Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Year, New Planner

A couple of weeks ago I saw in an Instagram post that Costco had a Happy Planner starter kit available at a good price. It may have been $24.95, I don't remember now, but the planner itself would normally cost about that much, and the kit included stickers, washi tape, and a bunch of other stuff, and weekly inserts for two years, not just one.

I had resisted starting a Happy Planner because of all the stuff that was available for it -- the aforementioned stickers, and washi tape, etc. Every photo that I saw looked so complicated (and, yes, beautiful) that it seemed to be more of a scrapbooking process than a planner.

But different planners are needed at different times. When Bob was in the hospital, the Daytimer I had at the time was absolutely essential. I wrote down everything that was said, and was able to discuss it with other doctors, or just read it myself and, later, answer Bob's questions. The problem with it, though, was that it was so big. Too big, really, to carry every day. It was fine when I was going back and forth to the hospital, but once he came home and I got back to work, I didn't want to carry it everywhere.

I used a Levenger Circa agenda for awhile, then when I started working from home I completely downsized to a Moleskine weekly diary that I could carry in my purse. I intended to do that this year, too, with the backup of a cheap agenda that I could keep on my desk for notes. Than I saw the Instagram Costco post, aka, the gateway drug.

Once I saw how much fun the Happy Planner was, I went looking for more. I discovered that they had just come out with a mini version, and that turned out to be perfect for me. It's compact enough to carry around with me -- too large, really, for a purse, but I can slip it in a tote bag or carry it in my hand, and it's fine. One of my clients gave me a Michael's gift certificate for Christmas, so I got a pretty vinyl cover for it and lots of filler paper and stickers. I was sitting in bed one night recently and Bob asked me what I was doing (I believe he said, "Are you looking at cat videos?"). I said I was looking for stickers, and he said he could honestly say that it had never occurred to him to look for stickers . . .

There's a whole sisterhood of planner addicts out there. You can buy custom covers, dividers, decorated paper, and more stickers than you can imagine. You can also download free sheets of images to print yourself on sticker paper and cut out (yes, I bought some sticker paper, but haven't used it yet).

As I've followed these planner groups on various social media avenues, I've found that a lot of them have not just one planner, but many. One for fitness, one for social media planning, one for bible study, etc. Some have as many as seven going simultaneously. I can see the appeal, because it is a lot of fun, but that would never work for me. I need to have everything in one place (as a friend said on Facebook, "There can be only one."), and I don't need to be spending that much time playing around, anyway. To be fair, though, I think that most of them are actually doing it as a job -- making YouTube videos and things like that.

For now, I'm just having fun with it, figuring out how I want it to look and to work for me. And it is a lot of fun and I guess, secondarily, functional.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

December Newsletter

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Friday, November 11, 2016

A cold and broken Hallelujah

On Tuesday I got up at 3:30 a.m. to be at the polling place by 4:15. I helped set up the voting booths, put out signs, and set up the "Poll Pads," iPads that were used to scan voters' identification cards and confirm their registration so they could vote.

The polls opened at 6:00 a.m., and there were people waiting to vote when we opened the doors. There were never any long lines, but there was a steady stream of voters throughout the day. We greeted people as they came in, and held the door for voters on crutches and using walkers. We watched people take cell phone photos of their teenage children, voting for the first time. We asked a man waring a Trump tee shirt to cover it up or turn it inside out, since no one is allowed to wear or carry any kind of political messages inside the polling place.

In the middle of the day, a woman came out of the voting booth crying, and she said through her tears, "My mother told me all my life that I could do anything I wanted, but I never thought I would get the opportunity to vote for a woman for president." I got up from my seat and hugged her, and it was all I could do not to cry with her.

The polls closed at 7:00 p.m., and by the time we had sent the runner off with the digital cards from the machines, signed the paper tapes, and packed up all of the equipment, it was 8:00 p.m., and I was worn out.

When Bob woke me up on Wednesday morning to tell me the results of the election, it felt like a bad dream. I'm still feeling a little numb. I believe that our elected officials deserve respect, whether we agree with them or not; I guess we'll see whether that holds true over the new few months and years. I have my doubts, but I hope I'm wrong.

I'm glad that I had the opportunity to participate in the election process, and happy that everything went so smoothly, at least from our perspective. I understand that the advance voting that allowed us to have virtually no lines on election day caused the system at the county election office to overload, requiring a manual recount.

