Project Finish Line: Has it Really Been a MONTH???

The last time I had ten seconds to myself that weren’t occupied by some other pursuit was two weeks ago, and I haven’t posted at all in regards to Project Finish line since January! Yikes!

So, let’s get caught up, kids. 

 

Goal 1: Size 8/145 pounds

Business travel gave me one helluva setback. I went from 149 (so close!!!) all the way back up to 153. Amazing how taking it off requires Herculean efforts, and putting it just requires a box-to-mouth Donut Curl. It’s entirely unfair. Fortunately, one week back home eating somewhat more intelligently and hitting the gym a few times has me at 151.2. I’ll take it. And I’ll try to remember the progress loss the next time I feel like a cookie might be an okay breakfast. 

Thank all good things in the universe for Chris Powell and his carb cycling! Seriously people, if you haven’t checked it out by now, nothing is working for you, and you’re like me an need immediate results to stay motivated, you must try Carb Cycling! Please at least just read about it here. You’ll thank me. I promise. 

 

Goal 2: Write a book

Done. Well….sort of. I wrote it. I’ve made some changes on screen, and as I said previously I have no printed all 212 pages and am slowly setting to the task of some hardcore editing. Alas, I have no red pen – or green, as was the favorite of my journalism teacher in high school – but I’ve gotten through a whopping three pages, so blue must be acceptable. 

I’m wondering if there’s anyone anywhere who would be willing to do a seondary edit of it. After a while you have read something so many times, you stop seeing the mistakes. But there was an excellent piece I found online about editing by writing your books four times. Check it out!

 

Goal 3: Pay off debt 

This has proven to be quite a bit more difficult than I’d hoped. Following the drama of emergency dog abominal surgery, a broken car, and some unexpected medical expenses, it’s going to take well over a year to get where we need to be. BUT – we completely paid of a dishwasher, and are now very close to doing the same with a small amount of student loans (under $500), and then we move to the big time: CREDIT CARDS. Two of them. Totaling more thousands of dollars than I’m willing to admit. Under twenty but over ten, and it makes me exceedingly uncomfortable. 

 

But on to more fun things! 

 

I have nearly a week of solo time (hubz is out in Miami DJing during the annual Winter Music Conference – so proud!) over which I’ve also taken some PTO. The goals of Project Finish line will, of course, be a focus, but so will some long-time-coming DIYs I’ve been dying to finish! Check it out: 

DIY 1 – A reading nook, or what I’m also calling my Cone of Silence. The idea being that, when in the cone, leave me alone. 😉 I’ve been inspired by these coupld of pics on line:

     

This chair will be the foundation of said nook: 

I have vaulted ceiling, so I’m imagining translucent curtains with white Christmas lights, and perhaps some kind of additional color and shine involved. Stay tuned…

 

DIY 2 – Seriously, my wine rack. It’s time to get it done. Two years in the making almost. Ugh. DOING THIS! 

Lots of Pinspiration of this project out there, and I have all the wood, stain, tools, etc. Just need to get my @$$ in gear. 

 

DIY 3 – A wine bottle light fixture for the dining room. The only thing lacking here is some electrical wire, fire proof wire coverings, and bulbs. Oh, and my spouse’s faith that I can install it without A) killing myself, B) burning down the building, or C) both. It will be something like this, but with wine bottles instead of mason jars: 

 

I will get pics of each project step-by-step and share them here, along with the super easy, lazy-girl’s way I recovered my black, white, and purple chair shown above. 

I also may be painting the master bathroom blue and grey above some white bead board. We’ll see how motivated I get. I mean, at least ONE of my days off should really be a day OFF, right??? Is that how it works??

That is a TON of DIYing in five days. I may have to call in reinforcements! 

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Project Finish Line: When Life Gets in the Way

 
Yet again I’m a bad girl slacking off on my commitment to post weekly. All you fab folks reading this probably didn’t mine the break, though! Before I get into a progress report, it’s important to note that as I write this I am still in a positive place. Life has not been terribly kind to me this first week of 2015, but anyone who expects kindness (or fairness) from life hasn’t been paying attention.

I’ll preface my progression down the Finish Line journey with my self-indulgent tail of woe in hopes that it will help you understand why I’ve made the decisions I’ve made regarding my goals.

