Friday, January 30, 2015

A positive spiral

Now, normally a spiral is used to describe a negative event/series of events, but in this case, I'm feeling the opposite. Let me explain. One of my goals of 2015 was to focus more on the positive (ESPECIALLY at work), and do a better job of staying positive, managing my stress, and just generally enjoying work more. Now, this is no small feat. My job is very demanding, there are a lot of people every day with a lot of demands, and there's enormous revenue impact that I'm balancing at all times. I also work with others who tend to be very stressed. There are seven people in my personal office (we're short on space ;-)), and sometimes it just feels like a box of stress. Here's what I've seen so far:

Improved Work Enjoyment:
I've been doing a very good job of staying relaxed at work. Not perfectly, but an enormous improvement over the past year. And, you know what? I actually am starting to enjoy work?! For the first time since I started last October. I don't hate my job!

More Gym Time:
The desire to stay relaxed at work has also motivated me to start working out in the mornings a few days before I go to work, which nicely helps to manage my stress. See the positive spiral there? I feel healthier, more energetic, and obviously it's good for my health.

Positive Impact on Peers:
The more my attitude changes, the more I notice that it reduces the overall stress in the office, and benefits me plus everyone around me. When my peers start to complain about something that's bothering them, I listen, but I don't get involved in the stress.

Better Decisions:
I had two stressful encounters this week. I handled both of them better than I ever would have considered last year. Because I was more aware of the situation, I remained calm & thought through my choices, rather than responding with emotion.

Happier at Home:
Obviously, being happier & less stressed at work means I'm happier when I get home. I'm able to be a better parent, and lately I've been talking to the kids a lot about how keeping your emotions in check means that you make better decisions. I can actually now be (somewhat!) of an example of this, rather than all talk.

More Time:
Maybe because I'm not wasting time at work managing my own stress, I find I'm more efficient & have time to accomplish things. Or, because my head is not caught up in dealing with a stress spiral, I have more mental bandwidth to accomplish other things. All I know is that I feel like I have more free time right now, and it's glorious.

Positive Outlook:
Honestly, I just feel very positive about life, and my ability to change things (my weight, work, my life) & it's really liberating.

On that note, TGIF! So excited to spend time with the kids this weekend. We have our usual array of sporting events, plus the Big Game on Sunday. Go Seahawks! :-)

What about you? How are you managing your stress? What are the benefits you notice, or side effects when you're not able to manage your stress? Which team are you cheering for on Sunday? (I promise to only slightly judge if it's the Patriots ;-))

Thursday, January 29, 2015

February Goals

Can't wait for a new month, and new goals!! We're just closing in on January, and it's almost time to start fresh. :-)

Financial

  • Meet with financial planner
  • Figure out boys college accounts (potentially the Utah 529 plan - contingent upon our meeting with a financial planner).
  • Stick to our budget
  • Hand off all tax paperwork by 2/10, to qualify for the "early bird" discount from our accountant
Family
  • Figure out boys birthday parties
  • Keep working with both boys on responsibility, friendship, & citizenship
  • Get my youngest to try two new foods.

Fitness/health
  • Lose 2 pounds
  • Track my food/exercise
  • Run 20 miles
  • Complete 700 minutes of cardio
  • Complete 10 strength workouts & 8 stretching workouts

Work/career
  • Revamp my meeting schedule. We have an organizational shift, so some people are moving onto a new team, and I'm getting additional staff.
  • Work out 8 weekday mornings

Giving back
  • Volunteer at school at least once, log my hours (my work will donate money in exchange)
  • Pick & donate all fruit we can't eat to nonprofit
House
  • Sort through my closet. Donate, sell, toss.
Personal/creative
  • Plan/book date night with M
  • Do something social with a friend. Maybe a hike.
  • Read 4 books.
  • Try a new recipe (with a focus on something that my youngest will actually eat)

What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish in February? 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Weekly Spending Report - 1/19-1/25/15

As you can tell, we do the vast majority of our spending on the weekends, and we had Monday off this week. It was also our turn to bring snacks to a few events, and a spendy week overall.


  • Monday -
    • $16 - Safari Run, entertainment for the kids. A huge waste, thanks to a groupon I bought that didn't list the fine print. 
    • $312.65 - soccer uniforms
    • $107.17 - registration for a half marathon at the end of May
  • Tuesday -
    • No spend day
  • Wednesday -
    • No spend day
  • Thursday -
    • $1032 into the boys college savings accounts
  • Friday -
    • No spend day
  • Saturday -
    • $4.65 - produce stand. Snacks for soccer & basketball
    • $8.20 - Trader Joes. Snacks for soccer & basketball
    • $128.27 - Costco, groceries.
    • $9.78 - Costco, birthday gift for a kids party. Likely will go back, as M didn't know that I'd already picked something up.
  • Sunday
    • $7 - car wash
    • $17.08 - Uhaul. We needed more propane for the barbecue
    • $12 - back to the produce stand for our normal weekly stuff (radishes, kale, Persian cucumbers, a couple of pomegranates, & wheat lavosh bread)
    • $12.77 - back to Costco. They were out of a few things the day before
    • $31.21 - gas
    • +$69.16 - paypal, ebay sale
    • $6.65 - postage for said ebay item
Total spend for the week (after taking into account the ebay sale) was $1636.27. Yikes! Although, $1032 of that was planned for college fund. My goal is to put $2500 into the boys college fund this year, so that was a large chunk of the planned yearly spending.

