Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I've been really out of things for the last two weeks online. First there was stress at work; not out of the ordinary, just a crunch period. Then there was a wake and a funeral. And then there was Wedding Stress. Everything fell by the wayside, and it occurred to me that, if the management of my life can so easily fall by the wayside, I must not have a good handle on managing my life.

But more importantly, I'm looking for motivation, I think. Motivation to keep chugging at long term goals despite short term challenges. What do you all do when you're having trouble with that?

Recently, I've been eating ice cream and watching Bones. Which is all well and good on its own, but not a good coping mechanism.

One of the most helpful tools I've found in motivating myself to do things I don't want to do is maintaining zero emails in my inboxes, Gmail, at work, and our physical mailbox. The satisfaction of having a big empty box in front of me inspires me to deal with items as they come it: either address the issue, file the issue for future reference, or just delete it. You'd be surprised what you can get away wth just deleting; the biggest lesson I've learned in the last month or so of doing this has been just how much information DON'T need to consume or store.

Doing this for our physical mail is more challenging - it's easy to take mail out of the mailbox everyday and throw away the junk, but items that don't require an immediate action wind up in piles on the kitchen table and even on top, not inside, the filing cabinet. Ideally, I'd have our filing cabinet downstairs near the mailbox so putting things away would be less of a chore, but I digress.

The concept is explained better and in greater detail elsewhere, just Google it, but that's what I've been doing.

Another of the things I've learned to increase my productivity is to think small. One of my biggest hurdles is getting overwhelemed by too many things to do or one thing to do that's just too big.

Like finding a hotel for my wedding guests to spend the night. I had no idea how to go about getting something lined up, so I started with one thing: I need a hotel within 30 minutes of our venue. A few quick Google searches and I had a list. The next thing I needed was a hotel with room options for around $100/night. I narrowed down the list. I also needed a hotel with enough rooms for my guests, so I crossed out all the bed and breakfasts. All of a sudden, I had a manageable task: call the four hotels left on the list and ask about group rates and transportation to and from our venue.

This isn't a new concept, its just one that I've seen myself learning.

I'm trying to apply the same principal to another goal: getting up earlier to work out and eat a healthy breakfast. I'm finding that, even though I know the long term reward of having a lovely, relaxing, healthy morning always outweighs the short term reward of staying in bed longer, I hardly ever follow through. In fact, I'll be hungry, but still get back in bed, leave for work with minutes to spare, and skip breakfast.

Any advice?

The other area I've had trouble getting motivated in has been, obviously, blogging. I think this is another instance where creating the habit is hard work, but once it's in place, it's easier to maintain. But how do you create a habit that requires you read, think, and write - like homework - every day? Or one that requires you to work out every day?

Maybe I should break taht into smaller pieces. Maybe I will write a blog post every day for the month of May, even if its just 300 words musing about something I read. Maybe I'll just aim to put sneakers, instead of flats, on every morning before taking Maddie out, whether I exercise or not.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Talking about Money

From what I gather, money is the thing most couples in the US fight about, and I imagine that's true all around the world. Money makes the world go 'round, you see. They say that couples who can talk effectively about money succeed and those who can't, don't.

Here's what a typical conversation CW and I have about money:

One of the other: AHHHH WE HAVE NO MONEY.

The other: Calm down babe here's some right here.


The second: Sure we will lets do some math...feel better? Ok lets order some pizza, buy some whiskey, and get drunk so we forget about this until later.

And later, the second picks up where the first left off panicking about CREDIT CARD DEBT, or LOANS, or a CRAPPY, LOW PAYING JOB.

Hopefully, we're not alone. Not that I want anyone of you lovelies to live from paycheck-to-OMG WHEN DO I GET PAID like us. Or rather, like me. But that's what you get when you go into writing/journalism for a magazine and newspaper. Remember those things? With the pages? Exactly.

But I digress. I only mean that it would be comforting to know that other people do any of the following and that I won't be sent to personal finance hell for doing it myself:
  • carry a balance on their credit card(s)
  • spend too much
  • live almost beyond your means
  • pay half your income in housing and/or loans

And it would be nice to hear what you all do to talk about money in your life. Do you talk about it all? Just with you closest friends? What about your family?

I'm pretty sure everyone knows how poor I am. When it gets to the point that I turn down a fucking coffee at Starbucks cause I don't have any more cash to spend this week, its obvious to whoever I'm talking to that there is a problem. I like to think that the problem isn't so much how I spend money or that I spend to much, Because seriously, by the day before payday, I've got 30 bucks in the bank, one or two outstanding checks, and a strong hankering for a new bottle of whiskey. And a pizza. But usually I can find someone to split an order of Dominos with me. Thanks guys!

My big concern for myself is continuing to be honest. I've never lied to CW about anything and I haven't even stretched the truth to him about how much I've spent. But let me tell you: its HARD. The guilt over every dollar I hand across the counter when I know he's given me 50 bucks to cover an overdraft charge is intense. You can probably guess what he'd say:

"Money is there to be spent, and its all our money. I love you and I want you to enjoy yourself once in a while, so don't worry about it."

