Seven-ish month check-in

When I look back at the Three Month Check-in post I have to kind of laugh at the "At this point, I think we're expecting at least 3-4 more weeks of working from home." sentence as I sit here at FOUR AND A HALF MONTHS after the shut down, still working from home. And there doesn't seem to be much of a chance that will change in the near future since Texas is one of the current coronavirus hot zones right now. The dean of my college at the university sent out an email a couple of weeks ago that basically told us to keep working from home through the fall if we can and since we don't have visitors, star parties, and field trips, I can and will. But I am hoping to go up a couple of afternoons a week to work on the lab classroom that I'm in charge of since this is the best time to finally clean out old equipment and get our demo stuff in order since no one else can use the room.

This continues to feel like some weird time-warp since almost everything I wrote three months ago is still pretty much how things are going. I haven't lost any weight - in fact, I gained a couple of pounds since I'm still not getting enough exercise. Now the weather is too hot instead of too wet and we had a bonus Saharan dust influx, which my lungs can't handle. Although I have been regularly getting in some arm weight exercises! I'm also still keeping up with the Shakespeare 2020 Project and I'm still getting in some more stitching time! I haven't done quite as much stitching in the past few months since I actually did some work on my Tudor History website. (My webhost is moving to new servers and so I had to do some work regardless because things would break if I didn't!)

I've been on a "cooking things from scratch" kick for the past few weeks and have learned to make my own tzatziki after I discovered that my grocery store has gyro meat in the frozen foods section. Not as good as fresh from the Greek deli, but not bad at all! I also made a pot of Boston baked beans a couple of weeks ago to finally break in my Dutch oven that I bought for myself at the holidays. Of course, I picked a day that would get up to 106°F to cook beans in the oven all day... Next up will be some homemade charro beans and the restaurant-style Mexican rice that I like (I've done that one several times now, but not with my new Dutch oven!). And probably some cook-all-day marinara too. I kind of wish this had come over me earlier in the stay-at-home time when it wasn't so damn hot!

That's it for now. I hope anyone who stumbles across this is doing well and staying safe!

Three month check-in

Huh, yeah, so my life and pretty much everyone else's has now gone off the rails!

February ended up being just as busy as I had expected and that continued on into the first two weeks of March. We had our faculty candidate visits, our board meeting, and our grad student recruiting and then the university closed on March 13 when the first cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed in Austin. Most of us have been working from home since, although I've popped up to campus a couple of time to grab things. I was lucky that I was pretty much ready to go with a set up for working from home - probably a sad statement on my life choices - since I have had to occasionally do some work while home on staycations.

Not surprisingly, with all of the free food around during all of our events, I have not been able to sustain any weight loss over the past two months. And I don't expect to really lose any while working from home. I'm actually mostly okay with that, as long as I don't have a huge gain. I'm not getting as much walking and stair climbing in right now, mostly because the weather hasn't been very cooperative (not really a complaint - we've gotten some much-needed rain). I also haven't been checking my blood pressure as frequently as I should, but when I have checked, the numbers were pretty good.

But the good things - I've been keeping up with the Shakespeare 2020 project! I can stay up later reading since I don't have to get up as early to get ready for work and drive in. And I've gotten quite a bit more stitching done, not surprisingly. More on that over on Lara's Loose Threads soon!

I keep thinking that I should write some about what it's like to be living through this time, but the main thing I keep thinking is just how WEIRD it all feels. I was shopping in the grocery store on March 10 when things were really starting to get... "interesting" and they were already starting to sell out of some things and limit purchases on items and while I was standing in line to check out, I was reading the news on my phone. And for one brief moment I had a wave come over me where I honestly felt like I was in the first 20 minutes of a post-apocalyptic movie (or the first episode of a post-apocalyptic TV show) as things are *just* starting to tip. I did a little shopping last week and it was just surreal going through a store with a bunch of empty shelves and few people, some already wearing masks. I'm probably going to head to the grocery store later this week and this time I'll be wearing some sort of face covering too.

At this point, I think we're expecting at least 3-4 more weeks of working from home. I'm not really stir crazy yet since I've been working and chatting with people over Slack, Zoom, etc. but I think even I will have a breaking point eventually. I may be a homebody introvert, but even introverts need some in-person interaction with friends and family! With some good alone time to recover after. :)

One month check-in!

