Catching Up and Stuff.

So, yeah, about that blogging 2x a week thing….

I swear I’ll do better. I have a lot of stuff going on – all good so far – but a lot. If you aren’t interested in a boring financial saga you might want to skip this one and come back later when I talk about knitting.

My 90 day life reboot is proceeding in fits and starts, but there is actual progress. I feel like I’m coming out of a two year sleepwalking state; it’s taking a while to sort out my life and get it back on track, but it’s happening.

I think I’ve mentioned on the old blog that I own an “investment property” – I put it in quotes because it doesn’t generate actual cash flow. It’s the house I bought with my late husband in 1996, and my daughter and son-in-law have rented it from me since I moved temporarily to Asheville 9 years ago. When I returned to FL for employment reasons (Asheville’s job market is challenging, to say the least) I had a small inheritance from my mother, which gave me the opportunity to buy a condo in a neighborhood I loved, really cheap – like for less than it sold for new in the 80s. (Of all of the somewhat questionable financial decisions I’ve made over the years, this was a smart one.) So they continued to rent the house, with a vague plan that one of these days they’d buy it from me. That’s still the vague plan. They do all the maintenance, including replacing the fence when it fell down in Hurricane Irma, and but for the student loans keeping them from getting their own mortgage, it’s their house.

So time passed, my employment situation varied, and my income never returned to pre-Great-Recession level. I kept my nose above the water, but have been somewhat “cash poor” for the past decade. This has resulted in things like having to put absolutely necessary car and A/C repairs and vet bills and such on credit cards, and you know how that goes. I’ve been diligently and carefully paying everything off, but it was a discouraging thought that I’d be out of debt about two weeks before I can collect Social Security, IF I never take another vacation and give up buying books and yarn and all fun things. And IF Social Security is still there after this National Disaster is finally over, which, who the hell knows? But we won’t go down that depressing road.

Then a couple of weeks ago I got a mailer from a mortgage company offering the chance to refinance the “investment property,” and they actually did the math on a cash out refinance that wouldn’t dramatically change the monthly payment OR eat too much into my equity. I had nearly thrown that piece of “junk mail” away unopened, but something made me open it and skim it, and then read it, and then it clicked! I had an Ah-HAH! moment! This would fix as lot of day to day issues for me; I could pay off a couple of bills, fix some things both at the house and in my home, plunk a wee bit into my emergency fund, and generally give myself some financial breathing room.

And so, did I call that company about the refinance? I did not. I called my current lender, Quicken Loans/Rocket Mortgage. (I am not getting compensated for singing their praises, because did I mention I’m really bad at this making money from blogging thing?) Anyway, I called them on October 1, I think – and the refi will probably close this coming week. When they say Rocket Mortgage, they aren’t kidding – they’re hyper efficient and a pleasure to deal with. And because I was an existing customer, I just had to update some information and provide current tax returns, etc. – easy and peasy, and they waived a lot of fees.

So anyway, that’s both a happy development in my financial situation and a story about how linear my thinking gets when I feel trapped in a rut. For the past several years I’ve been in “just getting by” mode, alternating with When the HELL Will They Finally Be Ready to Buy THAT HOUSE? mode, because I felt like that was the only way out. I had never even thought of refinancing the house, and that’s truly sad considering I do know quite a bit about real estate, and knew I had a boatload of equity trapped there. I’ll still have plenty of equity, but I’ll be out from under other debts and be able to increase my retirement savings contribution, etc. I just did not think about doing this, and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t think of doing this three years ago. This is what happens when you get to the point where you just put one foot in front of the other, on a treadmill, day after day, sleepwalking through life. It’s making me think about other ways I’ve been sleepwalking through my life. It’s funny how this one thing made me realize how little I’ve been paying attention to my life. Who knew boring financial stuff could revive my interest in knitting?

Okay, I’ve been really, really bad about blogging.