The system isn't perfect.

Leonard Cohen passed away today, and everyone has been quoting his lyric, "there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." We just have to keep looking for the light.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016


It has been a challenging few months.

I was laid off in April from a job that I loved. I had described it as my dream job. It had gotten to the point where it wasn't exactly a "dream" anymore, but as dysfunctional as it was, I still felt like it was my family, and never imagined that they would throw me out like the trash. It wasn't a complete surprise, I'd been getting some rumblings that all was not well, but it definitely felt like a betrayal. In addition to losing my job, I lost some friends. It happens. I'm not sure why I thought it would never happen to me. I guess I learned that lesson.

The timing turned out to be fortuitous, though, I guess. My sister had to have cataract surgery on both eyes and couldn't drive, so I became her designated driver, taking her to eye doctor appointments, surgeries, and follow-ups over a several week period. She lives fairly far away from me, and the eye doctor was further still, but I enjoyed spending time with her, and I was glad that I was able to do it.

Right after that, my dad told us that they needed our help in figuring out what to do as far as moving into an assisted living situation. My sister and I spent a LOT of time and energy researching elder care places, and visiting the ones that seemed promising. My folks, along with my sister and my brother and his family visited the one that seemed to us to be the best (I was sick and didn't go), they made their choice to move there, and then came all of the moving stuff. And both my mom and my dad ended up in the emergency room a couple of times during that period, so there's that.

It has been a pretty rocky move. They're not really very happy there, but I know it's a HUGE traumatic event, and they're probably doing as well as could be expected, even though we didn't expect it to be so hard.

Then, one day after the move, when I was out at their old house getting something for them, I stopped at Quik Trip to get gas, and my car died and wouldn't start back up. I had to call my insurance company's "roadside assistance," and they sent out a tow truck that took me to a repair shop. They had a hard time figuring out what the problem was, but they eventually tracked it to an electrical problem that they fixed, but told me that it probably isn't completely fixed, so don't go on any long trips. And that was around $500.

During this same time period, our refrigerator started failing. Ice wasn't freezing well, and it wasn't keeping things cool enough. So we had to buy a new refrigerator. I researched that, and found the most inexpensive one I could that would do the job, and it ended up being another $500 or a little bit more. Added to all the miles that I've been driving, and all the gasoline, it's been a really expensive few months, especially since I don't have an actual job anymore.

And now Bob's car is in the shop, and we're expecting that to be a big expense. I'm hoping not, but we shall see.

I was an election worker for the Primary Election last week, which was interesting and fun, although it was a really long day. We had to be there at 5:30, and left around 8:00. I just thought it would be something kind of fun, and it was. I went to a half day training class a couple of weeks before, but I was still nervous that I wouldn't know what to do. The primary was fairly slow, which was good, since it gave me and the other new workers a chance to learn how to work the machines without there being a lot of pressure. I'm planning to work the General Election in November, which I'm sure will be MUCH more hectic.

Now that the folks are moved and fairly stable, I'm starting to focus more on getting a job. I had hoped that I could stay home, but with all the extra expenses, it hasn't worked out that way, unfortunately. But it will work out, one way or another. It always does.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ebook obsession

I read a lot of books; I'm sure that's no surprise to anyone. I read over one hundred books a year, sometimes more. This year I'm on track to read about two hundred. I don't buy physical books anymore. I really love ebooks. I remember when I had a Palm Pilot, I was thrilled to discover that you could read books on it.

Then along came the Kindle. I had one of the first ones that I eventually sold to my sister once I got an iPhone. Then I got another, better (and cheaper) Kindle, and then a Kindle Fire, and of course an iPad. Now, with the iPhone 6S, I read almost exclusively on my phone now. It's always with me. I don't have to worry if I have a book in my bag for downtime, I always have several hundred in my phone.

I read while waiting in doctors' offices, I read in line at the car wash, I read while eating in restaurants if I'm eating alone. I have felt guilty at times for buying so many ebooks, and I've gotten more picky about them lately. I subscribe to several free and discount ebook lists, and I download a lot of free and 99 cent books.

For the new release bestsellers, I usually put my name on the waiting list at the library, but I would really rather buy them. But I can wait rather than pay $15 for the ebook.

