Friday, November 30, 2012

November 101 update!

  • have a minimum credit score of 720. 
Woohoo! I am so proud of myself right now. In January, when Kyle was looking for a house, I subscribed to Equifax's credit monitoring program. I pay them a reasonable monthly fee, and they watch my stuff for me. If anything changes notably on my credit report, I get an email notification. 

January 27th, my credit score was 704. I made it a goal to get that up to "Good" rather than "Fair." I am so excited that, in less than eleven months, I've raised my score 20 points! I have better credit than the 20-somethings I've talked to (though admittedly I don't go around asking everyone's credit scores. I have a little more tact than that), and the one thing that is suggested to raise my score is getting a mortgage and diversifying my lines of credit. How cool! This is one of the most exciting goals to cross off my list. 720+ credit score with nearly $80,000 in student loans? Not an easy task.

Now if I could just get it up another 10 points to where it was three years ago before we broke that lease at the worst apartment complex ever... 

But not to overshadow my progress!

  • read two books
  • paid down my loans
  • donated a (very) small amount of rice. 

For the month of November, I planned to: 

  • read four more books (halfway done!)
  • run one mile without stopping
  • get down to 135 lbs.
  • write Billie & Wally
  • watch one old movie I've never seen
  • pare my closet down by five more items. 
I may have only achieved one of the goals I set out to accomplish this month, but I'm still super proud of myself for what I've done. Being able to cross off the credit score goal was HUGE for me. I would like to be a homeowner by 25, and I have made huge strides to get there. 

I didn't write Billie & Wally, which means I need to every month for the remainder of the challenge. I'm disappointed in myself, but I've been so shockingly busy I've headed to bed before 9PM some nights. I'm just exhausted with all the work I've been putting in for my tutoring clients and at my thankless job. I know eventually it will pay off (and it has been, with the amounts I've been able to pay down on my loans), so I'm hanging in there right now.

For December, I will:

  • run 1 mile without stopping
  • get down to 130 lbs. 
  • watch the Aurora Borealis
  • read four books

And speaking of bed before 9PM, I'm heading that way now. Sleep sweet!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Brianna's B&B

I was talking tonight to a friend from high school about these crazy Bed & Breakfast plans, and he got all excited! Started asking me about my business plan, if I had anything on paper yet, if I'd taken accounting classes... holy cow. I'm nowhere near that far yet.

I talked to Brittany today at work about ditching her loser live-in boyfriend who is still refusing to commit to her after nine years, and moving up to be my manager. She makes a mean quiche and is a total bedding snob, which quite frankly is more than I can say about myself. I've never even tried my hand at a quiche.

So. I'm one step closer to having a manager of sorts. In the last year, I've raised my credit score 20 points to better my chances of getting a fabulous rate on a loan. I have sketched a rough floor plan - four bedrooms plus my own, and perhaps a guest house to come later. I have a general idea of where I'd like to build.

This weekend, I will look at the course schedule for accounting classes offered this spring. I will research bed and breakfasts in the Sedona / Cottonwood area and gather intel on potential competitors. And I will start putting together a business plan.

Shit's gettin' real, yo. This is serious.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

10 more things I'm thankful for.

21. I'm thankful I get to sleep in tomorrow! I don't have to be at work until 9AM. I've worked at 5 or 6 in the morning every other day this week.

22. I'm thankful I had another tutoring client drop into my lap tonight. This middle-school girl has a learning disability and has been struggling in several subjects. Her parents are looking to meet several times per week, as an ongoing thing. I am so lucky to get paid to help people.

23. I am thankful for massages. It's so amazing how one hour can make such a difference! I hold stress in my back and shoulders, and a massage is like a gift from heaven, every time.

24. I am thankful for Costco. Even living alone, and cooking for only myself, Costco makes such a huge difference in my shopping trips. Plus, you can't beat their samples!