I have no idea if I'll actually be able to keep up with these (I'm almost certain I won't be able to at the end of February/early March), but I'll try!

Here's where I am so far:

* Did Dry January! (like I mentioned before, not really that hard for me these days...)

* Down a few pounds - always hard for me to tell a few pounds difference thanks to my water weight fluctuations due to a medication

* Measured my blood pressure four times this month, which was almost once a week

* I kept forgetting to do my arm exercises, so I only did a few. Still need to figure out a good time to work those into my schedule

* About half way through my "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy" course (which has been really interesting)

* Finished the first section of the Wonders of Space stitchalong and another small project

* On track for the Shakespeare 2020 Project

All-in-all, so far so good!

Welcome 2020!

Time for my annual blog post! Yeah, I probably should make a goal to post more - which I probably will, but mostly over on my needlework blog.

Looking back at the goals for 2019 and how I did on those:

Health goals - I *did* finally get an eye exam and my first pair of prescription glasses! And I did dry January, which really isn't all that hard for me anymore. As for the rest... kind of... meh. I didn't lose 15 more pounds and unfortunately I regained some of what I had lost in 2018 and ended 2019 about 5 pounds higher than where I started it. I'm still under my highest-ever weight though, so at least there's that. I did get at least 5,000 steps a lot of days, but that is one of the knock-on effects of being busy at work and doing a lot of running around! I was horribly inconsistent about measuring my blood pressure and doing some arm exercises. I think part of the problem with the exercises at least is finding the optimal time to work it into my schedule since trying to remember to do them when I got home from work hasn't been working. I'm thinking maybe adding them to my morning routine might be the best bet, but that might run into trouble with when I usually measure my blood pressure. But it might be worth giving it a shot in the new year.

Home, digital, and financial goals - Mixed bag, again. I did actually update all my passwords on my digital accounts, added 2FA where I could, and even closed some accounts (I really wish this was easier to do!). I didn't buy a new car in 2019 and I did finish the year with less debt than I started with, but not by as much as I would have liked. I also did get started on organizing my digital photos but I haven't managed to get them uploaded to Flickr. I also didn't get stuff over to Half Price, etc. and I still have some repairs that I need my complex to come do.

Entertainment - Because Disney+ ended up launching later in the year that I originally thought, I didn't get a chance to start into watching Star Wars Clone Wars and Rebels until fairly late. And I ended up not reading many of the backlogged Star Wars comics and books (although I did read some - just not many). So basically the second half of November and December ended up being the "month and a half" of Star Wars (and course seeing Episode IX twice in the theaters)! I keep poking along and reading through my backlog of comics but there are still lots left. I also managed to meet my Goodreads goal of 25 books, including some re-reads and some comics volumes. I did have some spurts or more cooking and stitching too, but it would have probably been better for me overall if I had done both with a little more regularity. I'll post a bit about the stitching in 2019 over on Lara's Loose Threads.

And I did manage to write a little something down in the day planner everyday, which proved to be pretty helpful in writing up this re-cap of the year! I bought another one while I was out running errands a couple of days ago so I can do it again for 2020. And I did take a few days off here and there in the fall after having to take off nearly half the summer so I wouldn't lose vacation time.

Goals for 2020!

Looking back at the past few years and things that I've done well with and... not so well with... I think I need to get back to setting more clearly defined and measurable goals. So with that in mind:

Health - Since 2020 is a nice round number, I'm setting the goal of being down at least 20 pounds by the end of the year. With my weight creeping back up and my clothes getting tighter, I'm getting back to the "lose weight or buy more clothes" area and I'm really too cheap to buy a bunch more clothes (although I really do need to get a few more pairs of blue jeans since spots are wearing thin on the two pair I'm currently wearing to death). And I wrote it that way on purpose since a couple of years ago I did lose the 15 pounds I wanted to, but then re-gained 5 of them by the end of the year. And I'm going to measure my blood pressure at least once a week. I probably should do it a bit more, but I think weekly is doable. I'm also going to do Dry January again, but that is the one thing that I'm actually quite good at doing. Since I'm going to monitor my calories closely to lose weight, I'm likely going to be going back to just having the occasional beer, wine, or cider when I'm out, but not keeping bottle of wine, etc. at home. As much as I love those things, they are a very easy way to consume too many calories. Once in a while when I'm out with friends or family is fine - or at my Happy Place, the Alamo Drafthouse - but that's about it. And finally, I'm going to try to get back into regularly doing some small weight exercises for my arms. As I mentioned above, finding a better time to work it into my routine is probably the key. I'm going to aim for doing them 5 times a week, at least.

