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Do You Prioritize Sleep?

Over the last 4.5 years of blogging, a bunch of you have asked about how I keep up with it all.  My responses have all boiled down to making and following lists and many nights with about 5-6 hours of sleep.  Well, I’m getting a little older every day just like you.  It may be time for me to admit that I need to prioritize sleep.

The Power of Sleep

If I get 7+ hours of sleep, I don’t feel like I need a nap right after lunch.  That mid-afternoon sluggishness just disappears.  It feels like my head is clearer, I can accomplish more in less time, and I can stay perky pretty much all day.  When I get 5 hours or less of sleep in a night, I feel like a sloth on and off all day, my lack of productivity turns me into a whiny grouch, and I have fallen asleep at my laptop before…

Tired

Tricks to Sleep

The first step for me was to consciously acknowledge that I need more sleep.  Then I had to mentally place sleep time before other things in my daily priority list.  Here are some tricks that I am using to carve out at least 7 hours a night (usually 2am through 9am):

  • I have an 11pm alarm to remind me to start wrapping up my evening.
  • I try not to eat after 11pm (3 hours before bed) since I can’t fall asleep well if I’m full.
  • I make a list of everything bouncing around in my head so it’ll be there for me in the morning.
  • If I am exhausted at 1am and still haven’t finished all that I need to do, I pick the most important task left and go to sleep when it’s done.  I then play catchup in the morning.
  • If I have random bursts of energy during the day, I ride them out and relish the productivity.
  • If I just feel blah, I force myself to do all of the daily minimums plus at least 1 bonus item from my lists.
  • If my sleep is interrupted, I allow myself to sleep later if I don’t have a pet sitting job scheduled or take that much of a nap after my morning jobs.
  • When I am ready to go to bed, I lower the temperature for the night since I sleep better when I can stay cool all night long.
  • If I can’t fall asleep, I try thinking of a recent dream.  That seems to help me fade off faster.
  • When I’m too excited to sleep, I think of dream situations like winning $10,000,000 and what I would do first.  That seems to help me fade off too.
  • Last resort, I do a shot of rum.  I’ve only had to do this about 3 times in the last 5 years.  It works but I rather not depend on any drug or sleep aid, even small doses of alcohol, LOL.

What tips or tricks help you sleep?  I’ve heard that meditation can do wonders – I think that is similar to what I’m accomplishing with day dreaming.  But let me know if it’s significantly different.  :-)

 

 

Balancing Money, Fun, Work, and the Rest of Life

This past July was my 3 year mark for going self-employed.  I was just thinking of how I’ve been balancing life since I took that leap.

Balance

Money

Our self-employed income has been a roller-coaster, but we’ve spent the last 3 years bringing in more than we did when we worked for “classic” jobs.  At our highest-paid point pre-2011, we were making about $80,000 a year before taxes.  Now we bring in about $100,000-$120,000 a year.  It’s not triple or anything, but it’s totally stellar for us since we enjoy it more than our jobs before.  That is our only goal.

We figured out early on that self-employment income was less stable than we appreciate, so we branched out a bit since 2011.  My husband has been officiating varsity and sub-varsity football and softball for years.  Our friends rent out a room from us too.  In 2012, we bought our new house and started renting out our first one.  I also published my first eBook about making money through blogging.  In 2013, we paid off the rental home.  I then published my less popular eBook about budgeting, lol.  Early this year, 2014, I started a professional pet sitting business and have been busy with dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and snakes since then.

In short, we have online income, rental income, sports officiating for a big chunk of the year, and a pet sitting business.  Diversification is the key to stressing less.  More work, but less stress.  Weird, right?

Work and Fun

I haven’t ever been a person to forget the good things in life.  Even in my busiest 100+ hour work weeks, I made sure to set an evening or two aside for dinners with friends or family events.  My personal priorities lead me to work to live, not live to work.

But it can get difficult since our online work comes in waves and pet sitting can be light to OMG heavy depending on the week.  My “normal” day (including most weekends) includes at least 6 hours online and another 2-3 a day with pet sitting.  During the busiest weeks, that becomes 6-10 hours online and 5-6 hours with pet sitting.  It really fluctuates.

