Lately

Lately | RISING*SHINING Lately | RISING*SHINING Lately | RISING*SHINING

Relishing a weekend of family time and glorious weather.

Remembering that my favorite way to spend a Sunday afternoon is on a family bike ride.

Reading A Gentleman in Moscow.

Delighted by the idea of a personal reading syllabus, which Erica described on our recent podcast episode

Recommending Homeward Bound to any women who blog, read blogs or are active on social media. I loved this thought-provoking book about women and feminism, and the author's conclusions.  

Eating salads for lunch at work with feta, olives, wheat berries, toasted pecans, edamame and sometimes a hard boiled egg or tuna. Looking at this older blog post is reminding me to add bell peppers back to my salads!

Grateful to have two boys sleeping until 5:40 (or later!) most days. We used to get up at 4:30 OR EARLIER every day. I could not have imagined being in such a great sleep situation six months ago.

Singing the praises of the sleep coach we worked with last summer to anyone who will listen. 

Loving the grain silos near our house. I might be nurturing a mild obsession and I'm thinking of a way to get a large format picture of them in my house.

Checking Mint daily.

Choosing my purchases carefully. (No personal allowance spending so far this month!)

Dipping my toes into some freelance writing work.

Exchanging regular Voxer messages with so many good friends. And just got my mom on board, too. 

Listening to How I Built This, Call Your Girl Friend, #amwriting, and Pantsuit Politics.

Laughing over this shirt and how perfect it would be for Cedric. He loves to walk around with his TWO stuffed animal cats clutched to his chest. 

Looking forward to bookclub this week. I didn't make time to read 1984 but am looking forward to the discussion. 

Planning to help the boys make some simple Valentine's cards for their classmates.

Running slower at Orange Theory these days. I aggravated a tiny muscle in my hip (the TFL), most likely from over use. ARG. 

Working hard to keep our weekly grocery bill under $120 - a FEAT for us! We had been averaging $180 per week.

Finding that we can get by just fine.

Making use of what we already have in the pantry and freezer.

Still thinking about this first interview on Fresh Air and this one on Hidden Brain

Hoping to fit in some movie dates to see Hidden Figures and The Lego Batman Movie

Ending the weekend by wrapping this up, setting out my gym clothes for my 5 am class in the morning and reading.

Pleasantly surprised to have found that Mondays are kind of my favorite lately.

Happy Monday!


Goals - February 2017

Goals - February 2017 | RISING*SHINING
I'm heading into February feeling a bit weary - and it's only the second month of the year! I've been putting in at least a couple of hours of creative work (podcasting, blogging, writing, Copper Quail Style) most evenings and usually a bit of time on the weekends as well. Plus all of the news is weighing heavily on me. Whew!

I've always found joy in small things and it's advice I'll readily repeat to others. So perhaps this month is a good time to recommit to my 2017 goal of choosing gratitude. Despite the heavy happenings in our world I can count many, many things for which I am grateful. 

Big things happening in February:

+ Celebrating two family birthdays and my in-laws' FIFTIETH wedding anniversary! 

+ Valentine's Day! Not a huge holiday in our house but we like to make it special for the boys in some way. Plus we'll buy or preferably make Valentines for the boys to exchange with friends at school. 

In February I choose to...

+ Moderate my news intake. In recent years I've read enough news or listened to news podcasts to stay informed but have mostly stayed engaged at a distance. In the past few weeks I have been reading the news daily and it's been emotionally overwhelming, draining and honestly terrifying. I want to be engaged, and I have been calling my representatives at least once per week, but it's not sustainable for me to be so engaged. 

+ Finish our 2016 family photo book. I've been working on this during one lunch hour per week at work so I have a great start. Here's a full post on how I manage our family photos including making an annual photo book. 

+ Plan the 2017 Matrimoney editorial calendar with Chris. Erica and I do a great job of planning ahead for The Girl Next Door Podcast. I need to do this with my other co-host ;).

+ Set up a system to keep our bird feeders full. For my birthday I received gift cards to Wild Birds Unlimited (a favorite). I added another hummingbird feeder and two seed feeders to our backyard. Now we have SO many birds and the bird feeders need to be filled a few times a week. I want to keep the feeders full but not spend a ton of money. I also want to figure out a bird seed storage solution.

Recurring monthly goals:

+ Spend 15 minutes each day on creative writing. This is any writing that's just for me. It could be blogging, writing in the boys' memory journal or working on an essay.

Update: I'm doing this about every other day.

+ Make Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings for work and leave Thursday and Friday open. As part of CHOOSING family and writing I want to get my work done for my podcasts and Copper Quail Style early in the week so that evenings later in the week are free. It's easy to put this work off to another night since timing is flexible but getting it done earlier will mean I can relax sooner.