Home, digital, and financial - Yeah, I still need to get some repairs done around the apartment and I still need to take stuff to Half Price, etc. so maybe 2020 will be the year those things finally happen. And I'm going to keep working on organizing and posting my digital photos. If nothing else, I'd like to get them organized and uploaded to where I'm backing them up in the cloud, but maybe I'll actually add a few things to Flickr this year! I have TONS of stuff that hasn't made it there yet that I'd really like to share. For financial goals - again, end the year with less debt than I started with. That's going to continue to depend on how much longer my car holds out, but if I can make it to mid-2021 I'll be in better shape financially to buy a new car. (Technically I could do it now, but the longer I can go the better loans I'll get!). I've also made some gradual improvements in the past few years of controlling my impulse purchased and scaling back the things I buy for my collections. I probably should be more in the "getting rid of things" mode instead of "acquiring things" mode anyway since my little apartment just can't hold all my nicknacks!


Entertainment - One well-defined goal for the new year is to complete Ian Doescher's (of William Shakespeare's Star Wars fame) Shakespeare 2020 Project. I tried to read or watch productions of all of the plays and sonnets between 2014 and 2016 (the 450th anniversary of the Bard's birth and 400th anniversary of his death), but didn't make it, so I thought maybe I would succeed with a little peer pressure. (And for the record, in 2015 I did visit Stratford-upon-Avon for the second time, so that should count for something). I'm going to set my Goodreads goal for 30 this year and not include the Shakespeare unless I finish the challenge, in which case I'll pick a Complete Works to count as read. And I do have the sonnets as a separate book (purchased in Stratford!) so maybe I'll count that too. :) I'm also going to keep ploughing through the backlog of comic books. 2020 almost certainly won't be the year I get caught up, but I can at least make a dent! One other entertainment thing I'm going to start in 2020 is making my way through the 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die list. I don't plan to try to finish it for a few years, but I want to start on it finally! And of course, I'm going to keep working more cooking and stitching into my routine. I've signed up for a Wonders of Space stitch-along in 2020 so my one firm goal is to have it finished by the end of the year. And to keep me company while I'm stitching, I'm also slowly making my way through all of Disney's animated features. While I was looking through the list of the movies I realized that there are SO MANY I haven't seen from the past few decades. I mostly watched the older things while I was a kid and then never saw most of the new ones as they came out.


And I'm going to throw in a few more vague things - I think the key to getting some of these other goals done is actually in my brain, so I'm going to work on that a little too. I've tried it learn to mediate a couple of times and I haven't kept with it, so I'm going to try a little different approach. Audible had a 2-for-1 credit sale at the end of 2019 and I got two Great Courses - one on "Practicing Mindfulness" and one on "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy" and I'm going to listen to one lesson a night (outside of days that I have other evening commitments). I think I can learn a few things in those that will better help me with some of these other goals. Or at least that's my hope! And one of the other vague things I'm going to try in 2020 is to not get too discouraged with things either in the greater world or in my own life. I know it's going to be a busy year at work and heavily front-loaded, so if I can maintain goals through to the end of March then I'll really have no excuse for falling off later in the year.

Whew - I didn't think this was going to end up being such a long post! Okay, let's get started with 2020!

Happy New Year!

Welcome 2019! While I can't say that 2018 was a cakewalk, at least compared to other recent years it wasn't all bad. (Some of the bad things in 2018 I just think of as continuations of bad things that happened a few years ago... namely in or around November 2016).

Time to check in on how I did on my goals from last year!

Health goals:
Another successful Dry January (these actually seem to get easier the older I get). On exercise - I did pretty good on the arm exercises for about 1/3 of the year (January, February, June, and parts of March and July) and I got 5000 steps in more often than not. I also naturally get a lot of stair climbing in at work, so that helps. And I did actually lose 15 lbs so that realistic goal was actually pretty spot-on! I gained a few pounds back at the end of the year, but still ended up at an overall loss for the year so I count that as a win. I didn't monitor my blood pressure as regularly as I should have, but for the most part it's been good (losing weight certainly helps!). I still didn't get an eye exam, but I did sign up for the vision insurance at the annual enrollment in 2018 so I at least made movement towards getting it done.

