Thursday Progress Reports – My Year of Learning

This is my first Progress Report of the year.  Let’s see if my lists and calendars have been doing me any good thus far.

  1. Read 4 books – I’ve read about 100 more pages in Casual Vacancy since the beginning of the year.
  2. Keep up the Debediah project – No real progress on this yet.
  3. Learn to play an instrument – I have a keyboard on the premises.  Now I gotta figure out the best way to attack keyboard lessons.
  4. Lose 12 lbs – I’ve noticed that my weight fluctuates anywhere from 2 – 8 lbs every week, even when I workout regularly and restrict my calories.  I think that I bloat up when I sleep less and eat more junk, even if I eat fewer calories.  I’m going to start weighing myself when I wake up every morning to see if that’s what is actually happening.
  5. Workout 1 hour per week – I skipped a couple of workouts last week because my knee and foot were bothering me.  Plus, I was very tired because I’d been only managing about four hours of sleep a night.  Otherwise, I’ve been good with this.
  6. Knit 4 projects – I’m more than halfway done knitting Amanda’s sunglasses bag now, but then I’ll seam it and add a closure of some sort.
  7. Work on The Comic – Haven’t done anything here either.  I’m trying to get a few weeks of blog posts ready ahead of time so that I’m not constantly working on this blog.  If I have blogs ready to post weeks ahead, then I can take an extra morning or evening each week to work on other projects instead.
  8. Keep up this blog – So far, so good!
  9. Practice drawing/Gimp/Inkscape – I try to do some sort of Inkscape drawing for each blog post.  Last weekend, I did a lesson that reminded me how to work on gradients and shading.
  10. Learn to code – Nothing yet.

Thinking about this post this week, I realized that I had more goals for myself this year than I thought I had.  I was thinking of this as My Year of Learning, but then I remembered that I’ve only been out of school since March of last year and that I spent all of last year learning how to do a new job.  Every year is a Year Of Learning for me because that’s just who I am.  When my grandfather passed away years ago, I found boxes filled with spiral notebooks, textbooks, and certificates for all of the classes he had taken at community colleges throughout his life.  I guess I got the Learning Gene from my grandfather.  So even if all I really get accomplished this year is maintaining this blog and becoming familiar with Inkscape, then I don’t think I’ll have let myself down at all.

Couldn't get the pasting paths thing to work at all (note my claw at the top), but here's what I did with this tutorial.

Couldn’t get the pasting paths thing to work (note my claw at the top), but here’s what I did with this tutorial.


Pimp It Mondays – Debediah

Behold! Da Debediah!

Behold! Da Debediah!

Here and there, I’ve mentioned Debediah, so I think it’s time that I give a bit of history on him.  Debediah is a character that my friends and I developed on blustery fall evening over Thanksgiving leftovers and an uproariously hilarious game of Scattergories.  You know how it is, you’re all under the pressure of a timer, all words have to start with D, and you’re just trying to write something down.  It makes sense at the time, kinda, but as everyone takes turns saying his or her answers, you start to realize that your Timer Reasoning might not be the best.  For “biblical names”, most of us put names like Daniel and David, but Teresa wrote, “Debediah.”  She didn’t have to feel bad though, because for “things that you plug in”, Lauren wrote, “Dude”.  It was such a funny answer that we gave her full credit.  I might have put some very inappropriate answers down for many of the prompts, but I was honestly surprised that nobody else had those answers.  At any rate, through much laughter, happy tears, and cajoling, Teresa and I began to act like Debediah for the rest of the night…and the rest of the trip.

Debediah is an old Southern gentlemen.  We don’t have his specific history, but we have enough to make him funny.  He’s like a more interesting Colonel Sanders.  I like to think that he never owned a plantation because he was not so much a rich, landowning racist as he was a stylish bon vivant.  He may or may not have any money at all really, and may have just travelled the world through a combination of luck and kindness from strangers.  What we do know is that something timey wimey happened and he ended up in the present day.  Technology confuses him, but he doesn’t care enough one way or another to really be crotchety about it.  He may or may not like women because he’s a Southern Gentlemen (kinda like how Americans have a hard time figuring out if a man from England is gay or just British), but he does find modern female attire both appalling and tantalizing.  He also likes to dance, his signature dance being especially impressive.