I’m sorry. I have a litany of excuses about my total failure to stick to a 3x week blog schedule. I need to ease into it. Maybe once a week? Then in October, twice a week? In my very ME way, I took on a lot of “things I need to work on” simultaneously, because that’s how I treat myself. I will walkyogawriteblogvitaminsknitcrochetsavemoneycookhealthyfood all at once, and get it all done in the few hours between getting home from my increasingly frustrating and crappy day job and falling into bed, to get up at 5 and start all over again. When I write it like this, I can see how I was setting myself up for failure. So rather than abandon the project, I’ll adjust my expectations.

Otherwise, my 90 day fix project is, while far from perfect, actually making me focus on how much sleep and exercise I get, and how I spend money, and all good things. I’m making scrap yarn granny squares while watching the teevee in the evenings, so I’m both productive and pouring far less wine. It’s not much, but I’m easing back into actually making things. I’m in an Impeachment KAL group on FB, and trying to decide what I will do. I have several unfinished projects that have been languishing too long; they will be listed in another post. But someone in the group shared about a “hats for refugees” project, and well damn, that does sound kind of perfect. Doing some small, welcoming things sounds about right for me right now. (I know about Welcome Blankets, but I have two unfinished afghans destined for grandchildren already. They’ll probably take them to college.)

I’m spending a lot of time on Twitter, especially today, because HOLY SHIT TODAY WAS HIGH DRAMA AND CRAZY, and also darkly comical, in Constitutional Crisis World; and things are suddenly moving very, very fast.

I made a deliberate choice to step away from writing about politics after my brain aneurysm. (I’m not saying the Bush Administration caused it, but it certainly didn’t help my overall stress.)

Which is why I probably won’t write much about our current political drama here, though I’m following it closely; I’ll let other, better writers deal with that. But seriously, the last 24 hours have given most of this country hope.

I’m on a mission to do four visits to Epcot Food and Wine, so I can get all the passholder swag (two magnets and nifty set of Chef Minnie coasters). I have a long essay written in my head about a visit to Magic Kingdom with my daughter and the Dancing Queen, and really should write it. It’s about how screaming on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was such a release, I should have taken my blood pressure before and after. I’ll write it, I swear.

And I know this is thus far a lame blog reboot, because there should be way more photos.

Sophie and Ellie are both fine. It’s still hot AF here. That’s the update from Chez BossyDog.

90 Day Reboot Plan

In which Catherine attempts to get her life in order. Settle in; this will be a long one.

I’ve been off track for a long time now. I can’t quite explain how it happened, but somewhere over the last couple of years I’ve fallen away from a lot of things I used to do: knitting, walking, yoga, getting a decent amount of sleep, etc. There is no single cause I can point to, it just sort of happened.

But I’m suddenly feeling “old” and I don’t like it. I want to slow down this aging crap and look and feel my best. I have all the tools, I know precisely what I’m doing wrong and what I need to fix, and yet, here I am.

So for the last couple of weeks I’ve been contemplating a 90 day lifestyle improvement plan. It’s not fancy and it’s free – as a matter of fact, if I stick to it, I will probably have an extra $500 in the bank by the time I’m done.

The rules are simple:

Starting September 15th, I will clean up my act as follows:

I will walk 5x a week. We are in storm season here so this one may have to be a bit flexible if another hurricane or tropical storm comes this way, but unless there is active lightning/torrential rain, I will get my tired grandma ass back out there. Yes, it’s still hot, yes it’s really sweaty, and that’s just how it is, do it anyway. I have a shower and laundry facilities and sweating is not an excuse. I know I feel better when I exercise often, and there’s no real excuse for my slacker behavior over the last several months. Besides, I’ve signed up for the Star Wars 5K next April, and it would be kind of cool to actually RUN the course at nearly 62, instead of walking the races as I usually do (and haven’t in a while). Walking regularly now will get me ready to do a Couch to 5k program in say, December.