Home stuff:
Still some things that need tending to at the apartment that I haven't put in work orders for, but the big thing this year was that they finally replaced my air conditioner! I can't believe how much my electricity bills dropped after that... I also still need to take some stuff to Half Price and the creative reuse place. I did get a batch of stuff out to the charity shops though, but there is still more! And although I didn't put it down as a specific goal, I did finally put some shelving in my storage space and organized it a little better.

Digital stuff:
I'm still working on updating old passwords and clearing out old accounts and adding 2FA, but I did get quite a bit done. It's just that I have a lot of old accounts around! (And who knows how many more may be out there from the days before I started using 1Password).

Financial goals:
I ended the year with less debt than I started it with, so that's always good! I did reduce my monthly bills, especially right at the end of the year when I finally dumped my old cable/internet/phone plan and switched over to AT&T fiber internet which they installed in our complex over the summer. I'm not quite sure how much I'm going to save yet, but I know it will be cheaper than what I was paying. And oh sooooo much faster! I also did pretty good on reducing the impulse shopping, but I still could use a little more will power in that arena.

Entertainment:
I set my Goodreads goal for 20 books since I was planning to clear out a huge backlog of other things and I did meet that goal (actually went over by a couple). And on the backlog - I completely caught up on reading BBC History magazine, cleared out the podcast backlog, and finally watched all of those final seasons of TV shows that I hadn't gotten around to. (Pro tip - watching a bunch of series finales in a short amount of time is a great way to put yourself through the emotional wringer). I didn't listen to the few non-Audible audiobooks, but I did mostly catch up on the backlog of most of the YouTube shows I subscribe to. (There are still a couple that I didn't finish.) About the only thing I didn't really make a dent in is all of the games in my Steam library and on my iPad. And I still have a bunch of unread comic books but I keep chipping away at the pile.

So, all-in-all, I'm pretty happy with the stuff I managed to accomplish in 2018!

Now, on to the goals for 2019!

Health goals:
Pretty much the same - Dry January, continue to monitor blood pressure, try for semi-regular arm exercises and step count goals and keep losing weight. If I could lose another 15 by the end of the year (for a total of 30 from the high that I started from on June 1, 2018), that would be good. I'd be happier with even more if I could actually keep it off! And I WILL get an eye exam this year!

Home, digital, and financial:
Again, pretty much the same - get some lingering small repairs done, take stuff to Half Price, continue updating old digital accounts, and finish the year with less debt than I started with. (One possible exception to this last one will be if I end up buying a new car in 2019 - that will mostly depend on how long my current car holds out.) One new thing I'm going to add is to finally take a serious stab at properly organizing my digital photos and uploading more to Flickr.

Entertainment:
I set my Goodreads challenge to 25 this year since I'll probably get more audiobook listening in. And overall I've decided this will be the year of Star Wars! Since Episode IX will be coming out this year, I figured it would be a good time to finally catch up with some unread expanded universe books (both new stuff and a few older, now non-canon, things), comic series, and the Clone Wars and Rebels animated series. And I'm going to continue chipping away at my comics backlog (which includes a fair amount of Star Wars, so that will cross off two things at once). I also hope to get back into stitching and cooking a bit more, which I had kind of started to do in the latter half of 2018. Now I've got to keep it going!

I got a nice paper daily calendar/journal from a co-worker for Christmas so I'm going to write down some of these things as I do them, even though most of them are also recorded digitally in a variety of places. But it will be kind of nice to have it all in one physical place as well. I anticipate a very busy year at work, so balancing all of the above things with that work is going to be tricky. I earn a whole lot of vacation time now because I've been at UT for so long, so I need to try to start taking the occasional day off here and there more instead of trying for larger chunks (which can be quite impractical in my current job). Although some of those individual days are hard to do too sometimes!

Those are the main things I can think of right now so.... 2019 - let's do this!

Goals for 2018! (And a recap of how 2017 went...)

Happy New Year! Time to check in on how I did with my goals for 2017 and set some goals for 2018.