25. I am thankful for my Johari window. A year or more ago, a group of my message boards all started Johari windows together, and contributed to each other's windows. Whenever I'm starting to feel down on myself, it immediately lifts my mood to see the words others use to describe me. I am intelligent, and kind, and mature, and giving. And others see that in me.

26. I am thankful for daily deal sites. Without them, I wouldn't have found my yoga studio, discovered some of my favorite places to eat, or experienced some of the new and exciting things around the valley.

27. I am thankful that I had the self-control not to spend more than $20 over the entire Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend madness. I bought some new panties, since Kyle's rude dog ate mine, and that's it.

28. I know I already said I'm thankful for awesome coworkers, but I'm so ridiculously thankful for coworkers who make me laugh on a daily basis. Coworkers who counsel me, build me up, and remind me that the Jack Daniels man is anatomically correct. They're amazing.

29. I am thankful for love. I am blessed to be around it, to witness it, to see admiration and adoration in the eyes of the countless couples I see every day.

30. Most of all, I'm thankful I am me. I'm thankful for every life experience I've had, every lesson thrown my way, every trial, and every joy. Sometimes I wish I may have handled my cards a little differently, but I am thankful I have been dealt every one of them, because they made me into who I am.


Monday, November 26, 2012

20 things I'm thankful for

I didn't do the 30 days of thanks thing. Obviously. But I think it's important, so here's the start of my list. I'll finish it in a few days, when I don't have to be at work six hours from the time I'm posting.

1. I am thankful for my family. My parents have provided me with this amazing home and my car, and I only have to pay for maintenance and "extras." It is such a huge burden lifted off my shoulders when I have outrageous student loans!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hey Jesus, your humor sucks.

Once upon a time, when we first moved down here, Kyle got a shitty job, making a shitty wage at a shitty place. He worked at a halfway house for federal convicts, and we both hated it. Him mostly because he was a glorified security guard, but not able to be armed, and was still responsible for drug-testing all residents (like, had to stand next to 'em and everything). I hated it because on weekends, he worked at the facility for sex offenders, and we shared a car. So when I came to pick him up, I was incredibly uncomfortable waiting there while the residents hung out outside, smoking and playing cards.

The week before his birthday, he was fired. He had cut the padlock off the fuse box to replace the A/C fuse, and was terminated for destroying company property. At the time, he didn't mind. It was the final push to accepting his recall, plus we had a lot more time to spend together before he left.

Well today, I got an application at work from someone who works at this same halfway house. He used to work with Kyle, and is now their program director.

Jesus, your sense of humor blows. I take things like this way too seriously. Everything is a sign, or something to read into. Or at the very least, to set me emotionally on edge.

When one of my coworkers left to return to his old job at Kyle's place of employment, I found it surprising. A little off-putting. A reminder that it's a small world. But now two coworkers that both know him? Particularly when he's ridiculously anti-social and has only had two real jobs since we moved here? That's just weird.

If there is a point, please make it. Because this is awfully strange.

An update in the romance department

It's probably been a little obvious lately that things aren't fine and dandy. You know all those frustrations and fears I voiced before Kyle's brother moved in? Well apparently they weren't ill-founded. Chris even said he had a sit-down chat with Kyle and told him they never would have moved down here if they had known sooner that we were dating again, and essentially put Chris's decision on whether to accept the job offer overseas in Kyle's hands after that conversation. Awkward.

Things were mostly okay until two weeks ago, when I voiced frustrations that seeing Kyle once every ten days wasn't a relationship and wasn't fair to me. I went over to walk Yogi bear, since I had finished up with a tutoring client right down the road, and Kyle had a ridiculous emotional outburst.

Snuggling on the couch. Too adorable!
Now he is embarrassed of his behavior (as well he should be), says I caused all this drama, and he wants to be done so he can put it behind him. It's even more frustrating to me because he's failing to accept responsibility, and because he's so proud that he can't stand his brother (who witnessed The Outburst) knowing how unacceptable his behavior sometimes is.