Yoga, 5x a week. I have zero excuses here; my yoga practice of choice is Yoga with Adriene, it’s free on YouTube, and she has tons of options for time, intensity, specific health concerns, I love her to pieces, and yet, somehow I make lame excuses to not get on the mat. I will make the time, I will do it.

(I’m building in 2 days of wiggle room for these two commitments, because weather and oversleeping and whatever, because 5 times a week is a helluva lot better than the once or fewer times I’m walking and yoga-ing right now.)

Meditation – daily. I do meditate semi-daily, but I need to make it part of every day. You don’t have to sit for an hour (unless you want to, of course, and more power to you), it’s amazing how even 10 minutes makes a difference for me. I’ve used various apps in the past; Insight Timer is very very good and FREE and I used it for a long time until I fell in love with Calm. All of the content is not free, but the amazing sleep stories alone are worth the annual fee. It has everything; music, guided meditations of various lengths, and the sleep stories are truly magical and effective for me.

I’ve always been a truly awful sleeper, I was an insomniac since childhood. As an adult I’ve tried various things from herbal teas to OTC medications to alcohol, and everything has its side effects/didn’t really do much for me. The Calm sleep stories, sometimes with herbal tea or an evening glass of wine (more on that) have helped a lot.

Limit Alcohol. I know wine is a productivity killer for me. It wasn’t always the case, once upon a time wine and blogging and knitting and all the things I loved went together in harmony, but I know my consumption has ticked up as my productivity slipped down.

My creative life was important to me and has been badly neglected. I have unfinished knitting and crocheting projects glaring at me from every corner as I pour an extra glass and surf YouTube Disney vloggers. (I’d love to be a Disney Vlogger!) Last night I actually picked up a hook and worked on an unfinished granny square afghan that has been sitting in a corner for countless months. I crocheted a couple of squares, and whaddaya know, I forgot to pour more wine and then it was bedtime! So simple, so obvious, so how did it take me months to figure it out? Busy hands don’t pour chardonnay!

And while I spent too much money on wine in the last year, I also spent too much money on creative tools I haven’t used. I have yarn, I have beads, I have paper crafts – I discovered bullet journal printables on Etsy and OMG, you can print the coolest stuff, and it’s only $1.99, or $2.99, or whatever! Mere pennies!! And at the end of the month, somehow I’d spent $82.99 on digital images. (Just kidding. I’m not sure how much I spent because I’m afraid to do that math.) And then there’s the brush pens and the fancy notebooks the cool kids on Instagram all use – oddly enough, owning these tools did NOT improve my artistic ability in the slightest. So for 90 days (and beyond) I’m going cold turkey on buying craft supplies and focusing on using them.

And that brings me to Eating Right. I was doing WW for months and I did lose about 15 lbs., but I cracked the code: it’s just a low carb diet, with an emphasis on fresh food, lean protein, and lots of veggies. And yes, I do know how to do that and combined with exercise, I don’t really need an app and can save the money. That’s not a slam on WW, I wholeheartedly endorse their program, but I’m looking to save money wherever I can, so I will WW without WW. I’d like to lose another 10 lbs, and I don’t see why I can’t get it done in 90 days with the plan outlined above.

And that leads me to: Blogging. It has taken me a while to get this blog just laid out in a simple format I liked and figure out how to do links and such. Now that I have the basics in place again, I do solemnly swear that I will update at least 3x a week about my progress on this 90 day project and other things, too. The first update needs to be a review/inventory of my unfinished creative projects, because I’ve lost track myself.

So that’s it; that’s my 90 day plan to get my life back on course. Food, sleep, exercise, creativity all need attention.

It’s on.

And later today I’m off to the Magic Kingdom, because I desperately need fireworks and a churro – consider it the kickoff to this program.

Watching Dorian

As of the morning of September 1st, we were told that Dorian is going to turn and stay off the east coast of Florida. The longer it takes to make the turn north, the closer it gets. Two years ago Hurricane Irma was supposed to stay along the west coast and turned at the last minute and came inland, so yeah. We can’t really relax until this monster moves on by. I’m as prepared as I can get, now we wait.