Recap of 2017, starting out with the things I did well on -

* Writing a little about each day in my notebook - check! I actually did it! I had to catch up a day late every once in a while since I had a number of long work days last year (in addition to the usual Wednesday nights), but I did actually write something for every day. Given what a ridiculous year it was (both in the world at large and for me personally), it will be interesting to go back and read some of it in the future. Among other things I ended up doing in 2017 that I never imagined I would - attended the Women's March and the March for Science. Never attended an organized march in my life and then I go to two in 2017!

* Read 30 books for my Goodreads Challenge - check! Actually made it to 31 by the end of the year.

* Yes, I did get a haircut. Two of them actually. :)

* Dry January - check!

Now for the ones I did moderately well on or totally bombed -

* Digital security improvements - I did make some progress on this, but I still have some duplicate and old (weak-ish) passwords that need updating and there are still some things I need to add 2FA to.

* Health things - a had some stretches where I did eat much better and even managed to lose some weight... before blowing it all in the last month of the year. I was on and off with monitoring my blood pressure too, but for the most part it's been pretty good. I did okay with walking more, but that was mostly just a side-effect of how busy work was last year! I didn't get an eye exam, but I did get an abdominal scan which confirmed what I already was pretty sure of - I have gall stones and will need to eventually get my gall bladder removed. But as long as I'm eating moderately well and not drinking too much, I haven't had too many twinges (and I have never had a full-blown "oh my god I think I'm dying!" attack). I also didn't do too hot on the regular arm and core exercises.

* Clearing stuff out of the apartment - I didn't get stuff to Half Price, but I did do a thorough clear-out and reorganization and did take some stuff to charity shops.

* More stitching - nope. I think I did *some* stitching earlier in the year, but not much. Although I did build some 3-D puzzles and Lego kits, so at least I did have an outlet for making things in 2017!


And now for 2018!

A lot of these are going to be re-dos of the things I didn't do in 2017 since they are things I really do need to accomplish! The overall theme for 2018 is going to be "clearing out the backlog" - whether it applies to digital and physical stuff, health, and money (i.e. debt).

* Health goals - Dry January again (pretty good track record on this one). Really get an eye exam this year. Eat better and actually try to lose a quantifiable number of pounds - realistically 15 lbs, but ambitiously 30 lbs. Tone some of the flab - arm and core exercises and get more cardio. My lungs have always been problematic, but I really shouldn't be huffing and puffing after a couple of flights of stairs. Keep monitoring my blood pressure regularly.

* Goodreads Challenge - I set the goal for only 20 books this year because the other entertainment backlogs will probably steal some of my reading (and audiobook listening) time. But some of the backlog is still comic books so if I count collected volumes again I might blow past 20 pretty easily so I might up the goal at the mid-point of the year.

* Home stuff - take books to Half Price and more stuff to charity shops/freecycle. Finally get a few minor repairs done that I've been lazy about putting in work requests for.

* Digital security - continue updating old passwords and continue to add two-factor authentication where possible.

* Financial - A couple of years ago I made a big step towards getting a lot of my debt paid and I'm continuing to work on that. But I need to cut back on the monthly expenses, including impulse shopping. It's amazing how 2-day shipping is as bad as walking into a store!

* Media backlog - back issues of BBC History Magazine, comic books, non-Audible audiobooks, back catalog on a couple of podcasts, YouTube channels (including the only four Crash Course subjects I haven't watched yet), final seasons of a surprisingly large number of TV shows that have ended that I didn't finish watching, and finally play more of the old video games that have been in my Steam library and on my iPad for way too long.

I'm not expecting 2018 to be quite as busy at work as 2017 was so I'm going to really try to not use work as an excuse for stuff this year, especially since last year I managed to survive some of the busiest stretches of work I've ever had. The first week back (all three days of it) was pretty nuts, so that might not bode well, but there aren't as many big things on the calendar this year so I am counting on it not to be nearly as bad as last year. I ended up taking a bunch of time off in the summer to avoid losing vacation time since I wasn't able to take much time during the rest of the year - and the time I did take off was often to use up comp time!

Well, let's see how 2018 shakes out!

Goals for 2017!

Okay, now that we're in 2017 and 2016 has been kicked out the door (and not a moment too soon) time to set some goals for the new year!