We recently purchased a new (used) car and paid cash (Dave Ramsey would be so proud!). The car was purchased and brought home one snowy Saturday, January 3rd. Such joy! We had a paid-for vehicle that wasn’t the total POS our other car had become. The hubz brought it home, and I ooh-ed and aaah-ed over it’s dent/ding/dimple free exterior, scratchless paint job, beautifully detailed interior, and the fact that my guy would no longer have to roll down the window to open the door from the outside because the inside door handle had broken. Sunday, January 4th, the car showed signs of the transmission needing work.

Evidently, this was the beginning of the (temporary) end. 

Monday – aside from just being Monday – was the beginning of what I shall now refer to as Hell Week.

My poor pup had been suffering some GI issues since Christmas Eve. He saw the vet who ran some tests and prescribed an antiobiotic as per usual (this was the second time my baby boy – who is 11 – had this issue), and we treated him, kept him on a bland diet, and generally coddled him. A second round of meds was prescribed when he didn’t show much improvement, but on Day 1 of Hell Week, I came home from the gym to my husband telling me to turn around because our boy needed to go to the Urgent Care.

 

 

So off we went – sneakers, sports bra, sweaty ponytail, and all.

And of course we went in two cars, because we were told earlier that day that we had to bring the car back to the dealer to have it looked at. Turns out my sweet pup had swallowed a rock and needed emergency abdominal surgery that included a myriad of complications and possibly fatal outcomes. So I handed over my credit card for more thousands of dollars than I care to admit, and signed my furry child’s life away. Then we dropped off our two-day old car, that in fact did turn out to be need transmission work- to the tune of nearly another grand. Much to the unknown delight of the dealership, my husband was able to talk them down to almost half that price before anyone had to talk to me.

 

    

Oh, and did I mention? Whilst my fella and I waited on pins and needles, agonizing over the fate of our dog and aching over the state of our severely abused finances, I told him I had to be up early for a doctor’s appointment to have a new lump in my breast checked out. It’s about the size of a golf ball, and though the docs not worried I get to enjoy an ultrasound and mammogram anyway. Woohoo!

So where does this metaphorical bitch slap from the universe leave Project Finish Line? I’ll tell you : 1/3 less fun and fully grounded in harsh reality.

Goal 1: Size 8 by August

The holidays and Hell Week were not kind. I gained back 5 pounds of the weight I lost due to holiday indulgence, eating my emotions, and not having as much gym time – like 5 days in the last 2 weeks. But!! I know what has to be done now, thanks to Chris and Heidi Powell! Carb Cycle and keep moving.  You can check out info on Carb Cycling on the Powells’ blogs, but I would also recommend picking up Chris’s book, Choose More Lose More for Life. In doing so I already got back to 154 in about a week, which is just over one pound from my all-time low. 

 

Much better than the 155.6 from last week!

Goal 2: Finish Writing My Book

The good news is, I finished writing my book! It is definitely not ready for prime time, so now it’s back into the trenches to edit, edit, edit, and edit some more until I’m satisfied. Then, I’ll print, bind, shelve, and be able to say: I finished writing a book.

My taste in literature – much like ALL my life preferences – are quite omni-polar, but you can see Mr. Ramsey’s book stays close.

And perhaps write another…

Goal 3: Go to Europe in 2015

Here’s where things get…a little sad. I just don’t think we can do it this year. I’m experiencing A LOT of anxiety and major stress around financial stability (or the lack thereof) for a variety of reasons I won’t enumerate here, and as a result of thousands of dollars in dog and car bills adding to an already overwhelming amount of debt (ridiculous student loans and a car repossessed by my ex, as examples) I have come to believe that one thing I can do for my own mental and emotional well-being is to take active steps to get out of that debt as soon as possible.

I’ve been reading Dave’s book, Total Money Makeover, as you already know, and now I’m on a mission to get my guy on board and pursue a new goal with the “gazelle intensity” Dave talks about: Kill Credit Card Debt (& Sell Rental Property?) in 2015. We’ll do this through Dave’s Baby Steps.

We already have a small emergency fund (Baby Step 1), and are beginning the Debt Snowball (Baby Step 2).