Debediah has his own Facebook page, Google+ page, and a Twitter account.  Cathy drew his profile pic and I did the first comic for him.  Our next step was to record a Google hangout, but it’s been difficult getting everyone to schedule a time to be online together.  I was waiting to do the hangout before I did another comic, but I’m thinking now that I should just do a bi-weekly comic and we can tape our Google hangouts whenever they happen.

(Aside:  I just realized that I wrote “tape” as a verb rather than “record”, which is something that people did before the year 2000.  I was going to fix that, but since I’m talking about Debediah, I figured “tape” would be impressive to him.)

Random Saturdays – Men and Their Crappy Health

My dad started complaining about this thing poking out of his belly button over seven years ago.  “It hurts and it pops out, so I have to push it back in,” is how he described it.  You’d see his face in pain and he’d rub his beer belly like a pregnant woman rubs her tummy.  I don’t remember exactly how, but he found out it was a hernia, and then did nothing about it.  At one point, the neighbor across the alley told my dad that he had the same problem and it’s a simple outpatient surgery.  I volunteered to take time off to drive my dad to and from appointments, take care of him while he recuperated, whatever he needed.  He just had to make the phone calls.  He claimed to have made them, but always had excuses for why the doctors were jerks who didn’t have time for him.

Cut to last summer when my step-mom finally made an appointment for my dad to see a doctor because the hernia caused my dad so much pain.  Before my dad made it to the appointment, I got a call from the ER.  My step-mom called an ambulance because my dad was in excruciating pain.  The doctor there gave my dad some pain pills and sent him home since my dad was due for surgery a few days later.  It was supposed to be outpatient surgery, but the surgeon saw, in medical terms, “a hot mess”.  The hernia had morphed into diverticulitis and perforations in the colon, which required a colostomy.

Even after all this, my friend, Cathy’s, boyfriend has a hernia and put off seeing a doctor for months.  Seriously???  Men – why do you hate being healthy?!  Why do you people do this?  Why do you wait and wait and wait to see the doctor?  Is it because you enjoy hearing the doctor say things like, “From a medical standpoint, you’re officially dead.”  Does it have something to do with zombie fantasies?

A slightly more whimsical metaphor for a man's festering gut

A slightly more whimsical metaphor for a man’s festering gut

I like my doctor, but I don’t like seeing her.  I see her because I have to for my health.  Taking care of your health is like doing yard work.  The longer you wait to take care of it, the worse it’s going to be.  If you wait too long, you’ll be forced to let others take care of it, at which point, they might have to chop down the big shade tree in your front yard because it’s diseased because you didn’t keep the pests away from it, so now you’ll be without shade and you have a gaping hole in your hard.  Good going men!  Hope you enjoy your crappy health and your ugly yard!


Thursday Progress Report – My Calendars

Last week I talked about my lists, so this week I have to talk about my calendars.  The lists are basically detailed versions of the calendars.

So many calendars, plus the one I forgot to include in the picture.

So many calendars, plus the one I forgot to include in the picture.  Note the mix of cute animals and hot Italians, as mentioned in a previous post.

Growing up, we only had one calendar in the house, one clock in the living room, and my dad’s alarm clock.  My parents forgot events and ran late all the time.  As a teenager, my room had multiple calendars and clocks.  No matter where I looked, there was a calendar and clock to remind me of all of the stuff that I was not going to do.

By the time my early twenties hit, I noticed that I had become a bit OCD about many things, including time.  I didn’t want time to be in charge of me;  I should be in charge of time.  Since I wasn’t a Time Lord, I decided that I probably only needed one calendar, one clock, and maybe a watch.  I tried to track everything in one desk calendar and one planner that I carried with me at all times.  If I didn’t put the same items in both calendars, though, I would inevitably look at the wrong calendar and forget to do important tasks.  This was in the days before auto-syncing with Goophones and Ipples and all that mess.  You had to manually sync your calendars, planners, To Do lists, and address books.  I tried to go through and do a thorough update every January, but the other 11 months of the year gave me trouble.

Nowadays, I have different calendars for different themes.  For example, I have a calendar with my bills’ due dates that I keep near the desktop computer because that’s where I pay my bills.  (I have plenty of bills set to autopay, but too many of them charge a “convenience” fee for autopay, so I pay those as they are due.  My annoyance with “convenience” fees deserves its own blog post.)   For anyone concerned with my lack of tech usage, I also have plenty of calendars and reminder apps on my phone, but I still find the physical act of drawing a check mark on a calendar or crossing an item off a To Do list more gratifying than tapping a checkbox on a Goophone.  When I’m motivated to keep up with the calendars, they work well.  When I’m lazy or mopey, they don’t, and that’s whether I’m using a paper calendar or cellular mobile device.  I’ve got my calendars for the year set up now, so here’s hoping this isn’t a lazy and mopey year.  Now then, time to cross “Take a nap” off of my To Do list.