In the last couple of week so 2016 I started carrying around a little notebook that I use to jot down ideas, to-do lists (non-work related - those have their own notebook that STAYS AT WORK), etc. It's not really journalling per se, but I will try to write at least one sentence a day about something that happened that day.

I've once again taken the Goodreads Book Challenge and I decided to go back down to 30 books this year. Although one of my other goals is to catch up with some of the backlog of comic books I have, including some graphic novels and collected volumes, which I'm totally going to count in my book numbers (the novels/volumes that is, not the individual issues). I've tried to hit 35 in the past few years and came up short, so maybe 30 is more realistic.

Get a haircut. Yes, really. I'm way overdue.

More stitching! Actually, almost any stitching would be "more stitching" at this point. I did a little last year, but I could stand to do more since I find it relaxing and enjoyable. And I really need to finish some of those old projects that are loitering in my craft bins and staring guiltily at me.

Digital security improvements - mainly this will be updating some very old, weak, and duplicate passwords. The majority of these are on old sites that I don't even go to much anymore, so when I can, I'm planning to just delete the account (although not nearly enough places give you that option!). I also discovered that there were a lot of places that I had accounts for newsletters, etc. that don't seem to let you login any more, so I'm just deleting those. If that old data pops up somewhere, it's no big deal since the passwords associated with those old accounts won't be used on anything else.

Around my apartment the big goal is to take a bunch of books to Half Price and get the boxes out of my living room! I also have a few boxes of old collectible things that I might try selling to specialty stores and/or on eBay.


The big thing that I'm going to work on this year is my health, specifically:

* Generally speaking, I'm doing okay, but I know I can do better. I've been on blood pressure medication for a while now and I'm going to keep closer tabs on that this year.

* I'm also going to get a WAY WAY overdue eye exam. I'm turning 45 in a couple of months and I think I can count on one hand the number of real eye exams I've had.

* Eat better - I really slid back into some old bad habits in the past 18 months or so and my waistline is really showing it. I know that if I get back to cooking for myself and eating less processed food I will naturally lose weight because I've done it before. And when I do eat out, making healthier choices. Included with this - another dry January. I've been doing this for many years (even before I knew it was "a thing"... apparently it's the only thing I've been doing before I knew it was cool). This is one thing I actually manage to accomplish most years. I think of the years that I decided to do it, I only failed once. So, not bad!

* Walk more. I wrote down on in my notebook that I want to get to 5000 steps a day (yes, I realize that 10,000 is the recommended amount, but I'm trying to be realistic so I won't be disappointed when I fail miserably).

* Daily-ish arm and core exercises. I usually give myself Wednesday as a day off of these since I often have to work very long days and nights on Wednesdays. I'm going to give myself a pass on other days that I have to work at night and/or Saturdays. I usually get a LOT of steps on those days so I figure it kind of balances out.


That's it! Bring on 2017!


Good riddance 2016...

I know it has become a cliche over this year to yell invectives against 2016, but man, it really sucked in a lot of ways.

A lot of people have already been writing lists of all the horrible things in politics, terrorism, celebrity deaths, etc that have made 2016 just so depressing. There will be a lot of fallout from the politics alone that we'll be dealing with for years to come, but on the upside, it has motived a lot of people (myself included) to get more involved. We have come so far in recent years on many fronts and I'm going to fight like hell to keep us from sliding backwards. There were a lot of entertainers that we lost this year that I was a fan of, but the real kick in the teeth came in the last week of the year with the death of Carrie Fisher. I don't think I can begin to sum up the impact that Princess Leia had on me (starting when I was 5 and the first Star Wars movie came out) and how much I grew to admire Carrie Fisher as an adult. I'm lucky that I haven't had the struggles with addiction and mental illness that she did, but I really loved that she spoke out to de-stigmatize those things. Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder... so many good ones gone this year. On one hand, I know it's just the way these things go and that sometimes there will be clumps in the data, but DAMN, there were a lot of data points this year.

Even just selfishly thinking about my own life - I had two friends die of cancer, one a co-worker whose job duties ended up falling to me because we weren't able to refill the position. This caused a lot of changes for me at work that I haven't been terribly happy about (although the raise in salary was nice!). I know I'm lucky to have a job at all and to have worked in the same place for so long, but when the percentage of your time spent on the parts you really enjoy shrinks and shrinks... Unfortunately, the first few months of 2017 are going to be *crazy* busy at work, so keeping up with some of the goals I'm setting for 2017 might be extra challenging. There are more hectic times coming up later in the year but many should be enjoyable, including the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin in June and a solar eclipse in 2017.