One of the things I do to prepare for possibly losing power for a week (I have PHSD since Irma, and this has the potential to be worse) is deep clean the house. Sweating in the dark is bad enough; sweating in the dark while coated in cat hair is exponentially worse. You have no idea how much cat hair is actually present until you attempt to eradicate all of it at once. I am pretty sure I swept, mopped, dusted and wiped up a dozen cats yesterday. I Cleaned All the Things!!! Today, my back hurts. I’ve been neglecting my yoga.

And this storm is moving SOOO slowly, I’ll have to clean all over again in the morning, because Ellie is the hairiest cat on earth, and when Sophie’s nervous or excited, she sheds more. I don’t think she can possibly sense the storm that is still hundreds of miles away, but my downstairs neighbor has her two daughters and their dogs staying with her; Sophie knows there are new dogs in the building and she asks to go outside every half hour, hoping they’ll be out. Meanwhile, she’s sprinkling hair everywhere, like pixie dust.

And I know it sounds crazy, but we might go to Epcot for an hour or so this evening, just to stop thinking about the storm for a bit. We’ll see.

Well, SHIT. As of now, I’m in definitely in the cone.

WordPress and Other Challenges.

I’m still here, still fooling around with trying to make this new blog look the way I want. I think I’ve found a layout I like, finally. It’s very blah right now, of course, but I’ll work on that over time.

I wanted to write something right now because I’m feeling inspired – no, inspired is probably not the right word, impelled is more accurate – to get my future in order. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about how to actually make money blogging, and decided that Bossy Little Dog will be my practice blog, as I figure out WordPress and decide how to monetize, etc. I’m not doing things the way I should here, but when did I ever? While other people I knew were launching monetized blogs and even getting book deals, I noodled around on Blogger for well over a decade, earning Not Jack Shit.

Now here I am, roughly five years from retirement (assuming I’m not laid off sooner, which is a real possibility) and I’m forced to think seriously about my future, and what I’ll do if my current employment situation implodes on me. I know I’m far from alone in this situation: over 60, still in the work force because I can’t afford to retire, staring down the barrel of a probable recession. There’s a lot of us out there, and maybe that’s what BLD is meant to be about; it feels right somehow. Not easy, but right.

Anyway, I know why you’re really here; how is Sophie?? I’m afraid to say it out loud; you know how that turns out, but we have managed to stay out of the vet’s office for a few weeks. (Shhhh…) Ellie is fine, Ellie is always fine, apparently addiction to Temptations cat treats and shedding like a beast is the secret to beauty and health. It dawned on me recently that Ellie is at least FOUR years old now! She might be older since they guesstimated her age at about a year old at the shelter. Time is passing way too quickly in every way, and I should stop screwing around and plan my future.

And Poof! Summer’s Over.

Not the godawful heat, of course. The threat of hurricanes will continue for months, as will the huge thunderstorms. The electric bill will remain an obscenity. That part of summer goes on forever in Florida. But tomorrow Delaney starts second grade.

We sort of stumbled into a family tradition in the last couple of years. My daughter and son-in-law work for two different nearby school systems, and they have to be at their schools when Delaney’s school does “Meet the Teacher,” which is inexplicably scheduled for a weekday morning, so parents have to take off work. Because they work for schools, however, it’s difficult for them to take off. My daughter thought she could make it this year, then a meeting/training that had been scheduled for the afternoon was switched to morning, so…Grandma to the rescue. I took Friday off; Delaney talked me into a sleepover on Thursday, and we spent all of Friday together.

It had been quite a while since she’d slept over; between dance, more dance, still more dance, sleepovers with friends, and endless rounds of birthday parties, she’s the busiest 7 year old on earth. The last time she slept over she was a little girl, now she’s most definitely a tween.