It hasn't totally set in that we're doing anything other than arguing right now. In fact, I've probably talked to him more in the last two weeks than I have in the rest of the time his brother has been here. We had a three-hour phone conversation after Thanksgiving dinner. Yesterday he denied saying most of the things he did, or blamed it on being 3AM, but it was still three hours, and meaningful, and I learned he had been struggling with some things that I wish he would have voiced earlier.

Of everyone I've dated, he has been the one to make me feel like shouting from a mountaintop. He possesses the three most important qualities I want in a man. And from the first day we slipped between the sheets, things have just been easy. I feel like, in many ways but perhaps that one in particular, we were made for each other.

I love those eyes. 
I'm frustrated and want to talk things through, but he won't set his pride aside long enough to agree to a chat - at least not right now. So I'm missing my boys and hoping he'll come to his senses some time soon. I'm spending my time working on me. I know I haven't been blameless, and still have a lot to learn - particularly in the communication department. I'm working on my goals, deep-cleaning my house (something that hasn't been done in way too long!), and looking out for me.

And I'm missing waking up next to this face. And going to bed with this face. And opening the door to kisses from this face.

This picture was taken the day we were supposed to get married. We hadn't seen each other in five months, and I called to have dinner with him. The way he looked at me, after that much time apart, melted my heart. I wish we could just fix our individual communication issues and tendency toward emotion, because we are so good together.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Small victories.

One of the worst things about living alone is not having someone around to make the bed with me.

First world problems, I know, but I'm serious! I am super fail at bed-making. Kyle is bomb at bed-making. (Must be all that practice in the Marine Corps.) And one of the things that I missed most when he was deployed, and then after he moved out, were his bed-making skills. I would do one corner, he'd do his two, and then he'd come over to finish up the last corner because I could never get it quite right. (And I was always way slower, so he did two to my one.)

Tonight, I made a beautiful bed. My sheets are tight, the corners look perfect, and I did it all on my own.

It took 24 years, but I finally have managed to make a good-lookin' bed. And I must say I'm mighty proud of myself.


What I liked most about 50 Shades

Someone bought it for me. So I returned it for cash.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving is my fave.

It's my favorite holiday of the year. And not just for the food!

I was raised not celebrating Christmas. My dad's religious upbringing (prohibiting all holidays) combined with his bitterness toward the church ruled out all of that. No gift-giving (buying into commercialization), no tree or fancy dinner or awkward, organized circle of obligatory thank-yous while inwardly rolling your eyes at the latest present.

Instead, we made a big deal out of New Year's Eve and of Thanksgiving. New Year's Eve we spent as a family - just the four of us, laughing and watching movies and exchanging tokens of appreciation in an entertaining way. (The tales of the 'treasure hunts' Dad concocted will have to be saved for another day.) But Thanksgiving was something to be celebrated with all.

Some of my earliest Thanksgiving meals are at my Aunt Tammy's house. Not only did they include her, her children, and their spouses, but our family, Tammy's coworkers, and anyone she came across who didn't have Thanksgiving plans. We put together puzzles while the ladies slaved away in the kitchen and Shawn made his famous peanut-butter balls at the dining table. I played the piano while Amy took pictures of everyone chatting on the couch. The cousins played Risk in the spare bedroom, and I don't think I ever won.

All my Thanksgiving memories are special. They're about bonding with family. They're about deciding to take a nap after dinner, and crashing on the top bunk of your younger cousin's bunkbed, while an older cousin takes the bottom bunk. They're about Ben's "bumblebee buzzing out of the barn, with a great big ham sandwich under his arm" tickle attacks. They're about setting aside your diet plans for a day because Christie's eye-mouth tart is DIVINE. They're about people, and caring, and being important, and love.

Thanksgiving is all about love.

It's about love to me. And that's why it's so special.