My husband’s sports officiating usually spans from September through November and January through April, which means he only has time for himself during those months when he isn’t spending that evening reffing.

Despite that, we have a social life, woot!  We’re proud since we didn’t actually have much of a life before our late 20’s.  But we met our people.  Now there are monthly board gaming potlucks, weekly hangouts, girls’ nights, dinners out occasionally, and even some movie nights.  I’m giddy, lol.

Balancing Life

We refuse to stop everything else just for money though.  Money is pointless if we no longer have anyone to eat out with, take vacations with, laugh with, etc.  People and experiences…that’s what makes up a solid life, right?  That said, we schedule in our friend time just like we do with work hours.

I highly suggest setting at least 3-4 hours a week aside in a single block every week just for you.  It’s like paying yourself first.  You owe it to you.  :-)

As of right now, I balance everything like we all do.  I do my best and try to base my to-do decisions on my pers0nal priorities.

Have you learned any new tricks that you can teach to all of us?

Maturity…It Sneaks Up On You

My hubby was putting chips back in the pantry after lunch on Wednesday, and a jar of delicious Prego took a dive straight into our tile floor.  It was a glass-shattery mess with chunky sauce. But you know what?  We got his feet out unscathed, I picked up the glass pieces while he changed clothes, and we had it cleaned up in less than 10 minutes.  All while enjoying the delicious scent of marinara.

No stomping, no snipey comments, and no pouty problems.  HALLELUJAH!!!

Found at http://www.despair.com/maturity.html

Found at http://www.despair.com/maturity.html

Maturity

You may not see the miracle in this since you may not have had problems handling stuff.  But my husband and I have always had pretty much the exact same problem whenever anything crappy happened.  The one who was involved would get all pissy, and that would rub off on the other one of us really quickly.  It usually only lasted a little while, but it was annoying as hell and we’ve both been trying to work on our inner-child issues for years.  Really, it’s been a problem for both of us since we met in 2001.

But sometime in the last couple of years, maturity snuck up on us.  Heck, in the last month, we felt like our house was attacking us with water and fire, BUT we handled it like pros!  Pros that ended up getting everything fixed for free.  Woot!

So, Life, BRING IT ON!  Home maintenance, PSHH, we got that!  Car crap, check!  Sauce breakage breakdowns no more!  Maturity, thy name is Crystal!!!  ;-)

Did maturity sneak up on you too?

My Home Feels Like Home Again

How It Started

In mid-October, I wrote about a really bad week.  I had come home from pet sitting at 5:30am and our bed was soaked from water that came in through our ceiling fan.  A day later, a crack opened up in the ceiling of our living room.  A day after that, our oven’s top heating element literally exploded in a burst of fireworks and flames.  A couple of days after that, my husband received a red light camera citation.  It was simply a crappy week.

Last Update

A few days after I told you about all of those problems, I wrote an update for you.

  • We paid the $79 ticket without any problems.  You can read that update post to see why I was laughing hysterically as I electronically sent them money.
  • Our roof was inspected by the builder’s chosen roofing company, and they blamed wind-driven rain.  So I was scheduling a guy to fix everything.
  • An AWFUL oven technician came out on behalf of GE Appliances and ticked me off badly.  GE decided to send me the part for free and schedule an appointment for a different technician to come out and install it for me after a couple of sincere and polite, though not perky, phone calls.

Handling the Issues

I ended up scheduling an all-in-one handyman for the roof and ceiling issues that I knew about thanks to a friend.  He came over, took a quick look around, and quoted $400 to elongate the vent hood to decrease the risk of wind-driven rain in the future and to patch the crack in the ceiling.

A few days later, he arrived as planned…and found a crack in the vent base on the roof in less than 5 minutes.

It wasn’t wind-driven rain damage!  It was a crack caused by scoring the vent base when they cut a shingle to fit!  The crack must have opened up during the storm and that’s where all of the water came from.  Mystery solved.