This will require some serious, committed, uncomfortable sacrifice. And first on the chopping block is Europe. For now…

Sure, I’m sad, but I also feel in my bones that it is the right thing to do. It’s the right decision for me and my family. I spend my work and personal lives taking care of others, and if I’m going to continue to do so I have to take care of myself. The stress of debt and having what feel like never-ending streams of payments sucking the life out of my bank account is also making me feel trapped and without any choices or freedoms. And in turn that is making me irritable, angry, and not very much fun to be around. That can’t happen.

 

So I don’t look at this as giving up on my travel dreams, just adjusting the timing. Goal 3 has changed, and that’s okay because life happens and – as much as I hate anything outside of my control – the trick is to let it happen without letting it happen TO you. Experience, evaluate, adjust, move forward.    

Project Finish Line: A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story is one of my all time favorite Christmas movies. The tradition, the campiness, the obviously dysfunctional family, and the hilarity of it all playing out for 24 hours on Christmas Day since I was at least a teenager…I just appreciate the endurance of this classic film and that it is always predictably there, every year, like a comforting beacon of hope that some things don’t change; some things can always be depended upon. 

However, one thing is in dire need of change: This girl. 

Project Finish Line is all about getting better at finishing what I start. It’s about harnessing my busy brain and compulsive personality to see things through. 

My three goals (Size 8, Europe, and writing a novel) are all under way, and for those of you who’ve been hanging around a while you know I’ve been mostly fixated on my weight/size as most insecure people are apt to do. But it’s Christmas time, and thus I’ve given myself permission to just enjoy this one week and pay the price later. Whatever twiggy bitch said nothing tastes as good as skinny feels A) must not work out enough, and B) has never tasted my step dad’s holilday cheese ball or my baked brie. 

Or Coquito – OMG Coquito!! Imagine a creamy coconut nog spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and rum. Lots and lots of delicious Puerto Rican rum. 

Back to the point…

We’re not talking body issues today. Or travel. Today, in honor of my fav holiday film, we’re talking my book. I started it four long years ago around this time of year. I foolishly thought I could finish it in the two weeks I took off for the holidays. Silly girl. Between just finding the time and drive to sit and write, my short attention span, and my constantly second-guessing myself I’ve only recently gottent to a plac where I feel like I might be nearing the end. 179 pages and 35 chapters in, I may wrap this thing up at last before Europe.

Below is a brief excerpt from this goofy, untitled work of mine. I’d love to say it gets better, but I’m not the one who can say whether or not that’s true – only you can. It’s intended to be a fast-moving supernatural/sci-fi thriller w/ a dash of a message thrown in, but again…who am I to say that is in fact what it is? 

If you find this first few paragraphs makes you curious to read more, I’d love to hear your feedback. It may just help me finally push this boulder all the way up the hill. 

 


ONE

Alex tried desperately to control her breathing as she crept through the darkness of the master bedroom. She couldn’t let the shock of her discovery or the fear of getting caught get in the way of her escape, but Ger slept just behind her on the bed, snoring quietly, and there would be no way to explain her midnight flight if he woke.

She opened his sock drawer so slowly it was painful and withdrew the zippered pouch that carried Ger’s two-thousand dollars of emergency cash. Having already dressed in sneakers, jeans and a black sweat jacket, she picked up her purse from the dresser and tiptoed to the bedroom door.

The moonlight cut strips of light across the emerald green carpet as it shown through the wood blinds on the French doors leading to the balcony and, with her hand on the door knob, Alex paused to take one last look at Ger, the man who would betray her in the most heinous way, though she wasn’t sure even he knew that yet.

Sometimes it was such a burden knowing the truth.

She turned back and eased the door open just enough to squeeze through. She closed the door silently behind her and leaned against it, taking her first full breath in nearly ten minutes. She turned left towards the stairway and stopped. His office was to the right, the door slightly ajar. There might be something on his lap top. Something to explain whatever possible reason there might be for what he was planning to do to her.

Quickly and without any further thought, she quietly made her way to his lap top. She sat down in his plush office chair and looked at the door, sure that at any moment he would wake up and appear as a hulking, dark figure in the doorway. Two excruciating minutes later the screen shown bright and ready. She had no idea what she was looking for. All of this was so surreal she could barely think. Finally she clicked on Start and then Search, and typed in the only thing she could think of that might find the information for which she was looking: Alexandria Graysen.