In the last four years, since I moved down here, I haven't been able to spend a Thanksgiving with my family. The first year, Kyle and I went to the mid-afternoon Thanksgiving meal offered by ASU's off-campus student services office. The experience was sterile and weird (checking in and having someone cross your name off a list so you can enjoy some turkey and mashed potatoes), but it was still Thanksgiving, because I shared that experience with someone I loved. Year two, Kyle was deployed. I spent the day at Sandra's house with her family and felt right at home, because I was surrounded by love. And also puzzles. Year three, Kyle and I did a crazy, disjointed Thanksgiving dinner on our own, at my condo that I had just moved into that morning. But even though we ate in courses (the casserole pan had to be washed between cooking the green bean casserole and the carrots), the experience was full of love. Last year, Mark and I went over to Kris's house for Thanksgiving dinner. Again, an experience smothered in love. Slow-dancing in the living room with my date, knowing my bff had slaved over three pies just so Thanksgiving could be everything she thought I'd want it to be.

Tomorrow, I'm spending Thanksgiving with another family I love. Michael always has something beautiful and nice to say when he sees me. Syd is one of the greatest women I know down here. I am blessed to call them friends, and to share in the love in yet another slightly-dysfunctional Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I have lots of dreams.

Before I ever went to college, I had dreams. Lots of them. So many I couldn't decide what I wanted to go to school for, even though I knew it was expected of me. 

I still don't know what I want to do with my life, because I want to do a little of everything! Back a few weeks ago, I mentioned I would like to own a bed & breakfast. I've always loved B&Bs. I think they're super cozy, plus it would be a blast to meet so many new people all the time. 

So last Friday, I started drafting a floor plan for said bed & breakfast. I'm thinking somewhere in Sedona or Cottonwood. Four bedrooms, plus possibly a guest house suite type of thing for extended stays. 

Except, since I'm a dreamer, I can't just imagine my floor plan. I imagine where the fireplace is going to go in my bedroom. And how, since the layout of a walk-in closet just doesn't fit with the idea I have for my room, it will be a separate room spanning the length of the wall, with little secret doors on either side of the bed. And how I'm going to have a huge wall of shelving in the downstairs laundry room where all my sheet sets will be perfectly folded and stored inside their matching pillow cases. 

I also imagine that, since I am super classy and all the uppity wine snobs will want to stay at my B&B, I'll have a wine cellar. Perhaps I'll invest in some spectacular bottles and have a "wine list" for guests. Wouldn't that be nifty? Make it something you couldn't just run down to the grocery store to get, and, since it's so far out of the Phoenix bowl, people will be willing to pay a premium. 

I told you I'm a dreamer. But if looking forward to owning my own home that makes me a ton of money is what keeps me together when I'm working 70-hour weeks, so be it! 

What are some of your dreams? 


Monday, November 19, 2012

I am not a cow!

Well, I should hope that much would be obvious. I don't much resemble a large barnyard mammal.

You probably know the story of my Europe trip last year. And that, because of unwise decisions that I would totally make again if given the opportunity, I gained approximately one pound per day while I was gone.

It hasn't come off easily, but I'm super proud to say that I am officially 25 lbs. lighter now than I started the year!

I've completed two months worth of boot camp. I've practiced yoga. I've ran, and biked, and walked, and cried when I felt I wasn't getting anywhere. Sometimes I've worked hard at it, and sometimes I've hardly worked. But today, I'm proud.

I'm proud that another co-worker asked me yesterday if I'd been losing weight. I'm proud that she commented on how baggy my pants were. I'm proud that, when I pulled on my brand-new, size-two pants this morning, it wasn't a struggle. I'm proud every time I look in the mirror and see my hip bones. I'm proud because I've had to work to get here, and the signs of that hard work are finally visible - and not just to me.

Here's to another ten or fifteen, and to wearing boots with skinny jeans this winter!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tips to strengthen intimacy

Intimacy is the bond that holds a couple together. It's the friendship, the raw emotion shared, the future goals, and the connection you share. It's also something I've always struggled with - whether I'm not opening up enough, or whether I feel like I'm being shut out, intimacy always starts to wither.

