s Guide To Acting English A break from my usual YA fantasy stuff. This is an Iranian memoir and it’s heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once. Loved it, would be good for book club if you’re into that sort of thing.

*Crown Duel (Crown Duel / Court Duel) This is an old favorite that I read to my kids last year.

Paper Towns I enjoyed this, and I enjoyed the movie as well.

An Abundance of Katherines I didn’t love this. Insert an apologetic/awkward emoticon, here.

Wonder I listened to this on audiobook and struggled a bit, with how whiny they made the protagonist sound, but I ended up having the kids listen because I think it’s an important book, if also a bit too proud of itself at times.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality I’m not really a fan-fic type person, but I read this at the recommendation of my brother. This was highly entertaining… tense and weird at times, but it ends well. I found a logical Harry Potter highly entertaining.

Luminosity, Radiance, Flashes After finishing Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (HPMOR) I read these Twilight fan-fics that attempted to make Bella a rational, logical person. Well done.

Sky Raiders (Five Kingdoms) A new series by Brandon Mull, I am sorry to say I wasn’t riveted, but my kids loved it.

Looking for Alaska Insert another apologetic emoticon. I didn’t love this.

Rogue Knight (Five Kingdoms) Sequel to the Sky Radiers listed above, also didn’t love. I wandered off after this one and didn’t read the rest of the series, but my older boys read them all.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) What’s not to love? Mindy is the best.

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success As per my usual, I panic every year and read all the book writing books to prep for Nanowrimo. This one was interesting, but mostly as a peek into how another author functions, I didn’t end up adopting any of her systems.

Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly Cute – written for kids who want to be writers. I listened to the audiobook.

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction Beautiful artwork and interesting articles.

The Mythical Creatures Bible: The Definitive Guide to Legendary Beings Love. Reference this frequently.

Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth Love. Reference this frequently.

By Carol Rose Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins: An Encyclopedia Love. Reference this frequently.

*Storyworld First: Creating a Unique Fantasy World for Your Novel I took a chance on this one, and loved it! It’s the only book I found (specifically on worldbuilding) that I really liked and found helpful.

The Magic Thief Adorable, N. read them all.

How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk A little patronizing, but good advice if you cherry pick what works for you.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk I read this one a long time ago, re-read to see if I could get a refresher on anything helpful. Good advice.

Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide for Novels and Novellas This was a Kindle freebie. The last part where she tries to evaluate the Harry Potter series derails quite a bit, and is too hard to follow. Would have been better in some kind of visual tabled form.

***Complete Writing For Children Course (Teach Yourself: Writing) Where has this book been all my life? THIS WAS EXCELLENT. LOVE. Great if you’re looking for something on writing MG / YA. It has a picture-book section as well. SO much better than the general how-to books that try to cover all the genres.

Job Escape Plan: The 7 Steps to Build a Home Business, Quit your Job and Enjoy the Freedom I listened to the author on a podcast and bought her book somewhat rashly thinking the book was about something else. Thus, I didn’t love it.

*Brown Girl Dreaming (Newbery Honor Book) N. needed an autobiography for school and this fit the bill; I read it as well. We didn’t know it was written in prose, but it’s wonderful. It gave us a lot of things to talk about (the author’s experiences growing up in the south and in NY as a black girl, prejudice, poverty, #blacklivesmatter, and more). Recommend.

Smell ya later, October

NaNo-2015-Participant-Banner

October and all of its Halloween disgustingness is over! Hooray! Welcome, November and your refreshing, commercially ignored holiday. At least no one celebrates you by depicting fake, violent murder! Rejoice, and appreciate your annoyingly premature, yet innocuous and blood-free inflatable Santas.

November also means it’s National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. Such prestigious and world-wide recognition, November. Who needs a Target decked out in turkeys to legitimize your existence?

This is my fourth year participating in Nanowrimo, but my first year going into it with not only an outline, but a rough draft. I am excited to have an actual plan in hand. Barfing out 50K (terrible) words every year isn’t hard for me (duh, verbose blogger alert), but writing those words out with a plot that doesn’t meander all over the place has been more of a challenge in years past. I’m sure I’ll depart from my outline and draft in a million different ways, but it’s nice to feel prepared for a change.

Do you Nano? And can we still be friends even though I just typed the words, “Do you Nano?”

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My work and life schedule is crazier than it has ever been, so this month will be interesting. I’m pretty determined though, so here’s to sleep deprivation. Cheers!