It did mean that he spent longer on the roof since he sealed the crack and the shingle very well.  He also elongated the vent hood just in case.  While he was handling that, I was sending videos and pictures to my home builder and requesting them to reimburse me for every dime…

Cut Shingle

That is what a shingle looks like that was cut down the middle to fit in front of the vent hood…

Crack in the Vent Hood / Vent Base

And that is the crack in the vent base that let all the water into my ceiling…

Once he was done outside, he also finished patching up my ceiling inside.

Ceiling Damage

This is what the ceiling crack had turned into within 3 days.

Fixed Ceiling

Goodbye crack!

His final bill came to $490 on Monday, October 20, 2014. I paid it, of course.  Then I texted a picture of that invoice to my home builder and crossed my fingers that they wouldn’t fight me too hard on the claim.

With the oven, they forgot to send me the element.  But I expected that, and called the Tuesday it was supposed to arrive to check on it since my service appointment was set for Thursday. They overnighted me the part.  :-)  The technician arrived Thursday as planned. He had it fixed in less than 15 minutes. He also showed me how to do it if it ever happened again, showed me how to replace the burnt out light bulb without unscrewing anything, and walked me through taking off the front oven door to be able to reach into it easier.  Woot!

Oven with Obvious Gap

This was our broken oven…

 

Working Oven

Now our oven works again!

Life is Good Again

I’m happy to report that home feels like home again.  :-)  The oven was fixed for free.  The roof and ceiling damage was reimbursed completely by my home builder on Halloween.  The stray dog was officially adopted.  And the red-light citation was handled.  My house feels less broken.  Now to just finish cleaning up all of the Halloween decorations and random party stuff.  :-D

How are you doing right now?  Get some stuff off of your to-do list? 

Being in Big Brothers Big Sisters – Awesome and Inexpensive!!!

It’s been nearly a year since I updated all of you about being in Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS).  Honestly, it just became part of my life and I forgot that I stopped talking about it here, LOL.

My Little Bro

Little Bro at the Zoo

That’s my Little Bro watching his favorite animal ever, a sea lion, jumping out of the water. This was his first ever trip to the zoo!  Yay!!!  I got lucky to get this shot, lol.  And yes, his mom gave me permission to use it or any of the photos I take.  :-)

My Little Bro and I were matched up in September 2013 and started hanging out in October 2013.  He was 10 years old when we were matched up and is 11 now.  I am 20 years older than him, and I love that since it makes remembering his age way easier.  Hahaha.

Overall, he is as quiet as I am loud.  He is as black as I am white.  He is my height already (5’2″) and will be at least 6 feet tall based on his ever-growing feet.  So we make a very odd-looking couple when we are out and about, but that suits both of us just fine.  We do make jokes about “white” stuff and “black” stuff once in a while, but it never seems to be a concentrated point.  I did have to inform him on one of our initial hang outs that “some white people like Brisk iced tea too.”  ;-)  That makes me laugh to this day.

Most recently, with me dying my hair a rainbow of color, I thought I’d finally “break” him and he’d get embarrassed.  Nope.  He didn’t say anything to me about it but smile.  Then he told my mom that I had cool, new hair.  :-D  He does that a lot – won’t say much to me about something and then tell his mom all about it, so I hear nice stuff second hand.  I cannot believe I was matched with someone so shy, or that it works so well for both of us, LOL.

When we were matched, Little Bro was failing most of his classes, was repeating 4th grade, and was getting in trouble by acting out nearly daily in school by going under tables or just walking out of class.  His parents were also getting divorced (yeah, I made the connection too).

He has now brought his grades up to B’s and C’s, is in 5th grade for the first time, didn’t act out at school all of last year, and even joined the school’s football team.  He enjoys math and science the most, has fast feet in football, and is just now getting comfortable enough at school to start being a slight class clown, which we are working on reeling in just a bit.  I am so proud of him and hope he really hunkers down to use his math and science smarts.

Me

He’s helped me a lot in the last year too.  I understand kids a little better.  I’ve also learned that he pays attention to my actions just as much as my words.  It helps that I act the way I suggest and am friendly to nearly everyone.  He sees that and repeats it.  Not as much as small children do, but I have noticed it pretty frequently.  That makes me want to be a better person, especially around him.