What about you? How are you doing on your weekly spending?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sometimes it's the little things

Every weekend, I have an internal struggle with myself. We have four mature fruit trees that are currently producing (Valencia oranges, mandarins, another smaller orange variety, and lemons). While I love to bake, and we certainly eat what we can, it's not enough. Once a month or so, I'll juice the fruit, or process in my vitamix & save the fruit. But, it's STILL not enough. So, I have all of this guilt that gorgeous fruit is wasted in my yard.

I've tried several time to post the fruit on my neighborhood list serve, but got no takers. There are too many people with their own overgrown fruit trees. ;-) However, yesterday I discovered a woman in my neighborhood who takes the donated fruit, turns it into jam, sells it, and donates the money to a nonprofit that funds trade based education in South America. Love it!

I love that I don't have to feel guilty, that I can donate the fruit knowing that it's going to a good cause, and that I won't create additional waste.

A super small thing, but it's making me very happy lately. In the meantime, I'll continue to use up as much fruit as I can, and wonder why the avocados that we had last winter, still haven't shown signs of being ready for picking this year. A colder fall, perhaps?

I had a little bit of an emotional day yesterday (parenting - it's not without its challenges, is it? ;-)), so tell me something small that's making you happy today!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Menu Plan Monday

I'm happy to report that we've been doing a much better job of eating our leftovers & minimizing food waste! Woohoo for progress!

Here's what's on the menu for the week:


  • Monday - Late basketball practice & late night calls, so double whammy. I think I'll defrost a pre-made casserole that I froze a while back, & heat it up. It's the Giada Chicken Pastina casserole, & it's delicious. 
  • Tuesday - Taco Tuesday, with tortilla chips & homemade guacamole on the side
  • Wednesday - Leftovers
  • Thursday - Spaghetti & meatballs (all from the freezer)
  • Friday - Late basketball practice, so something quick & easy. Grilled chicken (freezer) + pasta & salad.
  • Saturday - Chicken marsala casserole
  • Sunday - Superbowl! I think I'll use a Groupon for pizzas. :-)

What about you? What's on the menu plan this week?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

It's the weekend!

I'm so very happy that it's Saturday! I also received my bonus yesterday, so I've accomplished one of my January goals, and maxed out my 401K for the year! My paychecks will be larger each month, so I'll need to ensure I'm appropriately funneling our extra money to our savings account.

Here's what's happening today:


  • Two soccer games, and a basketball game. Go big, or go home. ;-)
  • A fun dinner, as I'll have more time to cook: blackened tilapia, rice, salad, & balsamic roasted baby carrots. Plus a fun drink! 
  • I had a great run in the sunshine! It's currently 72 degrees outside. Wow! Is it really January?
  • We looked at a house down the street that had just come on the market. It's listed at $2.4M, and will easily sell for over that, and we hated everything about it. At least we're not tempted to spend the money? ;-)
  • I have about a zillion tax related things to take care of, for our accountant.
  • Laundry. Oh, and some more laundry. With two kids in sports, plus regular wear & such, we' have a boatload of laundry each week.

And, for tomorrow! 
  • Soccer carpool
  • Homemade pizza
  • Yoga (MUST DO!)
  • Menu planning
  • Schedule planning for the week ahead
  • Running (in the sun)
  • Some budgeting work
  • And, maybe a little kitchen time. Muffins & cookies to stock the freezer.

How about you? How is your weekend turning out? Hope it's great!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pushing yourself, personally

I posted about trying to push myself with my running/fitness yesterday, but another kind of "pushing myself" has also been on my mind lately. We all have strengths and weaknesses, in our personal and professional lives. My current role is pushing me significantly, in both good and bad ways. On the work life balance side, that's not a good "push", but in some areas, I've definitely developed professionally more in this role than in the last five years combined.

As a result of all of this, sometimes uncomfortable, growing, I've also started to become more self aware. My job is extremely stressful, and I often get caught up in that stress. I get frustrated with my peers, I develop a negative attitude, and I get overwhelmed. None of those things are helping me manage my own stress, and they also create a negative attitude for my employees and peers. I work with people who are very different from me, and that can be challenging. But, it's also an opportunity to learn and develop different skills to handle those divergent personality types.

One of my big goals? To work hard to maintain a positive (but realistic) attitude at work, to minimize/quit the complaining/bitching/moaning to my peers (we all do it, but I think if I cut it out, it will be reduced by the larger group) & focus instead on the opportunities of growing myself and calmly handling challenges. It's going to be tough. I'll screw it up (often, I'm sure), but I'd like to hold myself accountable & improve over time. This ability to manage stress and stay calm and positive will benefit me tremendously at work, but will obviously be a huge benefit to my personal life as well.

It's cliched, but these uncomfortable moments, when you recognize your own growth areas can be really exciting. I'm terrified that I'm too old to change, but I know that my health (not to mention my family, friends, & coworkers) will thank me if I can improve this skill.

What about you? Is there any skill that you're actively working on improving or developing for yourself? Tips or tricks that you can share? :-)