Now on to looking at how I fared with my 2016 goals... Well, yeah, not too good on most. I only made it to 26 books of 35 on my Goodreads challenge (although that didn't include a few re-reads and a couple of cookbooks I read, so I probably shouldn't be too hard on myself for that one). I definitely didn't end the year weighing less than at the start, although overall I ended up close to where I started. The one area I did much better was in finances. I don't think I technically ended up with less debt, but I managed to get almost all of my revolving credit card debt on to consolidation loans at much lower interest rates this year, which puts me on a path towards being debt free much sooner than I would have been. That felt really good. I didn't get any farther on my Shakespeare Challenge and I didn't do a whole lot of stitching, although I did build a number of Lego kits and 3-D puzzles, which was a lot of fun. I definitely think I could have done better at stress management, but by the end of the year I had acclimated to the heightened stress levels to some extent. That's probably not actually a good thing in the long run, but at least I managed to keep up with getting a decent night's sleep most of the time, so hopefully that balanced out some of the stress. And blogging here more than once this year - yeah, not so much. :) I'll post the goals for 2017 (because I'm going to make some definite ones this time) in another post shortly.

Well, enough of that - I'm ready to face what 2017 brings. I know it isn't going to be an easy year, but bring it on!

Uuuuuhhh, Happy New Year?

I guess if we still used March 25 as the start of the new year like they did back in Tudor times I would be early. Or if I used the Asian lunar calendar I wouldn't be as late? Oh wait, it's my birthday today, so it's the start of MY new year. Yes, that's what I meant!

While I was sitting in my office waiting to see if the clouds would clear so I could run the telescope tonight, I decided it was time to finally update this blog and check in with last year's goals and lay out the goals for 2016. Of last year's goals, the only one I 100% met was to take a real, honest-to-god vacation. I went to England for two weeks and had a great time! Eventually I'll process the thousands of photos I took and get them posted on Flickr.


Of the goals that I did decently on:

* Watch a 'new to me' movie every week -- not too bad. I skipped the two weeks I was on vacation and a week that I had to travel for work, but other than that, I did really well up to the last two months of the year when everything went totally nuts.

* Read 35 books as my Goodreads Challenge -- I think I finished with 32, so close, but not quite.

* Do six 30-day challenges -- I did 3 really well, and pretty good on a 4th one, but I didn't manage 6.

* Finish 10 video games -- I managed 5. Not great, but at least I did get a few done!


And the ones that I totally missed on:

* Shakespeare's plays... ironically since I spent several days in and around Stratford-upon-Avon, I didn't actually read any plays last year.

* Writing reviews for my Tudor history site - nope. I haven't been reading many Tudor books lately since I think I've been a little burned out on the subject.

* Weight goal - nope, not even close. The stress levels I had in the second half of last year actually caused me to gain weight to the point that I'm almost to the point I was when I started to lose the 15-20 pounds I shed a couple of years ago.

* Finish the year with less debt than I started with -- nope. Partly it was because of the vacation, but a lot was vet bills and car repairs that ended up eating the money that I had planned to use to pay for most of the vacation.

* Stitching and craft projects - I hardly touched any of my stitching stuff last year. Given the stress levels at the end of the year, I probably SHOULD have done more stitching, but I didn't manage it.


Looking back at everything, I can see that I was pretty energetic and optimistic at the beginning of 2015, but I sure didn't finish it that way. The two weeks off at the winter break was good for getting some of my energy back heading into 2016, but it didn't take too long for me to start feeling stressed again. As a result, I decided not to set any firm goals for this year but I do hope to have some general personal improvements in 2016. I'm still hoping to end this year weighing less and having less debt than I started the year with and to read some more Shakespeare, do more stitching, etc. I did set my Goodreads challenge at 35 books again to try achieve the goal that I barely missed in 2015. Better managing my stress this year is going to be one of my top priorities, and I think doing that will be wrapped up with everything else.

Oh, and maybe I'll actually blog a little more than the ONE time I updated this site last year. :)

Welcome 2015!