I watch how I word things a little more often, and more importantly, I open doors for others and give more smiles and compliments.  I need him to see that the whole world isn’t against him.  I also make sure to stick to my word- I pick him up every week as we plan and we do what we agreed to do unless the weather forces us to change plans.

Actual Costs

Honestly, I spend more than necessary on our weekly get-togethers.  BBBS suggests doing free and cheap activities.  They never encourage us to spend much at all.  I understand.  I ignore it sometimes, but I understand.

Little Bro and I both love all sorts of food.  He also hadn’t been to places like the zoo or the botanical gardens, so I do drive him all over occasionally.  For the most part, we stick close to our homes though.

A basic hang out day is picking him up after school around 4pm, we eat somewhere, we hang out somewhere like a billiard’s hall or the $2 discount theater, we grab dessert from a grocery store or snow cone stand, and I take him home around 7pm.

In our first year:

  • We hung out 36 times.
  • I drove about 950 miles altogether.
  • I spent a grand total of $495.

I consider this a STEAL.  Oh, and the money spent on Little Bro specifically is a tax write off and so is the mileage.  So honestly, it’ll most likely end up costing less than $300 after the actual deductions.

You Should Sign Up

There are way more Littles than Bigs – they need your help.  BBBS only asks for you to see each other at least twice a month.  The application process is thorough but not extremely time consuming.  You don’t have to spend much at all after that though.  Just a weekly or biweekly hang out and email your BBBS rep once a month with what you did and for how many hours (that’s how they keep their grants).

The majority of the $495 that I spent in a year was on eating out and billiards, so you could just make food or find a cheaper hobby together.

You will be changing a kid’s life.  They will change yours.  It is worth the time, money, and there isn’t much driving unless you want to go places all around town like me.  This is a good deed that takes less than 3 hours a week at most and can help you and a kid at the same time.  I highly suggest it.

Have you ever been a Big or Little?  Thought about it?

Our Stray Dog Has Been Adopted!

Two weeks and three days.  That is how long it took to re-home that adorable, stray Shih Tzu that we took in on October 2, 2014.  :-D

Toby’s New Life

That cute puppy is now going to be spoiled rotten by a very sweet couple about an hour away from my house.  I showed up to the adoption location 10 minutes early and they were already there.  They greeted us with a “There he is!!!”  :-)  They were also very welcoming to me, but the pup is definitely someone’s baby now.  Yay!!!

Within thirty minutes, he was adopted and heading out with new balls, raw hides, a bright purple harness, a matching collar, and the many tags that declare him happily owned.  I’m exuberant for him and hope he fits into their household smoothly for all of their sakes.  I am so thankful that they have more time for him than I could eek out too.  Will I miss his Ewok-like face?  Yes.  But it is so much easier to say goodbye to a pet when you know it’s going to a home full of puppy love, LOL.

Handling the Rest

Okay, so the finding-a-home-for-our-stray is checked off of my list, woot!  Today our wind-driven-rain damage should be repaired.  On Thursday, I should have a working oven.  No matter what, Saturday is our annual Halloween bash, so I’ll have great pictures for you next week!  Altogether, I am feeling way more normal now.  Wish me luck on cleaning up my house, having an oven to bake my witches fingers in, and for getting the place ready for an awesome potluck.  :-)

Thank you to my friends for keeping me sane.  Thank you Aldi’s for $5 bottles of Moiselle Red Moscato.  Hope all of you are doing well too!

 

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life…

Okay, so I impressed myself yesterday.  I was mature, responsible, and stayed positive.  And that accomplished almost everything!

Water Damage Issue Semi-Resolved

I wrote earlier this week about our ceiling water issue and exploding oven.  Well, yesterday we got a quote to have the ceiling repaired and the exhaust vent on the roof fixed once and for all to avoid “wind driven rain” damage in the future.  I still think our home builder was negligent in installing a vent hood on a roof that is obviously intended for the side of a house, BUT it will all be fixed on Monday and that will feel great.  Oh, and look what I’ve done in the meantime to take advantage of the situation a little…

Ceiling Damage

Yep, I totally took down our art and put up giant fake spiders instead. It looks like they are returning home through the damage in our ceiling, LOL.