All this is leading up to the Apple pricefixing antitrust lawsuit settlement. The suit had to do with Apple allegedly conspiring with book publishers to charge artificially high prices. According to 9to5Mac, "Customers will receive $6.93 for every ebook that was a New York Times bestseller and $1.57 for every other ebook" sold by certain publishers.

So, I don't have any idea how many books I bought, but I got an Amazon credit of almost $350 in my account yesterday. So yeah, my ebook obsession actually paid off!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lifting, carrying, moving

These last few weeks have been very hard. My parents have decided to move to an assisted living complex. My sister Lynn has done most of the research, and I just show up when and where she tells me. :) She made a ton of phone calls, something that she's much better at than I am. We visited three or four places, made extensive notes, took pictures, and decided that one of them was the best--the best location, the best infrastructure, the best pricing--although "best pricing" leaves a lot to be desired. They are all extremely expensive. They are all very similar, and they are all mostly in the same price range.

My father is pretty sold on it -- since my mother's stroke a few years ago he's been doing everything, and he's pretty worn out. My mom isn't sure about it, she's changed her mind a couple of times, but we've convinced her that it needs to happen. Of course, it's stressful for everyone. They don't want to move. I had hoped that they could stay in their home, and maybe have someone come in to help them, but it's gotten to the point where that isn't really feasible.

So now we're figuring out what they want to take, what they want to keep but maybe not have there with them, what they want to get rid of. The house is full of sixty years' worth of stuff, and it's a lot. It's all so familiar, and pretty sad, but we're working through it. Lynn and I have been out there just about every day, packing things and helping Mom and Dad look through things. I've been to Home Depot a couple of times to buy boxes, and on Saturday we were packing books and hauling boxes around on a two-wheeler. I would say that I haven't worked so hard in a long time.

Yesterday I told Dad that today, Father's Day, was going to be a day of rest, and I stayed home. Bob came home from a ten day fishing trip to Minnesota, so we've been catching up on our respective weeks. On Friday I had to stay home all day to wait for an AT&T Uverse technician, so I did laundry, vacuumed, and worked out in the yard for awhile. Unfortunately, he never showed up, so that was pretty annoying, but at least I did get some things accomplished at home.

On Saturday morning I got up fairly early and went to the library to use their wifi to do a little work before I got my hair cut, then headed out to Home Depot for more boxes, then to my parents' house. Sometime while I was gone, the technician showed up, apparently, because everything was working when I got home yesterday evening. They had told me Thursday night that someone had to be here when he came, but fortunately that didn't turn out to be the case.

I'm going to start sending out an occasional newsletter. It will probably be mostly geared toward web design clients, but hopefully it will be interesting to others as well. If you would like to get on the list, you can sign up here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Perfect all the time

It's been raining here for several days, and it's depressing. The sun is out today, though, after morning rain, and while I'm sure it's crazy humid, as soon as i finish here I'm going to go out for a little while.

The last couple of weeks I've been thinking about planners again. My sister is having cataract surgery, and my parents want to find an assisted living place to move to, so since I don't have to go to a job, I've been taking my sister to her appointments, and then she and I have been visiting assisted living places, then reporting back to my parents on what we find, showing them pictures, etc. I got a little overloaded yesterday, worrying about what I'm going to do with my own situation, but I'm glad to do it, and glad that I'm able to.

I follow a bunch of "planner addicts" on Instragram, who seem to fall into a couple of camps. One group buys the big expensive commercial planners and decorates them with washi tape and stickers, and their notebooks look more like scrapbooks than planners. I understand it, but to me it seems more about making a beautiful page than about planning anything.

The other group that I follow are the bullet journal people. They use a plan or dotted journal and draw their own planner so that it can be exactly what they want or need. I'm kind of drawn to this--there are some beautiful examples out there--but again, I'm sure that while they are functional, most of the buzz seems to be about creating a beautiful page rather than doing any actual planning.

So anyway, the point is, the planner I was using, the Levenger Circa compact daily diary, wasn't working. When the planner is open, the left-hand side is hourly for appointments, and the right-hand side has two columns for tasks, or it can be used for journaling or note taking. But there is no place where you can see more than one day at a time. With all of the appointments that I have going on right now, I needed something different.