Pimp it Mondays – Arizona Sunshine Girls

Arizona Sunshine Girls is my friend, Sarah’s, effort to turn her love of crochet into a source of income. Sarah is extremely talented and makes beautiful, handcrafted products.

Sarah makes stuff that you should buy.

Sarah makes stuff that you should buy.

She goes through phases of making something specific like a bracelet, but then experiments with different colors, textures, and decorative touches on the same basic pattern.  Because I know Sarah personally, I can say that she gets very excited about her projects and will often tell us things like, “I’m really loving these bracelets right now,” or “I can’t get enough of this color!”  As a knitter, I admire her gusto and excitement over her work.  I get excited about starting a knitting project, but if it takes more than about two hours to do, I get distracted by other shiny things, like TV and sleep.  I have started way more projects than I have finished, and could never run a craft store like Sarah.

I also admire Sarah because she has been dealing with some very serious health issues for many years now.  It’s a bit difficult for me to write this post, actually, because it hurts to think about the fact that this store isn’t just for extra income so that Sarah can buy cute shoes, but rather because her life depends on it.  Sarah has scleroderma and pulmonary fibrosis, both of which prevent her from working.  She receives social security, which she had to fight hard to get, but that isn’t enough to cover the outrageous costs of her treatments.

Please visit Arizona Sunshine Girls on Facebook, Twitter, and Blogspot, and check out the Etsy store.  You can rest assured that anything you buy was handmade with love and attention and that the money spent will be used for a good cause.


Random Saturdays – Turkey Sausage for Heart Health

Last week, I visited The Original Pancake House with a couple of friends.  I had been to this specific location before and always had good food and pleasant service.  I think our server this time was fairly new because she seemed a bit flustered, but she was nice otherwise.  I preface my story with all of this because my intention is not to besmirch the restaurant or the waitress.  I just think it was a combination of odd menu-writing and confusion.

While pouring over the menu, we noticed that it made the following guarantee about the “Heart Healthy” options:

“Less Than 650 Calories
Less Than 20 gm Total Fat
Less Than 7 gm Saturated Fat
Less Than 850 mg Sodium
Less Than 8 g Fiber”

Did you notice that last one?  So apparently, I have been living a lie!  All this time, I have been eating more than 35 g of fiber every stinkin’ day, thinking that it’s healthy.  Had I not read this menu, I might still be slowly killing my heart with fiber.  For shame!  I have now switched to a heart healthy diet of less than .1 g of fiber per day.  As an added bonus, I use less toilet paper.

Now that we have learned about the dangers of fiber, let’s look at “The Runner”.  This meal has “[t]hick rolled oatmeal with raisins and sliced almonds, served with fresh fruit plus two turkey sausage links,” and “[f]or a heart-healthy option, please order without almonds.”  This menu has been a lifesaver for me.  Before I read it, I had no idea that turkey sausage is healthier than almonds.  According to the USDA, 40 g of almonds has 2 grams of that bad for your heart fiber, 3 grams of protein without the added cholesterol you get with animal protein, and, here’s the kicker, it’s filled with “good” monounsaturated fats instead of the saturated fats found in turkey.  On the other hand, 56 g of breakfast turkey sausage, has 2 g of saturated fat, 90 mg of that wonderful, heart-healthy cholesterol, and no fiber to accompany that 9 g of protein.  Suck it almonds!  It’s glorious low-carb, high protein, and high fat diets that keep your waist slim and your heart healthy.  Just ask Dr. Robert Atkins!

Almonds are some evil little buggers.

Almonds are some evil little buggers.

The trifecta of learning was completed when I ordered “Eggs, Hash Browns and Toast” and the waitress said she would have to ask a co-worker, but she was sure that I could substitute oatmeal for eggs.  Evelyn tried to order “The Runner” and substitute a non-meat item for the turkey sausage, but she was quickly shut down.  The waitress said, “I’ve encountered this one before and I know that you can’t sub out the turkey sausage for anything else.  You have to get the turkey sausage.”  So Evelyn ordered the same that I did.  Jane ordered a biscuit the size of a large fist and a bucket of gravy, you know, because she wanted a small meal.