Broken Oven Issue Semi-Resolved

On the oven thing, our visit by the oven technician on Wednesday ended up being HORRIBLE.  The guy reeked of smoke, was rude, and was completely unhelpful on purpose several times.  I can summarize his whole visit with just how it started:

Me:  “Hi!  Thanks for coming!”

Tech Guy:  “Yep (hand shake).  Where is the oven?”

Me:  “Over here.”  We opened it.

Tech Guy:  “What’s the problem?”

Me:  “That missing part of the heating coil thingy…”  I actually pointed to the obvious gap left by the firework-like explosion of last week.

Oven with Obvious Gap

FREAKING STUPID TECH GUY:  “Yep.  Want me to fix it?”

WTF?!  No, I just wanted to show you a broken oven and walk you out.  Here’s your sign.  SERIOUSLY?!

Me:  “Yes…”

He then proceeded to go out to his truck, get out a computer, walk back inside, give me a $200 quote for labor and the boiler heating element, and wanted to place the order.  He didn’t even have the part!  He hadn’t read the repair order at all!

Needless to say, I let him know that he could leave.  I then waited for the reek of smoke to leave too while I was calling customer service, but that took a lot longer.  I lodged all of my complaints as calmly as I could to the representative on the other end of the line, and then waited calmly for about 20 hours to hear back from my specific case worker.

She was very understanding, listened to everything as I repeated myself from the day before, and is now sending me the heating element for free.  She also set me up with an appointment with a different tech next Thursday and he will be installing the new heating element for free.  I’ll keep you all updated, but I should have a working oven again by next Thursday evening.

Toby (now known as “Rascal”) Semi-Adopted

The stray Shih Tzu that we’ve been calling Toby met a nice couple yesterday that applied to adopt him from SMART Rescue.  They live about 45 minutes away from me, but it is a good match.  He is now going to be called “Rascal” since their last dog was named “Toby” and just passed away a couple of months ago from liver failure after they had him for 8 years.  Sad, but “Rascal” works for this crazy ball of energy, LOL.  They will be officially adopting him tomorrow!  Woot!

Toby

Toby, aka Rascal, is being adopted!

Ticket Literally Laughed Off

We checked the mail yesterday and saw a Red Light Camera Ticket in the midst of our junk mail.  Poop.  We opened it up, saw a couple of pictures of my husband making a right hand turn at a red light, and saw the $75 fee.  We logged onto their site to see how we could fight it.

First we saw that this ticket won’t affect our insurance.

Then we read that you have to come to a complete stop at a red light before taking a right hand turn.  I asked my hubby if he thinks he stopped.  He had no idea.

We finally found a link in the ticket to see a video.  Here’s what I saw…

I see my husband’s Prius heading up to a yellow light.  His brake lights come on briefly as the light turns red.  He then simply takes the turn at 21 miles an hour and zooms away.  He didn’t even try to stop.

I started laughing hysterically.  I was laughing so hard that I was crying.  (In fact, I am still giggling now as I type this).  I then looked at him for a nod of confirmation, paid the $75 ticket plus the $4 convenience fee, and printed the receipt.  Matter resolved.

Ticket

My husband handled me laughing like a crazy person very well.  I think I only hurt his feelings a little bit.  He hugged me and said that “at least you got some value for your $79″.  HAHAHAHA!  Actually, yes, I think I did.  I want to save that video to my computer and watch it on crappy days.  It was just so obvious and definitely funny as hell if you were watching the video and thinking that he was going to stop…at all…

I don’t know about you, but I rarely stop at a red light all of the way to take a legal turn, especially at night with NO ONE around.  The ticket is stupid.  My husband is a safe driver.  On this traffic ticket issue, I am completely on his side.  BUT, that video was so damn clear and the law is definitely black and white.  It wasn’t worth $79 of our time to try fighting that losing battle.

Yesterday was productive and positive.  Yeah, my ceiling is still wounded.  My oven is still broken.  I still am walking a stray dog in wet grass to get him to pee.  We did have to pay $79 for something I think is freaking ridiculous.  BUT, we are together.  We are content.  Life is good.  We are mature enough to do what needs to be done and move on.  That makes me the happiest of all.

How are you doing?  Staying positive?