I was in Staples one day last week picking up some address labels for a job I'm doing, and wandered through the Moleskine aisle. The 2016 planners were on clearance, so I bought a pocket size soft cover weekly one, and I love it. It's perfect for what I need now. The left-hand side is broken down into the days of the week, and the right-hand side is ruled for note taking. I put in all the appointments on the left side, and the right side is for my notes--this week it's notes about assisted living places--contact person, phone number, location, how much they cost, what they offer, etc. Sometime in the next couple of days I need to make a spreadsheet with all of the information so we're comparing apples to apples.

There's just something about a Moleskine that makes me happy. I love the cream colored paper, for one thing. I just like it so much more than bright white. There's a pocket in back that I'm using to hold business cards until I sit down and put them into my contacts, and an elastic band to keep it together in my purse. And I'm using some of those stickers and washi tapes that I bought when I thought I was going to do the whole hog decorated planner route ...

I always want my planner to be all things to me, to hold everything, and be perfect. But what I'm coming to realize is that there isn't one thing that's perfect all the time. When I was working at my job, the big daily planner was great to record notes, phone calls, etc. Now that I'm working from home, I was finding that the wall calendar next to me was fine to record appointments, and a plain notebook beside me to record time was working fine.

But these last two weeks full of appointments and information needed something else, and this pocket-size planner is working perfectly. It may be something else next month, and that's okay.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Figuring it out

For a couple of weeks or so, I was VERY busy in my web design work, I put three new sites live, and all of my clients were very happy with their sites, and I was thinking that things would just continue to go on that way without having to do much of anything, but this week I have no billable work to do, and I've started waking up in the middle of the night again and going over the bills I have to pay and the money that I have coming in, and it's scary.

I've kept busy -- I baked yesterday, and I've planted flowers, and filled up the birdfeeders, and I've been learning Zentangle. We've been helping our parents figure out what they want to do about moving to assisted living. My sister is having cataract surgery tomorrow, which sets off a whole string of follow up appointments and then the other eye, and I'm going to be helping her with that.

I'm glad that I have the time to help my family, and I'm glad that I have the time to do some things around the house like the baking and the flowers, but I need to have work, and it would be great if I could do both, i.e., stay home and do the fun home stuff and also do the fun work stuff. Because it is fun, to me. That's why I started doing it, because I loved it, and I loved my job. But things change, and in order to make a living doing what I love, I'm going to have to do the work myself.

My portfolio needs to be the opening page of my site, not just a sideline (it was a sideline, of sorts, but no more), and I need to redesign it instead of using a standard Blogger template with a few changes. I'm going to have to hustle for clients, rather than waiting for them to come to me. Because they have come to me, but I can't count on that. I'm going to have to hustle, I'm going to have to actually do the work of marketing myself, which I haven't ever really done, because I hate that part. I love doing the work, and I love helping people get a website online, but if I could skip the sales part, I would.

Bob's the salesperson, and he loves sales, and he's great at it. He said what I need to do is go door to door to small businesses in town and talk to them. Oh man, I just don't think I can do that. It's hard enough, always, to email current clients and suggest updates or ask if they have any work they need done. Sometimes they do, which is nice, sometimes they don't, which is fine, sometimes they completely ignore me. Oh well.

Here's my plan -- you're supposed to put them in writing, right? By the end of May I'm going to have my plan figured out, have my website updated, have new business cards, maybe postcards, maybe Facebook advertising, something like that to grow my business. Then the month of June will be to get the ads placed, get the postcards sent, whatever I decide I need to do.

The first thing on my to-do list today, though, is to go get coffee.

Monday, May 09, 2016

A case of the Mondays

I'm trying hard to be positive about everything, and I mostly am, but today was hard. I went out to my parents' house yesterday for Mother's Day, and while they're doing pretty well, we've started talking about finding a place for them where my dad won't have to worok so hard, and they won't have to be so afraid of falling, and where he doesn't have to worry about getting Mom down the steps and into the car if she needs to go to the doctor.

And there is worry for my/our future as well. I was actually laid off from my job in April, it wasn't a choice that I made myself, so I've been having to scramble around and figure things out. I do have a lot of freelance clients and I'm trying/hoping to increase that business enough that I can work from home, and I think I can, but it's scary.

Today was hard, I'm not sure why. Maybe just because it was Monday.