Unbelievably, this bit of amateur investigation yielded results: a password protected file labeled with her last name, Graysen.

Crap. 

She had no idea what Ger’s password could be, and she had no time to find out. Just as she began to get up, she noticed the glow cast by the lap top’s screen fell on a jump drive inserted in the side of the machine.

Could anything be on here? Would Ger be so complacent as to leave it out in the open? Of course he would. Ger had every confidence in the world that no one would dare steal from an Ostreicher. And certainly not twice in one night.

At lightning speed Alex disconnected the little, black plastic device, shoved it in her purse along with the stolen cash and leapt for the door. She hurtled silently towards the stairs, hands shaking and knees threatening to give up at any moment. Her blood was pounding so loudly in her ears that she barely heard the deep, icy voice come from behind her.

“How did you know,” he asked.

Her heart thudded faster in her chest, her breath came in weak, frantic gasps. She froze with her foot on the first step and turned to face him. 

Aside

Project Finish Line: The 8 Week Itch

Having gone back over my calendar I find that I am embarking upon week 9 of Operation Finish Line. 

Like any Type A personality, I was hoping to come here today and tell you that I rocked out on yet another amazing week of kicking ass and taking names on my goals but, alas, it is not so. I am, after all, a mere mortal. 

So here’s the somewhat despressing breakdown: 

GOAL 1: Size 8 

With my Three BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) still lying ahead, this past week was a bit less than stellar. I suppose I can call it my 8 Week Itch, since the 7 Year Itch is supposed to be when spouses start falling off the two-man bandwagon of fidelity (did I mention December 5th was my sixth anniversary? Yipes!), because I did indeed fall off the wagon. 

My post-Thanksgiving high of having lost a pound over the holiday week must have made me cocky, because last week I went to the gym only one time, did not follow my nutrition plan (so says the Oreos, cappuccino muffin, hamburger, fries, shot of Jameson, and…well…you get the point), and I traveled and ate out which always translates to disaster for me. I went from 154.2 last week to 154.4 this week. Perhaps .2 lbs gained does not actually qualify as a disaster, per se, but it is definitely NOT progress. 

Today I went and lifted weights, got sweaty, and WILL go back tomorrow for some treadmill time. 


GOAL 2: Finish My Novel

I am so happy to report that I actually made some progress here! Minimal progress, but progress nonetheless. 

I took a few hours on Saturday to hit a Starbucks, pop open my lap top, turn on some tunes, and add another chapter to my book. I’m so close I can finally see the end in sight!

Endings are hard, though, so I’m definitely not winning any speed-writing contests for this one. 

Should I post a chapter or two here? Would anyone care to read and critique?

 

GOAL 3: Go to Europe

I’ve met with a bit of an obstacle here, but as so many quotes tell us, if we really want something we will find a way. If not, we’ll find an excuse. 

I am now the proud owner of a totaled car; I have enough credit card and student loan debt to make me nauseated sometimes; my paycheck isn’t getting any bigger; the holidays are here (which inlcude the birthdays of my newly-adult niece, and a close friend); my mom wants me to come visit for Christmas; we went halvsies to bring my mother-in-law home for Thanksgiving….lots of really great rationalization for continuing to let the money roll in and out without any real idea of where it all goes. 

But live in a world (read: work in a proefession) where all the sound reasons in the world are just excuses wrapped in pretty paper and sparkly bows. 

I hate excuses. So I will find a way.

 

Overall this Progress Post could really bum you (and me!) out, but I have been reminding myself lately that it is important to learn in the face of adversity. After all, we just had a holiday that was all about being grateful.

My mantle gets dressed up for holidays. However, the giant Turkey balloon (which was later used to make Lolly Pop Guild voices at my dogs and scare the crap out of them!) was from my sister-in-law.

And there is no shortage of blessings, luck, good karma, or whatever you choose to call it, in my home. So I am learning from my setbacks and challenges a few things I have forgotten this last year. Things I think are true of us all. 

Things I Forgot to Remember:
1.  I am super talented! 