Given that we're already three weeks into the new year and I'm just now getting around to writing my "Happy New Year" post, any resolutions about not procrastinating have already gone out the window. (Thankfully, I didn't actually make any procrastination resolutions or goals, although I probably should have!)

So, it's time to check in on last year's goals, see how I did, and write down my goals for 2015.

One goal that I didn't actually write about last year was something work-related that I was going to try as an experiment. We get a lot of requests for help at events and I was going to try to do more of them myself (in addition to the regular ones that I already do every year) instead of just soliciting volunteers. Well, I did, and it really wore me out. Early in my career I did most outreach events myself for a variety of reasons, but as I've gotten older and the climate has gotten a little friendlier for getting volunteers, I've backed off the number I do either by myself or with other volunteers. Well, by the end of the year, I was totally burned out, so this year I'll go back to doing fewer myself and mostly just stick with the usual events I've been doing. (And it will be easier to do since we had a number of extra events in 2014 that we won't have in 2015.)

Now on to the goals I did write about. The first one I mentioned was to read/watch/listen to all of Shakespeare's plays for the 450th anniversary of his birth. I only made it through one third of the plays and all of the Sonnets (partly thanks to the extra work I was doing, mentioned above), but I've decided to keep going on this one. It actually works out well that 2016 will be the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, so I'll do another third of the plays this year and finish them up next year (along with the other poems besides the sonnets).

Next up was a weight goal, which I didn't meet. I didn't really come close to the number or deadline I was aiming for, but I still ended up weighing less at the end of the year than I did at the start, so ultimately I'm happy with that. I also didn't really make much of a dent in reducing my credit card debt, largely in part to the extra income I get from Google ads on my Tudor history site was all over the place, which makes it really hard to budget. Plus I owed a bunch in taxes, had car repairs, my rent went up by a lot, etc. So that was pretty much just a wash, unfortunately.

For the craft projects, I did surprisingly well given the extra work I was doing. I did manage to meet the goal of framing or finishing 6 projects (I think I actually doubled that!), but I only managed to complete the stitching on 4 projects. I guess we can tell which one actually takes a lot more time! You can see what I did last year over on my needlework blog.

And finally, the book-related goals: I did make my Goodreads 30 book challenge, but I totally bombed the Tudor history book review goal. I started a few, but I didn't finish any of the reviews for books I had already read or finish reading any other books.

Now on to the goals of 2015!

* As mentioned above, I'm going to do another third of Shakespeare's plays this year, and finish them off in 2016.

* I've set my Goodreads book challenge at 35 this year, 5 over last year's goal.

* Continue to lose weight and hit [number redacted] by vacation.

* Actually take a vacation (the last real, honest-to-god, get-on-an-airplane vacation I took was in 2006).

* Watch at least one "new to me" movie every week. I have a whole slew of older movies I've never gotten around to that I need to catch up on.

* Finish 10 video games. I have a huge number of games that have piling up in my Steam library thanks to Humble Bundle sales and it's time to actually play some of them!

* Finish the stitching on 5 projects and frame/finish 5 stitched projects.

* Write 6 book reviews for my Tudor history site (and reviews that cover more than one book still only count as one).

* Finish the year with less revolving debt than I started with.

* Do six 30 day challenges. Right now I'm doing a no-alcohol January - which I often do anyway to give my liver a break after the holidays. :) (By the way, the idea of doing 30 day challenges came from Matt Cutts of Google. I think they are a great idea!) I'll keep track of which ones I end up setting for myself and report back at the start of 2016. I *may* try NaNoWriMo this year as one of them. I've been wanting to do it for years, but it always seems to sneak up on me and I'm not prepared with any good ideas (or the research to do something with a few things I've already dabbled with), but if I can keep it in mind more this year - maybe set a 30 day research challenge? - I might be able to do it.

* Keep going on some near-daily tasks I'm already doing. I use a nifty little app called WonderfulDay that you can set up for keeping track of daily, weekly, etc. tasks. Right now I'm doing daily arm and core exercises and reading a comic book (in an attempt to keep working on the backlog of hundreds of free or cheap comics I've picked up in various promotions over the years). I give myself Wednesday off the exercises since that's the day I often work late at the telescope and is usually already my most active day of the week.

Most of these should be pretty easy to do if I can just keep nagging myself about them. I think some of the future 30 days challenges I've been contemplating might be harder, but we'll see!