I worked, and I went out for awhile and got a few groceries, then came home and sat out in the backyard with a book and a pre-made Margarita. Our neighbors were sitting out in their yard, too, listening to the baseball game. I couldn't see them through the fence, but could hear the radio, and it was really nice. I'm a little embarrassed about the state of the yard, but oh well. I bought a lot of flowers and planted them in pots, and that will do for this year. I'm not much of a gardener, but I thought since I'm home this Spring, I wanted flowers. And now I'm crying again, and I don't know why. Just stress, I guess. Just Monday.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

One thing every day

On Bob's days off during the week, he would always call me and tell me what he did around the house, like unloading and loading the dishwasher, doing laundry, vacuuming, etc. I'd always tell him thank you, but you don't have to do all that stuff, it's your day off!

But now that I'm working from home, I understand his motivation. I don't want him to think I'm slacking off, laying around all day reading or playing games on the phone. So when he comes home I give him a rundown, too. Yesterday I did laundry, ran the dishwasher, paid bills, went through another box that I brought home from work, and threw away a bunch of stuff. Then I went to the grocery store to get cheese to make cheese bread. I intended to mix it up last night to bake today, but I didn't. Tonight, maybe.

This morning I ran out and got potting soil so I could plant the begonias that I bought at the grocery store yesterday, and then I had an appointment with a recruiter in the afternoon.

My plan is to do at least one thing every day that moves my business forward. Yesterday I emailed some clients that I hadn't done work for in awhile, and a couple of them wrote back that yes, they did need site updates, and would get back to me soon. I also got a new client out of the blue,* by word-of-mouth recommendation, so Monday ended on a good note, and today I got a maintenance client by posting my info in a Facebook thread.

It's a start.

*I have to post this quote, because it made me so happy. She said, "you’ve come so highly recommended that I’m just thrilled that you have time for me."

Monday, May 02, 2016

Learning something new

A couple of years ago I saw something called Zentangle©, and I was fascinated. But it looked complicated, and I never pursued it.

Then in April I saw an Instagram tag The100dayproject, and it struck me that that would be a good way to get into Zentangle. So I bought the recommended (Sigma Micron) pens and some cardstock, got some books from the library, and started.

There are official Zentangle Tiles, and I have some, but it's like I don't want to waste them. Which I know is stupid, but I didn't have very many. I just ordered some more, so this week I'll probably use them.

The Zentangle process is interesting in that it isn't just doodling, as it may at first appear. There is a definite structure. There is an official size tile (3-1/2 x 3-1/2), official "tangles," i.e., patterns, all with names, and a very definite way of doing things. At first, it seems restrictive, but I've found in this and in other things that there is freedom in structure. If everything is just open-ended, it's hard to know where to start. The blank page is intimidating. So with Zentangle, you take a tile, mark a loose square on it with pencil, make what is called a "string," which separates the square into random sections, and start making your patterns. Once you have filled the tile with patterns, you can go back and shade it with a pencil to add some dimension to it. It is always non-representational.

If you venture out of the prescribed method, you are making Zentangle-inspired art, or ZIA, and if you "tangle" on greeting cards or other media, or do something like a portrait, that's what you're making.

There is also a meditative aspect to it. The method is to follow a prescribed set of steps each morning to create your tile, which puts you in a creative frame of mind for the rest of the day. I've found this to actually be true.

I consider myself creative in that I make things like jewelry, I can sew and knit, but I've never been able to sit down and draw something, and I've always wanted to. Zentangle looks complicated, but by following the prescribed method and studying the process, anyone can do it, like they say, "Anything is Possible One Stroke at a Time".

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Currently I am

In an effort to journal more, I was looking at journaling and list-making prompts and saw a bunch of interesting ones, so I think I'll try that for a few days. Here's the first one, a snapshot of what's going on my life right now. (Adapted from an idea on One Velvet Morning a few years ago.)

Currently, I am:

  • Reading "Chaos Choreography: an InCryptid Novel" by Seanan McGuire
  • Playing Neko Atsume (iPhone pseudo-game)
  • Watching "Bosch" on Amazon Prime Video - Series based on Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch police procedural mysteries
  • Listening to "Once a Crooked Man," by David McCallum - audio version read by the author (and it's quite wonderful)
  • Trying to win the lottery (Okay, not true. Bob is trying to win the lottery, always.)
  • Cooking (Baking) Artisan bread
  • Eating Panera Bacon Turkey Bravo (half sandwich left over from last night's dinner) and Cheetos Mix-Ups, Xtra Cheesy Mix
  • Drinking Scooter's Mocha Blender, extra shot of espresso, no whip
  • Pinning Bread recipes
  • Tweeting Nothing. I hate Twitter.
  • Knitting Studio Cowl from Ravelry
  • Sewing nothing at the moment, but did fix a pocket on one of Bob's work shirts last night
  • Doing nothing.
  • Going nowhere.
  • Loving Vera Bradley's Petite Red Bandanna Paisley print
  • Hating the current usage of "ask" as a noun, i.e., "List the client asks"
  • Discovering that I enjoy making bread
  • Enjoying the beautiful Spring weather that came early this year
  • Thinking about
  • Feeling slightly guilty about my huge sock yarn stash
  • Hoping we win the lottery
  • Celebrating winning the lottery (in my dreams)
  • Smelling bacon being cooked in the restaurant next door
  • Thanking Bob, for buying me Cheetos Mix-Ups at the store last night
  • Considering ordering some fancy printed Post-it flags from Amazon
  • Finishing basically nothing. Second sock syndrome.
  • Starting making notes for a possible new book
  • Wishing for KnitPicks Options Short Interchangeable Needle Set. Oh, what the heck. I went to the site to get that link, and they were having a sale, so I ordered them. You only live once, right?
  • Looking forward to upgrading my iPhone in April
  • Wondering why my stomach is always upset. Stress? Gallbladder-less-ness? Lactose intolerance? It's a mystery.
  • Making me happy right now Cheetos Mix-Ups. :)

Planner Angst

I'm having some real planner angst this year. I don't remember ever having this much trouble. I think it's because I'm walking so much farther to work now. Just three blocks, but I used to be able to get out of my car and walk about a car length to the door, so it didn't matter how much I carried. Now I'm much more aware of it.

I started out with my big leather zippered Franklin Planner that I used last year, but it's just too heavy to carry around all the time. And whatever I'm using, I want to carry it around all the time. So I ordered an open binder, same size, and after a couple of weeks I felt the same way about it, just way overkill, too much, too heavy.

So I tried a smaller planner, the "compact" size I think it was, and I tried a one page a day layout instead of the two-page, and it was sort of okay, but just not enough room to write. I've always used the two page a day version, with an hourly schedule and a to-do list on the left, and a completely blank (lined) page on the right for notes and journal. So one lined page wasn't really doing it, and there was no dedicated to-do or appointments section, so everything was just one big, crowded page.

So next I tried going to a blank notebook -- a Levenger Circa notebook -- for a couple of weeks. I love the Circa system, with the discs instead of rings, and I love the Levenger paper. I enjoyed the blank pages, but I felt like I had no structure at all. I started getting really anxious about it. I think one of my problems is that I started following a bunch of "planner addicts" on Instagram, with all of the Happy Planner stuff, etc., and stickers and colored pens and flags and tabs, and I liked it, but it's just like WAY too much pressure. They are beautiful, but for me personally, I don't want to spend my time decorating pages, I just need a place to write everything down. If it's cute, it's a bonus, but I tend to get tired of any kind of decorative stuff, so really, plain pages are better for me.

There is also a lot of chatter about bullet journals. I was tempted, and almost bought a dotted Moleskine, but rationality prevailed and I put it back, knowing myself, and knowing that I wouldn't keep it up. I don't want to have to create the framework, I want it already created. And I know that I'm not creative that way, i.e., I would put way too much pressure on myself to be perfect, and it wouldn't work out, and I would abandon it.

For awhile I was considering looking at spiral-bound planners just so I had a whole monthly spread, but that was making me anxious, too. I was going to go to Barnes & Noble and see if the calendars were on sale, and if they had any left. But I've looked before, and never really found anything I loved. Although if I got something that cost $5 and ended up not using it, it wouldn't be that much of a loss.

After a lot of soul searching (you would think we were talking about world peace or global warming or something, not just a place to write stuff down), I finally decided to pull the trigger and buy the Levenger Circa Smartplanner System for 2016. It's not perfect, but maybe nothing is. The layout is one week on two pages -- the lefthand side is boxes for the days; the righthand side has Weekly To Do, Weekly Goals, and a half page blank space titled "Notes." And the beauty of the Circa system is that if I need/want to write more, I can just insert a blank lined page.

I also got a pretty cover to replace the plastic ones. It was ridiculously expensive, but all the Levenger products are. They are great quality, though. I love their paper.