Sure, there is PLENTY of shit I cannot or should not do (including but not limited to: having kids, keeping plants, going armed into large crowds of holiday shoppers, or anything that involves prolonged periods of patience). But I also have a lot of love and kindness to share, I’m pretty damn funny when the mood strikes me, I am THE BEST at Thanksgiving (yes, all of Thanksgiving. All of it.), I’m smart a reasonable amount of the time, and I can be very motivating. 

Sometimes I forget that for all my shortcomings and character flaws, I still have strengths. What are your strengths and talents? I know you have so many!

 

2. I am valuable and deserve respect. 

I would love to be beautiful and rich, or be some kind of grand innovator or political figure, but I’m just me. I’m one small person in an unfathomably enormous universe, but I am still just as valuable and deserving of respect as are the other people with whom I inhabit this earth. Perhaps I’m not pretty enough, smart enough, social enough, funny enough, polished enough, or whatever…But I’m trying. I’m trying to be a good person, surround myself with positivity, and give love and humor to those around me. So…let’s all remember that we do those things and be nice to each other. 

And ourselves. 

3. Doctor Suess had it right. 

It’s coming up on Christmas, and though I’m not a Christian anymore I still love this holiday. I found myself with no joy this year for ANY of the awesome holidays from October-January, and I realized it was because this time of year magnifies the best and worst in people – the “worst” part being the reason my joy was waning. 

But as Doctor Suess and his tale of Whoville taught us, Christmas is about so much more, and I plan to live that way this year – even if it wierds my family out a little. Or a lot. 

It’s not about the gifts. In fact, I have no wish list (aside from the goals here), and I want for nothing. I simply want to take some time for myself, enjoy falling snow and crackling fires, be thankful for all that I have, and generally just find some peace. I want my family to be happy, and I want to try to find my own source of happiness inside that I seem to have lost this year. 

See? Already all dressed up for Christmas.

 

4. I’m not every going to be everyone’s cup of tea – And that’s okay. 

I get really wrapped up in what certain others think of me. Even strangers can sometimes screw with my mojo. Why? I don’t know. 

Childhood trauma, family alcoholism, being the baby of the family and always wanting attention, being a typical attention-whoring Aries…call it what you likek, but even the most well-intentiond criticisms get me down sometimes. 

But the thing is, that’s okay. Just like I enjoy super strong Earl Grey with milk, lemon, and honey, some folks like it weak and plain. It is what it is, and I have to remember that the individual preferences of others are not necessarily an indictment of me, but simply an expression of individualism. 

 

5. Happiness comes from within. 

Depending on outside stimuli to find happiness truly is a recipe for disaster – or disappointment. If you can’t be happy in your own company, then why would anyone else? I haven’t found that for myself yet, but…I will. 

 

Okay, so maybe a little joy came from machete-ing a pumpkin (below). 

My dad left a machete behind when he died. It came in very handy for Thanksgiving prep when I encountered a particularly difficult pumpkin. Unforeseen side affect: I want to find more stuff to machete whack!

 

So all in all, not as successful a week as I would have hoped for, but I’ve found that I am dedicated to my goals.

I choose to find the way, not the excuse.

So Here I Am

Good evening, dear readers, from the beautiful Rocky Mountain region.

As some of you know, I’ve had a blog for a few months now, and as I said in my initial post Do I Need to Be Here For This? I plan to make it a blog about whatever I feel like writing about, when I feel like writing about it, and in whatever way I choose to write it. (Aren’t I just a piece of work?)

So here I am…sassy pants and all.

I opted to join in on Blogging 101 to get force myself to put a bit more focus on my writing, and it made me start thinking: why am I doing this? Why write? Why blog at all and not just do the usual thing and keep a journal?

Truth be told, the reason I opted to keep a blog is two-fold – or, as is usually the case with me, multi-fold.

First of all (get ready for a big vulnerable admission, kids!): I want to be a writer. Gasp!

There. I said it.

If I could be anything in the whole world, I would choose to be a writer – of novels, of witty quotes, of blogs and Facebook posts and snarky emails and the summaries on the back of paperbacks…I would just write. And the way I hear it, if you want to be a writer the first thing you need to do is…well…write something.

So here I am…writing.