Here’s to a heart healthy 2013 filled with cholesterol and sensible portions!


Thursday Progress Report – 2013 Big Momma To Do List

I love To Do lists.  I write Post-Its for things that haven’t made it to a list, but I don’t want to forget to do in the short-term.  That’s not to say that everything I put on a list gets done, but hey, congratulations for making it to the list you sweet little To Do, you!

I like lists.  I got most of this stuff done today too.  Bow before my productivity!

I like lists. I even got all of this stuff done yesterday. Bow before my productivity/HULU!

So here’s a list of things I want to focus on/accomplish this year:

  1. Read 4 books – Not sure why finishing a book became so difficult after I went back to school a few years ago, but it did.
  2. Keep up the Debediah project – We really need to start the videos, but in the meantime, I should try to work on the comic once a week or so.
  3. Learn to play an instrument – I’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano, but they’re expensive, take up too much space, and are too loud for an apartment.  I considered the ukulele instead.  Then, I remembered that I still have a keyboard at my dad’s.  When I told my dad about my plans, he ranted about how much he hates ukuleles.  Who knew?  The keyboard isn’t the piano, but it’s close enough for me for now.
  4. Lose 12 lbs – In all honesty, this is partly in vain because society seems to hate fat people.  I will never be a size 0 (and really don’t want to be) or even a size 6.  However, I have asthma, joint and muscle problems, migraines, and so much more.  Some of that is hereditary, but some of it is because the strain of all this extra weight on my small frame is just too much.  Losing a pound a month is a manageable goal that should improve my health.
  5. Workout 1 hour per week – (See above.)  Exercise has benefits besides losing weight, but I can’t do 2 hours of cardio and Pilates everyday.  I have learned the hard (read:  painful) way that I cannot workout more than 20 minutes a day and cannot push myself too hard when I do workout.  If I don’t workout at all, I feel like crap.  Moderation.  Blah.
  6. Knit 4 projects – Knitting is kinda like reading for me.
  7. Work on The Comic – My friend, Evelyn, and I developed a story for a comic last year and she drew some prelim sketches.  Since our schedules conflict, I’m going to write the story and dialogue in detail, and then she’ll do the art.  This is strictly for fun, so we don’t have deadlines, but I’d like to get it done by the end of the year.  We’ll see.
  8. Keep up this blog – Three times a week.
  9. Practice drawing/Gimp/Inkscape – Practice Gimp/Inkscape for this blog and Gimp/drawing for the Debediah comic.  I found some free online tutorials, so I’m gong to make the most of them.
  10. Learn to code – Why not?

Best of luck to me with meeting my goals!  Aww, thanks, me!


Pimp It Mondays – Cathy’s Guide to Goals

Today is the last day of 2012, which means that everyone is examining the past year and planning the coming year.  My friend, Cathy, did a series of blog posts in December designed to help readers figure out their goals.  Her suggestions are realistic and very accessible.  You even get to make lists, rate things, draw circles, etc.  I’ll probably be referring to her blog when I’m setting up my various calendars for the coming year – yes, calendars, plural.

Exploring Your Depths – Goals I

Cathy and I are both organizing nerds.  We get excited by hot Italians highlighters and file folders.  We like to plan things out and have some sort of structure to our daily lives.  Even so, Cathy’s taking a break from planning in January because she’s a bit burned out from all of the holiday planning she’s done lately.  The great thing about Cathy is that she can plan and organize, but she can also roll with the punches.  I admire that she can take a break from her planning when she feels like she needs it.  I plan to take a break from cookies in January because I feel like I need it.

As for my plural calendars, I took a break from multiple things in life over the past 2-3 years.  I slowly fell out of many of the good habits that I had.  Last year was especially difficult because I started the year with a new job, finishing up my bachelor’s degree (it only took me 15 years!), and feeling hopeful about the coming year.  Sometime around the summer, my summer migraines set in, my eczema flared the hell up all over my face, and my knee still wasn’t working correctly from the jogging injury a year and a half earlier.  All the hope I had at the beginning of the year began sneaking out the front door.  Then my mom, step-mom, dad, and best friend all had surgery within the span of a month.  At that point, I just gave up.  I began waking up to go to work, coming home to overeat, and then going to bed until I had to go to work again.