Update: Ugh, not doing a great job of this yet.

+ Check Mint at least once each week. To CHOOSE savings I need to be mindful of every transaction and stick to my monthly personal allowance budget.

Update: Yes! Doing this really helped us to stay within our budget in January. 

 

How are you doing? What things are you grateful for and what good things are you looking forward to in February?

Happy February!


What I spent: January 2017

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In December, Chris and I had our annual goals and budget meeting. We reviewed our budget (kept in an Excel spreadsheet) and made sure each category of spending aligned correctly with a budget in Mint. We made a few changes and did some general tidying to our budget - it was so satisfying!

So January felt like a "fresh" start to our budget (always appealing) plus Chris and I made a goal of spending very little of our personal allowance money. As a result I've been tracking every dollar we/I spend in Mint - and I have been loving it.

We are each budgeted $150/month of personal allowance money. It's what we use if we buy coffee or a meal out or want to buy anything beyond groceries and what we need to have around the house. Even though $150 seems like a lot to me we both find ourselves over-spending most months. While at the same time neither of us feels like we are extravagant spenders! 

By tracking every dollar we spent this month we have both stayed well within our personal allowance budgets. PLUS we've stayed within other budgets like groceries, household services (lawn care, cleaners, other things that come up) and for home supplies (lightbulbs, etc. plus disposable diapers and wipes).

Our month of "no extra spending" was a failure in that we did each spend personal allowance money. But it was a huge success in that neither of us over-spent and it feels like we're establishing new habits of tracking every dollar. Something that helped me stay within my personal allowance budget was making sure that I reimbursed myself for things like gifts and business expenses (for my podcasts). We have separate savings accounts for those and I always mean to rectify the spending but often think, "Oh it'll work out." And what works out is that I overspend my personal allowance. No more!

Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to share how I spent my personal allowance money this month. Perhaps it will be a recurring monthly feature. It's certainly a good way to stay accountable to my budget!

Personal allowance spending in January 2017: 

$24.33 - 2017 Nikki McClure calendar for my office

$17.32 - brunch out with a dear friend in Tucson. This charge is a little annoying because we actually went out at the end of December so it should have been a December expense but it didn't hit until January. 

$10 - Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art to see Push Comes to Shove: Women and Power (amazing)

$7.20 - coffee and gelato post-museum with a feisty friend

$3.76 - hot tea at book club. Normally I'd get a beer and I definitely could have bought nothing...but I didn't.

$6.27 - Phoenix Women's March small registration donation + online service fee.

$39.97 - printing my Women's March poster and having it mounted on foam board at Office Max 

$10.78 - beer and a slice of pizza at book club happy hour

$7.20 - iced cold brew + delicious blondie during a Girl Next Door Podcast work session

Total spent: $126.25/$150

Even though I ended up spending more than I thought I would I feel good about it! My Women's March poster was a bit of an unexpected expense and the most expensive thing I bought. Totally worth it. I'm saving the ~$24 "left over" in my personal savings account for a rainy day.

I'm interested to see if I can remain on budget for my personal allowance going forward. One-hundred and fifty dollars can go alarmingly fast, all the more reason to track every dollar.


The Women's March | January 21, 2017

The Women's March | RISING*SHINING

On Saturday morning I bundled up (which counts as a few layers plus a fleece here in Arizona), kissed Chris and my boys goodbye, and headed downtown for the Phoenix Women's March. On the way I stopped to have a poster made of the awesome graphic shared by Joanna, which I also had printed in a smaller size to frame. 

I hadn't been sure what to expect but when I got downtown the parking lots were full and people were streaming towards the capitol. Young people, old people, families, people of all colors and abilities. I nearly started crying! At the capitol I met up with friends, took in the scene and marched through downtown. It was my first political protest and it was such a positive and invigorating experience. Throughout the day I saw pictures from friends or on social media of marches around the country - and the world! My own aunt and uncle marched in Paris. It was inspiring and powerful.

Here is what I wrote in my own social media posts about why I marched:

"Marching for equality, kindness and love. And because while our country is divided on some issues I reject the notion that we are "carnage." If we were we would not have had a peaceful transfer of power between two vastly different ideologies or peaceful protests across the country showing resilience. I am proud of our country and committed to being engaged to make it better."

Posting about something political on my blog makes me feel a little anxious. Not because I'm afraid to talk about politics or that I don't have strong opinions. But because I'd prefer to talk to you about politics and these very important issues over coffee and when I can listen to what you have to say, too. Social media is such a one way conversation and that's not the kind of conversation I want to have, or that we need to have.

But.

I decided I did want to share this experience because I feel that it is so important, and because this space is where I chronicle my life and thoughts. Participating in the Women's March is something that is going to stay with me. So is choosing action and I want to share how I'm going forward.