So honesty, certainly remains key. I can imagine he'd be singing a different tune if I'd been lying to him all this time.

What else? I'd say a shared opinion on values. It's hard to talk to anyone, let alone the person you have sex with, about money if you don't value the same things in life (maybe you shouldn't be having sex with that person?). Like, I value drinking whiskey and so does Chris and we both understand that. So if money is tight that week, I don't buy a bottle of tequila, but a bottle of whiskey we can share. Better example: we both value camping and want to make that a part of our lives. So we spend money on camping equipment that, to others, would be a complete waste.

That's really it, I think. And of course, the bottom line is everyone should remember that mone may make the world go 'round, but ti doesn't make it fun. Sex does that. And whiskey.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Quitting TV

We got rid of cable this weekend. It's been quite an adventure so far.

First, we started by hooking up my Mac Mini to the TV playing music and music videos on the big screen. Fun, but the mouse and keyboard didn't work from the couch, so we had to get up.

I bought a wireless mouse and keyboard that worked from across the room, and we started watching Bones and SNL skits on Hulu. It was great to take a break from the commercials, but we still had the cable in place as backup. Nothing like a little Good Eats before bed, you see.

But CW and I had been complaining about Comcast and talking about getting rid of cable altogether for months. We wanted to make the leap, but were afraid of the consequences: we'd never been without a TV for more than a few days for our entire lives. But about two weeks ago, I finally made the appointment and we went through with it: cable TV currently doesn't come to our house.

It was my second try.

The first time I called, I rehearsed: "Hello Comcast, this is Meg Flynn from 517 Broughton Drive, and I'd like to cancel my cable." It took a few times before I felt confident to dial the number. But when the friendly lady asked how she could help me that day, I sheepishly asked to down grade my package. I was even more sheepish when Chris came home and told him I had not only chickened out, but had left us with a miserable cable package that not only didn't have ESPN, but also didn't have SyFy. Even worse, we didn't have any TV service at all upstairs, and I had no idea how or why, but was too ashamed to call back and ask.

The injustice of it inspired us, so I called again and asked to cancel it for real.

"Hello Comcast, this is Meg Flynn from 517 Broughton Drive, and I'd like to cancel my cable."

Success! But I cringed, waiting for a fight, thinking is this guy asks why I'm cancelling or if there was a way for him to convince me to stay, I'm going to crumble.

You see, first of all, I hate Comcast since it's a power-hungry monopoly that doesn't provide goo enough service for the exorbitant charges it requires. Secondly, TV has a limited positive impact on our lives, if at all. There have been nights when the two of us, after a long day at work, sat on the couch from 6pm to 11pm watching reruns, Keeping up with the Kardashians, and worse: the local news broadcast. Barely saying a word to each other and only getting up to get something to eat. Feeling your brain turn to mush inside your skill would be a mind-blowing experience if you're mind was working at all at the time.

And seriously guys: do you have any idea how much marketing bullshit you're exposed to in a 120 minute period of TV watching? It's insane. And I speak from experience: it DOES effect you, even though you think you're better than that. It's getting in your brain, man.

This is all very snobby and hippie-elitist of me, I understand. I'd say not as much as this guy. But you know what? Family Guy isn't that funny and LOST will never satisfy you.

But I digress. The guy came on Saturday to take away our cable box and adjust our connection so that we'll only be getting Internet from now on. Ironically, the cost of Internet nearly doubled so we'll only be saving a few bucks a month with these change. Again with the snobbiness: I argue that our quality of life with improve significantly regardless.

Immediately, however, we recognized a problem: we now had no way of telling what time it was in our living/dining area. And we'd relied so completely on the cable box to know what time is was, all three of the clocks in our kitchen had been neglected to the point they now all read a different time. CW set to solving that problem. And other than that, things were ok. We survived the first day. We spent most of Saturday night watching videos on YouTube and Vevo on the big screen (which I'm not sure was any better than TV?).

But over the course of Sunday, we both independently realized a much bigger challenge lay ahead. We didn't say anything to each other; the fear was too great. Of all the times to cancel cable, I'd scheduled it for the day before Opening Day.

Not gonna lie: I panicked internally when I realized. But I didn't say anything unless CW was regretting the change too. I had to stay strong.

Fortunately, under the guise of enjoying the weather with friends, I invited us over to the Varnesi's house for a cook out and, conveniently, was able to watch the first few innings of the game on their TV. Unfortunately, the game started at 8pm, and everyone was tired: we needed a back up plan. So I suggested we turn on the radio in our room and listen to the game the old school way - how quiant!

That actually worked pretty well, and it's really a good thing I canceled it when I did, since if we were used to watching baseball every night, we'd never be strong enough to ditch the thing. Though I think the radio has more commercials than the TV between innings. Alas.

We're looking into some kind of web-based subscription for baseball. I'll let you know what we find, and how the experiment goes as we try to get through baseball season without a TV. I suppose the bottom line is this means we'll be going to the bar more often to watch the game, so call us if you'd like to come too!