After we met her new teacher (I think she’s going to have a good year) we went to the mall. I’d offered a trip to Bath and Body Works, her new favorite store, and lunch in the food court. She got some lovely smelly stuff (buy 2, get 1 free) and had bourbon chicken for the first time (loved it). Then we stopped at Target, where she talked me into a Frappuccino at Starbucks, and got a shower poof to use with her new body wash. Then it was home to watch The Avengers – don’t ask me which one; she talked through the entire movie and I’ll have to watch it again in peace.

And tomorrow school starts again.

Our Disney passes were blocked out for much of summer; the blockout ended on Friday, and I need a Disney Fix, BAD. I need to stay for the fireworks at Magic Kingdom; I haven’t done that in far too long.

My Happy Place

It says something (something awful) that I had to go way back into my photos to find a picture of the castle. No filters – the setting sun did the lighting effects.

And Today We Were Back at the Vet.

Sophie was doing much, much better: pooping normally, eating well, not so gassy since I found ways to totally eliminate chicken from her diet. (You really have no idea how hard it is to avoid poultry until you have a dog allergic to it.) Smooth sailing for about…three weeks?

Yesterday morning as I was leaving for work, I noticed Sophie doing the dreaded butt scoot – obviously something was amiss at that end. I didn’t see anything wrong in the morning, but by the time I got home, yep, one of her anal glands was red and distended. Of course the vet was closed, so I called when they opened this morning, and halleluia! They had a cancellation and were able to squeeze her in. (Heh, get it: “squeeze?” She didn’t think it was funny either.)

So the very nice young vet who looks like she’s around 19 years old but is very smart examined her, and nope, she didn’t have an impacted gland. She wasn’t sure what caused the redness and swelling, so Sophie is back on amoxicillin and pred, just in case. And I’m seriously considering launching a Go Fund Me for my dog’s ass. I do like it when she’s on amoxicillin vs. some other antibiotic, because I can get it filled for free at Publix. Today’s adventure in gross veterinary matters stayed under $100, I’m only half kidding about the Go Fund Me. She’s cost me a fortune this summer.

She wishes to lodge a complaint with the management.

I was horrified by the hairiness of my couch in this photo, and spent a chunk of my morning de-hairing it, de-spotting it, and flipping cushions around. It’ll look like the photo again by tomorrow. Then I did all the laundry, planned meals for the week, put Sophie in a chokehold (as if she hadn’t already suffered enough) for her heartworm dose, and changed the AC filter. I also woke up at 4 am for no particular reason, so I might be indulging in a glass of wine right about now.

Ugh. Still Tinkering.

I was not crazy about the last blog format; I picked a theme described as “Easy Blog” because I didn’t need a fancy header with embedded video and stuff, but it was…meh. I’m not feeling it. I need to sit down and work on this site, but this is more like the basic format I intended. I’m still not feeling it. The format is closer to what I want, but these colors aren’t working for me at ALL.

What I am feeling is TIRED. I’m not sleeping well; not sure why, but I seldom stay asleep for 7 hours lately. I’ve been running on 6-6.5 hours of sleep for a couple of weeks, and I swear I can see it in my face. The view in the office restroom under fluorescent lighting is alarming.

July is almost over, and I’m making plans for August. August is just an awful month in general: hotter than the exhaust fan at Satan’s Dry Cleaning, rainy and/or super stormy. The days are long, the bugs are fierce, there’s just nothing much to look forward to in August. So I’m setting goals and making plans.

I’m still keeping up with bullet journaling, though you’ll never see mine on Instagram. I do admire the Artsy Girls and their brush lettering and doodles, but I do wonder how much they use those pretty books for their intended purpose. I’m starting a new volume for August – I generally get about 3-4 months out of a book – and this one is going to be a bit different, because I’ve been collecting links to free inserts created by Artsy Girls for use by we who are Not. You can either splurge on some sticker paper or just cut them out with scissors and glue them in.

Lovely Planner has tons of freebies!

OMG why didn’t I think of this??!