Here are a five things I've discovered to help rekindle that bond.

  1. Regular date nights.
    This is one we've all heard repeatedly. You need to take time together on a regular basis to cultivate your relationship. I suggest if you're living together, a minimum of one date night per week. If you're not, you need at least two. A relationship cannot thrive if there is a lack of communication and quality time. Set aside time for each other, because you're worth it!

    Something that I've always maintained is that watching movies together on the couch may be a date, but it's not quality time. I recently realized that's not necessarily true. To me, quality time is all about bonding - not just sharing a common experience. Giving your partner a head massage, or foot massage, or doing something that involves focusing even a small amount of your energy and attention onto them is still quality time, where holding hands on the couch isn't (to me). 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Five Basic Needs

Years ago, I subscribed to a few relationship newsletters. Most of them I ignore now, since I haven't unsubscribed, but a few of them I do open up and read. A lot of them are trying to get you to buy their book, or their system, or check out something new and exciting. But occasionally, I'll find a diamond in the rough.

Today was one of them. The subject of the email was "5 reasons why I hate my wife." Certainly got my attention. It opened with a letter from a man talking about how upset he was because his wife wasn't meeting five particular needs, and then went a little more in depth about those particular needs and how they're the five most important for a man.

According to the email, they are:

  1. Words of affirmation and praise
  2. A sense of being respected
  3. The feeling that he is being listened to and heard
  4. Physical touch (affection rather than sex)
  5. Intimacy and bonding

I was intrigued. I would say respect and being listened to are two of the most important things to me. I've always felt like I reason more like a man. I never used to think with emotions. Part of it was my upbringing, but I've always been super logical. Tests aren't hard - I either know the material or I don't. I'm not a big worrier and never have been. Things changed a few years ago when the dynamic in my relationship changed, and I started becoming a little more emotionally charged. Even so, I still feel like this list applies to me whole-heartedly. 

If I don't feel respected, it breaks the bond of friendship for me. It's impossible for me to maintain any relationship if there's not respect in the room. If I am not being listened to, I start to act like a crazy person. I act out in order to bring attention to those things that have been bothering me. I crave intimacy - not just the between-the-sheets kind, though there's really no substitute for that, but the raw sharing of feelings and dreams that strengthens that bond. Physical touch and words of affirmation are like icing on the cake for me. I love and need to feel adored every once in a while, but without that deep friendship and respect, I don't feel flowery words are meaningful. 

I don't think this is too far off from the list of five most women would compile. What do you think, ladies? What are your most important needs to have met in a relationship? 

Friday, November 2, 2012

I love my job(s).

Not the retail one, so much, but the other two.

I've been modeling lately for a workshop at SAS taught by Robert Lemler. It is one of the most thrilling things in the world to have a well-known artist bring in several of his works, and have the class recognize you as the subject.

"cool light" by Robert Lemler
And one of my favorites -

"Colorful nude" by Robert Lemler. I wish I had the money to buy this one.
Truly thrilling to know someone thinks you are beautiful to buy paintings of you and hang them on their walls. Such a self-confidence boost to walk around the room during breaks and see the amazing representations of you that people are working on. It's an experience I wouldn't trade for the world.

And the other fabulous job - I scheduled my first two tutoring sessions yesterday! I have one tomorrow morning, and one Monday late afternoon. One of my favorite things in the world is helping people learn. Whether it's teaching, tutoring, or leading someone through a new experience, broadening the minds of others is so rewarding for me. Both of my new clients are looking to take the ACT in December, and I hope to impart some of my knowledge and time-management skills to them.

It's been such a breath of fresh air to do something I love to do for the last week and a half. I am really looking forward to cutting back hours working retail - preferably just to classes and private events there, and being able to focus on something that brings me joy.