For Thanksgiving, some friends and I visited Cathy and her sister.  It was a great trip with plenty of serious discussions as well as ridiculous conversations that led to the creation of Debediah.  The trip completely rejuvenated me and inspired me to finally get going on this blog and get back into the routines that keep me healthy, happy, and sane…ish.  This is where the plural calendars come in – they remind me of my routines, progress, and non-routine items.  I use them to remind me when to pay bills (I only autopay certain bills because convenience charges are BS), track my health, and track projects.  Thanks to Cathy, I even have a calendar of hot Italians cute animals that makes me feel good every time I see it.

So here’s to 2013, may it be a great year for us all!


Random Saturdays – When did $100 become cheap?

I was disappointed (yet again) this week when my latest O Magazine newsletter contained a link to an article on fashion finds under $100.  Apparently, you can get an entire dress for $30, but the matching belt is $99…and that’s only if you use the special code…and the belt doesn’t even come with fireworks or anything.  I don’t consider that a fashion find.  I realize that probably makes me sound like a cheap skate (an accurate assessment), but  I was born in the 1980s with the financial sensibilities of someone born in the 1890s, so get off my lawn!  Also, I grew up kinda poor.  We were technically middle class, but my parents were terrible with money.  (They’re good people and I don’t begrudge my parents anything, despite the amount of angsty ’90s rock that I love.)  It just means that I will always have Poor Person Mentality.  In fact, I’m proud of it.  It’s wasteful to spend $100 on a pair of trousers when you can get them for $15 in the clearance section of Old Navy.  I know that there’s a difference between the materials used, the quality of thread used to sew seams, etc.  However, if you are patient, you can get good deals on quality clothes at a variety of stores.  Plus, a small price tag doesn’t have to equal low quality clothing.

Such a deal!

Such a deal!

I’ve also heard the theory about “investing” in basic pieces that will last years.   I wear the same clothes for years and years, but I still don’t “invest” more than $30 on any single item of clothing and no more than $50 on a coat or shoes.  Most people get tired of their clothes after a year or two.  Most of the people I know get tired of their clothes even sooner (or they gain/lose weight, get stains on the clothing, tear holes in the clothing, etc.)  Furthermore, think about what it means to “invest”.  If you make $15/hr (that’s an average of the “all occupations mean”, and the two ranges for the top 10 non-nurse occupations from the 4th para. of this 2011 report from the U.S.  Dept. of Labor, not completely accurate, I know, but this is my personal blog), then you have to work a full eight-hour day to buy that $99 belt (think about income tax, sales tax, any gas spent going to the store, shipping costs if buying online, time spent shopping, etc.)  So when I think about buying anything, I always think, “Was  this worth X hours of work?”  I have yet to see a pair of pants worth a full day’s work, much less a belt.

That being said, if something is handmade from socially and environmentally responsible materials, I will admit that the product is worth more than something that is made out of kittens and sewn by children in a sweatshop.  That does not mean that I will pay $99 for a belt, but it does mean that I won’t bitch about it as much.


Thursday Progress Report – Where I Am

Thursdays on this blog will be for updates on any projects that I’m working on or goals that I’ve set for myself.  Sine this is the last full week of 2012, I’m going to sum up a few of the things I’m working on right now.  Most of these things were started after Thanksgiving, but I probably started the rest of them about this time last year.

1.  This Blog – Well, if you’re here, then you know.

Behold! Da Debediah!

Behold! Da Debediah!

2.  Debediah – This is an online entity that I created with my friends (including Cathy, Teresa, and Matt).  We’re working on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube aspects of Debediah.  Our first three goals were to get the pages created, draw a profile pic, and to do the first comic.  We got those done, but we still need to record a video chat.  Then it’ll probably be lather, rinse, repeat.  I could probably continue working on Debediah comics while I wait for our video chat schedules to align.

3.  Knitting Christmas presents – I got a few done by Thanksgiving, even though I started in June.  I started on the last one just after Thanksgiving, but got too distracted by other Christmas chores, work, and other projects (see above) to finish.  I’ve gotta finish this ASAP though.

Those are the three big ones right now.  I’ve got smaller chores to do and personal goals to work on, but I’ll get into my 2013 goals next week.  This is my “Where I Am” post and next week will be my “Where I Want to Be” post.  Next Thursday’s post is probably going to be much longer.  So rest up in preparation for my double wide long 2013 Goals Post! (Not to be confused with goal post.  Is that a thing?  It sounded sporty.  My 2013 goals are in no way sporty.  At all.  Seriously.  You’ll be disappointed if you expect to see sports in them.  Not happening.  Not even a little.)