So far I'm liking it. The daily boxes are pretty small, but I think it will work. My system is evolving -- in the daily boxes I put events like birthdays, holidays, vacation days, anniversary days, etc., along with any appointments, along with reminders of things that absolutely have to be done on, or by, that particular day, such as paying bills, making phone calls, etc. Normally, i.e., with a Daytimer type of planner, I would write a daily to-do list, and anything that didn't get done that day would be moved/repeated on the next day. I kind of like that, but what I'm doing now is going with the Weekly ToDo, and it seems to be working okay, particularly because it is visible on the same spread as the daily reminders.

I haven't used, or figured out how to use, the "Weekly Goals" column. I'm just using it as another place for notes or lists. The open "Notes" area isn't really very big, but it's working okay, and like I said, I can slip in an extra blank page if I need to.

I also need to come to grips with the fact that I don't have to carry everything around in written form all the time, since I do have a phone that contains my contacts, several list and journaling apps, i.e., plenty of places to record things. It still kind of makes me nervous, though.

Just the latest iteration of my ever-evolving planner saga ...

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Year Ahead - 2016

Overall Theme for the Year: Six of Pentacles.

This card fell out of the deck as I was getting ready to do the reading, and I always pay attention when that happens.

The card shows a merchant handing coins to a beggar, with another waiting to receive his own. The merchant holds a scale. This card can represent charity, as in offering help to those who need it, or can indicate receiving charity or help. Can symbolize a willingness to ask for help -- emotional or physical as well as monetary, or the need to take actions that allow help to come to you. Generosity.

January: The Devil

As I started shuffling the cards, I saw that I had left The Devil card in the tin. While I would normally use the same logic that I applied to the Six of Pentacles, in this case I didn't want to give The Devil any extra focus. However, after I picked up the card and shuffled it back into the deck, I ended up picking it first anyway. So it must be important.

The Devil can represent situations that are unhealthy or unproductive, negativity, self doubt, obsessive thought, ignorance. Illusions, mistakes, lies, the absence of light. Clinging to people or situations that can harm or chain us. The beings at the foot of the devil are chained, but the chains are loose, and it appears that they could escape if they wanted to. So it can also represent the liberation of the imprisoned spirit. The absence of light indicates that there is light elsewhere. We can free ourselves from our obsessive thoughts and find the light again if we choose.

Cards are from the Smith-Waite Centennial Tarot Deck.

Word for the Year

For the last couple of years I've joined the group of people who choose a word to guide their year, going through Susannah Conway's Find Your Word course. Two years ago my word was "Believe," and I chose to apply it to believing in myself, believing that I could be successful in my various businesses and in my life, and I think it helped. I kept the word in front of me and tried to keep it in mind as I went through the year.

Last year, I had a hard time choosing a word, and ended up with "Shine." I thought that I would devote the year to being a shining person, to being the kind of person who makes others happy, who lights up the room. I wasn't totally convinced of it, but then, in the first week of January, Bob collapsed with an aortic aneurysm and ended up in the hospital for almost two months. "Shine" kind of went out the window and I was back to Believe -- believing that he would recover and come back to me, and he did. He "believes" that the reason he survived was because of my "belief" that he wouldn't die. I'm not sure about that, but whatever we did worked, and "Believe" served me well.

There are some things in my life that I need to let go of and move beyond. So I thought maybe "Release" would be a good word for this year for many reasons. Release the thoughts that keep you tied down, release the obsessive and oppressive thoughts, just let it all go. Or maybe "Breathe," something that I have to remind myself to do quite often. Then I thought, "Grace," and I knew that was it.

Grace has always been a quality that I have tried to emulate, but perhaps not very well recently. So, Grace. Not as in graceful, although I could use that reminder, too. But more grace-full, i.e., full of grace. A little card that I keep in my planner -- and have no idea where it came from -- reads, "In matters of higher feelings and attributes, including mind and moral character, the person who relies on his heart achieves grace.

I kind of think that it goes along with the January card -- The Devil -- and Release as well, as far as letting go of the chains and thoughts that keep you from achieving grace. To let it go, to live my life in a manner that lets me, and everyone that I come in contact with, to soar. Another good word. But this year, it's Grace.

Bob and I were both off Thursday through Sunday for the New Year, and it was a wonderful break. We didn't really do anything, just hung around the house, ate good food, had some conversations, read books, watched movies, just had a really quiet and peaceful start to the year. Exactly what we wanted and needed.