To choose action I am committing to:

+ Saving the phone numbers of my U.S. and state elected officials to my phone. I've saved the U.S. senators and representative numbers already and have made use of them. This week I'll save those for my state representatives. 

+ Calling my U.S. and state elected officials each twice per month. I'm thinking I'll alternate Fridays: one Friday I'll call my U.S. officials, the next I'll call my state officials. 

+ Subscribing to email list serves for organizations I want to support. I've already signed up for several including the Arizona Democrats, Arizona Planned Parenthood and the NAACP. I also the a weekly email from Wall of Us

+ Making donations throughout the year. Chris and I budgeted $600 for donations this year. (We chatted about our entire 2017 budget in a recent Matrimoney episode.)

+ Staying informed. The abundance of fake and skewed news (from both sides) is alarming and infuriating. Although I've mostly disconnected from the news I do want to find ways to stay aware. I get theSkimm daily and subscribe to Slate Political Gabfest (admittedly has a liberal bias, probably why I like it), Pantsuit Politics (many of you recommended this to me, thank you, LOVE it! Highly recommend, includes views from the left and right) and NPR Politics. I haven't been listening much since the election but maybe I'll tune back in. I also have an online subscription to the New York Times. 

+ Share what I'm doing and stay accountable. I have a circle of friends who I've been texting what I plan to do. We've agreed to keep checking in with each other to be sure we're following through on what we committed to. Sharing my commitments here also makes me feel accountable.

Do you have any other ideas for me or tips on what makes the biggest impact? 

If you feel energized and moved to take action I encourage you to make concrete plans for what you want to do. Then tell a friend and hold yourselves accountable. Sharing an article, picture or video on social media feels good but if that's where the action stops it doesn't achieve much. We can't confuse sharing an article that supports our views with taking action. Change comes from conversations, phone calls, donations, showing up, volunteering and voting.


Conversations with Dashiell & Cedric

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Cedric is officially joining these posts! Mostly everything he says is cute right now but he's had a couple zingers that I've been able to write down and remember. He seems to have good comedic timing already and loves doing little "bits" once he sees that he's making us laugh. Right now there's a lot of poo humor. :)

We haven't quite hit the stage where the boys are having long conversations together although I think it's super close. Ah, can't wait to hear what they'll have to say to each other.

Here's what Dashiell and Cedric have been saying lately...

A few Dash-isms that we love so much
This day = today 
Last day = yesterday, or last week
Next day = tomorrow

How Dashiell spelled his name out loud for a long time
D-A-S-H-I-E-L-L-L

Me: Good night.
Dash: Be careful in your bed...

Me: Do you know any facts about dinosaurs?
Dash: Dinosaurs have fossils in their belly!

Dash: I'm fast like emergency!

Dash: I'm not 3. I'm 61.

Dash: I want you to have another popsicle so your belly can get big like mine.

Chris has trained both boys to respond with "the bomb!" when he starts, "Daddy is the..." On a recent morning Chris made Dashiell hot chocolate at his request. But he made a pretty big mug, which Dash drank quickly and then complained of a stomach ache...
Dash: Daddy's not the bomb anymore...

Dash: We don't say poopy butt. (He's told me this several times. Ahem)

Me: How did you sleep?
Dash: Five.

Dash: There's a thousand dollars of sand in the bathtub!

Dash: After I turn 3 - you're not going to like this - I'm going to turn 4. And you're never going to see me because I'm going to be taller than you.

Me: Dash, what do you call your blanket?
Dash: Judy.
(have never heard him call it that before or since)

Dash: I'm sweaty. I need a snack. Sweaty means I'm hungry.

Dash: Don't put up your windows Daddy, or you can fall out of the car.

After bedtime one night Dash, looking very sad, walked into the front room where we were. He had one arm pulled into his shirt (a new trick)...
Dash: I'm sad because I don't have an arm.

Dash: I have chemicals in my office
(no idea on this one)

Me: What woke you up?
Dash: Well, my brain!

Dash: When I grow up, I'm going to be a T. Rex.

Dash: I have million. I'm giving away dollars.

We were playing hide and seek from Chris. I was hiding in a closet with the boys and we were pretending to be scared of Chris finding us.
As he pushes Cedric out of the closet...
Dash: Go Cedric, be brave. 

Me: Cedric, what do we have for Thanksgiving?
Cedric: Horses!

When we turned on the windshield wipers...
Dash: That's the car's tears!

Me: Dash, what's the biggest number you can think of?
Dash: ...38!

Dash: Where ever you are, you are with me.

Me: Dash, what's the most important thing.
Dash: To love your family.

Cedric: Toots, guys!

More conversations with Dashiell & Cedric