How to Live an Intentional Life

It takes a bit of thought to sort through the chaos and programming to determine just how you want to live your life.

My first trip down this path was simple in comparison. I had one goal I wanted to achieve. I wanted to be a stay-at-home single mother for my daughter, so I did what I had to do in order to make that happen.

Life isn’t static, however, so once that goal was complete it was time to set a new intention.

Throughout your life, you will encounter different phases. When you’re young, you may want to go out and see the world or strive to be on top of the world through your career choices. As you start a family, your focus may change to becoming a good parent, to raise your children in a thoughtful, responsible manner.

And when your children are grown, you will have to figure out what you want to do with yourself once your children are gone. Depending upon what you’ve already experienced, you may simply be tired and want some time to recharge.

There is nothing wrong with that.

I honestly believe that we will never have it all “figured out.” We will never be able to set a single path for our life because life is a journey with many different paths to choose from. Instead of trying to figure it out, trying to figure out a single path to follow until the end of our days, we simply need to determine what we want in the foreseeable future and head in that direction.

In my life, I’ve realized that I want to acquire the financial stability required in order to eliminate the need to work a public job. While I doubt that I will ever want to stop working entirely (sitting around the house can make you stir-crazy), I do want to have that option.

I want to focus a bit on my health as well as grow a bit mentally and emotionally, and I’ve also realized that writing is a part of who I am now. Even at my lowest points I search for a meaning that I can pass on to help others. While I never imagined it being more than a hobby when I first started blogging, it has now become a major focus of my life. I am okay with that.

I’m going to share with you the steps I’ve decided to take in hopes of giving you an idea as you decide upon the path you want your life to follow. I may not have everything figured out but that’s okay. I’ve got a basic plan and that’s all you need as well to get started.

In order to achieve financial freedom I will continue living beneath my means. I’ve changed my plan a bit to accommodate the fact that I want to reduce some of the stress on my life, however. I intend to take 10% of everything I earn (passive or active income) and place it in the safest investments that I can over time. This is based upon the advice given in George Clason’s book The Richest Man in Babylon (Clason, n.d.). In this book he stresses the need to keep 1/10 of any income earned to save and invest in the most cautious manner possible. I’ve decided to combine his advice with that of Michael Cheung’s from the book Sun Tzu The Art of Making Money: Strategies for Getting Through a Tough Economy. He discusses the importance of having a good foundation in place to establish financial security. (Cheung, 2012). To fulfil that need, at first the 10% will be used to fully fund an account that will only be accessed in the direst of emergencies. The overflow from that account will be invested in the safest investments I can locate over time. The money I have left over each month after the 10% deduction will be saved up and invested as usual, though perhaps not quite as often, since investing fees can add up on smaller stock purchases.

This new procedure will allow me to hedge my bets as I move towards my ultimate goal of financial freedom.

Since I prefer a simpler, calmer life I intend to simplify the things around me, eliminating my excess over time as I move forward. I’m wiser now from my previous experience with minimalism and I intend to use the wisdom gained. Instead of simply eliminating the excess I’ve acquired I have resolved not to purchase more until I actually need to. I will use up the items I already own instead. I see no point in donating them to an agency where they may end up on a landfill (due to the surplus already available at thrift shops) until they have reached the end of their usefulness. Items that I know that I won’t ever need again will be passed on to the best of my ability.

As you can see from my example, it doesn’t take an immense amount of work to reconfigure your life. With just a bit of thought and planning you can not only enjoy your present but slowly work towards the life of your dreams.

What steps can you take to lead a more intentional life as you work towards your dreams? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

REFERENCES

Clason, G. (n.d.). The Richest Man In Babylon.

Cheung, M. (2012). Sun Tzu The Art of Making Money: Strategies for Getting Through a Tough Economy. 1st ed. Allysky.

How Do You Spend Your Time?

“To come but once into the World, and Trifle away our true Enjoyment of it, and of our selves in it, is lamentable indeed.”

William Penn (1706). Some Fruits of Solitude, in reflections and maxims relating to the conduct of human life.