My job – my real job – is a serious one with big decisions, hard choices, constant challenges, and dire consequences. I was unhappy for a long time when I when I finally found that the only times I was at peace were in the gym (I mean, who can concentrate on job stressors when you’re more worried about the continuation of the breathing in and the breathing out), in the garage (always working on a project of some kind), and when I was reading or writing. Clearly a creative outlet was needed.

So here I am…being all creative-like.

I want to pour all my words out and let them tumble over each other until they fall together into a form that speaks to others, makes them think or laugh or cry or question or wonder.

I want to inform and inspire.

I want to find a place to be vulnerable and meditate on things outside of my small world.

I want to share that experience with others who want to do the same. To connect and explore and marvel together.

But I also want to get better at all of the that. I want to be criticized and judged and hear the painful truth so that, through the pain, I am polished.

So here I am. 

With Fingers Bleeding

In case you haven’t noticed, I like to think of myself as a writer. Perhaps a wannabe writer, but a writer of some kind nonetheless. The first thing I remember writing was a story in 2nd grade about a pony (Yeah, I know – ground-breaking stuff.) for which I won first place prize in whatever it was. Then it was a “children’s” book in 6th grade in which both main characters died at the end.

After that I started on a story wherein my friends (and some people who didn’t want to be my friends anymore) and I were in a band together, and once again someone was on the verge of dying. I never did finish it.

In 8th grade I had to do an essay answering the question, “Do you believe in ghosts,” which my mom said gave her goose bumps. (And, no, I’m not dumb enough to think my mom’s opinion is one I can fully trust. She’s obviously biased when it comes to her incredible people-creations.) Then I hit high school and started taking journalism. I won two first place awards in two consecutive years for pieces I wrote on site in the Editorial category.

Today most of my writing is for work or messages between friends, but I’m also in my third or fourth year of trying to write a novel. I should say I’m trying to finish it. That shit is hard, and I hate it when authors write great books and then just crap out at the end ala Hunger Games.

All that to say that I’ve been remiss in writing as regularly as I’d like on this blog, and with as much passion as I have for writing, I’ve been marinating on why I’ve been such a flake. I figured out that it’s because I actually think I might have a reader or two, whom I’d like to keep, and a lot of things I want to write about tend to be a bit broody. I’m a brooder – albeit probably the most bubbly, gregarious brooder on the planet – and who wants to constantly read depressing, deep, dark, or uncomfortable stuff, right? It’s much more fun to read light, funny, quippy pieces that have Joss Whedon-like wise-cracking dialogue.

Even I think so.

But here’s the thing: I started a blog for me. To have a place to come and sit down at my keyboard and bleed. To channel my inner Ernest Hemingway or simply word vomit until I’m temporarily empty again. There’s nothing more enticing to me than a blank page. It’s like life. You start with nothing, you learn some things, and then you make some choices, and then people are there, and things are happening, and conflict arises, struggles occur, and soon you have a story – comedy, tragedy, mystery, fantasy, erotica, news, editorials, human interest pieces, satire, poetry, love letters, hate mail, journals…you start with an empty white space, and you end with pieces of life in print.

I’d imagine any artists feels the same way about their craft, but in place of oil or clay I have paper, pen, keyboard.

And while my craft may seem straightforward, it’s not any easier to interpret than Michelangelo’s David or Monet’s many takes on Water Lilies and Haystacks. My voice, my intent, my tone, my heart, my true story…we writers all face the same challenges as other artists – how do we inject all of our heart into our work in such a way that it touches people?

Perhaps that is why I struggle to write for RPS(LS). I seek to evoke emotion, yet I also seek to create connection, and that’s not as easy a thing to do when I’m not a crowd pleaser by nature. And I’m also an Aries, horns and hard head included, so I won’t become one.

So, my dearest reader(s?), as I said on the beginning of this journey: you’ll get what you get. And you’ll get a lot of it. So forgive my pigheaded stubbornness, forgive my need to bleed from fingers and little black-and-white keys for all the world to see. But challenge yourself to walk away not with my tone and mood as your own, but with your OWN interpretation.

And know that I blog on prom dress shopping with my oldest nieces is likely forthcoming, and thus guarantees at least a few laughs.