Delaney is dancing at nationals this weekend. I’m going tomorrow afternoon to watch the group dances; it’s being held at the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Disney, which is another incentive for me to go watch in person. I’ve been driving past the Swan and Dolphin for 30 years and have never been inside.

First and Last Days of First Grade.

I think her legs doubled in length!

I’m still messing around with formatting in WordPress, which has way more bells and whistles than Blogger. Today I’m figuring out how to insert and format photos, so here are a few pics of Delaney.

My daughter took the first and last day of school photos in the same spot on campus. Can you believe how much this girl changed in a year? At this rate, she’ll be as tall as I am by 4th grade. She’s doing great. She’s smart as hell, very funny, utterly dance-obsessed, reading waaay above grade level, taught herself to write in cursive, she’s really quite a kid.

While Grandma does worry that dance takes up so much of her life at such a young age, she truly lives to dance. The hours of work those kids put in are mind-boggling, but she’s thriving on it. It requires a lot of mental discipline as well as physical talents, and as everything academic is a breeze for her, it’s good that she has something in her life that requires this much focus. And her poise and confidence in competition will serve her well in any future career. She can walk out onto a huge stage at 7 and perform a solo in front of hundreds of people and a panel of judges, and her smart, sassy personality shines through. I never could have done this at her age.

Rambling Update.

(I know, blogging gurus, I should be thinking about SEO and meta descriptions and all that “professional blogger” stuff, but this is a reincarnated blog. I’m still cleaning and painting and trying to decide furniture placement, so eff off on that stuff for now.)

So, first of all, Sophie DID have a UTI, and is back on an antibiotic, and (dare I send this out to the Universe?) she seems to be doing quite well. She’s still peeing much more often, but she’s a very, very good girl about using her potty pads while I’m at work. Everybody please cross your fingers that our months of expensive medical drama are over! (Oh shit, I just jinxed it, didn’t I?)

Meanwhile, I woke up on Monday morning – not Saturday or Sunday, when it would have made sense – with an overwhelming urge to declutter and rearrange and organize everything I own. I wanted to first bag stuff for donation, then throw away crap, then organize what’s left by color and then alphabetize it. It was a fever, and I couldn’t indulge it because I had to go to work. The fever didn’t break when I got home and I filled a big blue IKEA bag with clothing which I now realize I will never want to wear again. I’ll drop it at Goodwill on my way home tomorrow.

I am not done with this project. I recall that back on the old blog I started the year with grandiose plans to redo my home office and I’ll confess right now that I’ve accomplished exactly jack shit on that project. Time and money, always the issue/excuse. So the year is half over and I’m not where I want to be, and I know why. It has taken me a lifetime to figure out how to eat an elephant. I would look at this office/rarely used guest room, think of how I wished it looked, feel defeated, and go into another room. The year is half over. I still want a comfortable, functional home office.

So this particular elephant is being consumed in 30 minutes a day increments. I actually do set a timer for 30 minutes, which I’m free to ignore if I’m on a roll – but 30 minutes is set in stone. I’m also being much more ruthless with the “But I paid good money for that!” (I can hear my father’s voice in my head with that crap.) Yes, I did. And I either used it for a while, while it worked for me, or I decided early that it wasn’t right for me and I was too lazy to return it. So why am I hanging on to things like that now? Reminders of bad decisions past? Believe me, I have lots of those in forms that don’t take up physical space.

So my mission: 30 minutes a day. Be ruthless. Donate things that are legitimately still nice/in good shape/someone else would want/use. IKEA bags, downgraded cloth grocery bags, Amazon boxes – keep a few of these things on hand and then send them on their way when they’re full. I’m setting aside clothes that could go to consignment. If you have a neighborhood Facebook or Nextdoor group or other place to post a curb alert for plant stands and flowerpots you don’t need, just send it back into the Universe that way. And if it’s genuinely crap nobody else would ever claim, do everyone a favor and throw it the hell out already!

I’m on a mission. Sophie’s asleep on the couch. Time to start the 30 minutes for today.