These past few days I’ve had little to do but rest and think. It occurred to me that our lives have gotten so busy that we may not be doing enough thinking. It is only through self-reflection that we can learn and grow; barring that exercise, we run the risk of becoming stagnant.

While theories abound concerning the Afterlife, all that we know for certain is that we only have one life to live. That life, in the grand scheme of things, is woefully short. Therefore, it can only benefit us if we focus upon the things that truly matter. We don’t have enough time to do everything, so it only makes sense that we eliminate the distractions that would cause us to waste this irreplaceable resource.

Consider how you spend your day. How much of your time do you spend engaging in activities that don’t benefit you? Does your quality of life improve when you sit in front of a television, or does that time make you feel inferior because you don’t have the money to buy their suggestions or the skills to live the lives your heroes lead?

If so, then why torture yourself by watching it?

Does it make you feel good to visit Facebook and see the posts of others bragging about their latest meals, purchases, or experiences? Do you feel happy reading the political vitriol that is being shared by your friends?

Does it feel good to wander through a store searching for a particular item, or could a quick online purchase eliminate the need to spend your priceless time hunting for it in a store and then standing in line to purchase it?

The above is just an example of the questions you can ask yourself as you go through your day.

I have been asking myself these very same questions recently. I have discovered a lot about who I am through the asking.

My personal revelations about how I’ve been wasting the priceless resource of my time made me realize that I may not be alone in this situation. Society seems determined to keep our minds so distracted that we don’t stop to consider our actions. It has become verboten to take time away from our lives to contemplate. If we are doing nothing, we are wrong so we fill up every moment with tasks, entertainment, and social media instead.

It makes me wonder if there is a reason why we are discouraged from thinking anymore.

We expend an immense amount of thought about how we spend our money; since our time is irreplaceable, shouldn’t we treat it with even more respect? In the end, while we can always make more money, we are incapable of adding more time to our lifespan.

How do you spend the priceless resource of your time? Are there areas you would like to change? Please continue this conversation in the comments below.

References

Penn, W. (1706). Some Fruits of Solitude, in reflections and maxims relating to the conduct of human life. The seventh edition. T. Sowle: London.

Know Thyself

“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.”

Laozi

When you start upon a journey, you must not only know where you are but where you want to go. Otherwise, you wont know which turns to make—or even realize if you have arrived at your destination.

Life is the same way, yet many of us tend to wander aimlessly through it. It is no wonder that we end up feeling lost and dissatisfied.

As you take time for yourself this weekend, contemplate your current situation.

  • Who are you?
  • Are you content with yourself?
  • Is there anything about your current life and circumstances that you would like to change?

Write down your answers in a journal or save them in the comments below.

What Would You Do Today if You Were Scheduled To Die Tomorrow?

“Life, we learn too late, is in the living, in the tissue of every day and hour.”

Carnegie, Dale. (1948). How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever said this: “I can’t wait to achieve….”

We all do this. We spend our present moments focused upon our future in one way or another. We can’t wait to grow up. We can’t wait for the weekend. We count the years until we can take a vacation or retire.

My parents died at 57 and 61, respectively. While I am not a statistician, this made me realize that my personal time on this planet is limited. I may not live long enough to achieve financial freedom again. I may not live until tomorrow even; I could be hit by a truck as I walk to work for all I know.

Many people realize that, like me, they may never achieve their goals. They decide to enjoy life as it comes since nothing is guaranteed aside from our now.

While I may not live to see tomorrow’s sunrise, I live in hope of experiencing many more. While I may not live to achieve financial freedom I choose to live my life as if I will by planning my life and finances accordingly.

Yet I’ve realized that over the past two years I’ve spent the majority of my time working towards that uncertain future. Instead of savoring the life I have today I have kept myself focused upon the steps I want to take to achieve my overall goals. Instead of today, I’ve consistently focused upon my tomorrow, be it my next day off, my next investment, or the next stage of college.

I’ve taken some time off to consider what I really want in my life, focusing on the areas that don’t require money. I asked myself: if I were scheduled to die tomorrow, how would I want to spend my today?

The answer was surprising in its simplicity. If I were to die tomorrow, I would want to spend my today resting, reading, and writing one last blog post to pass on anything I believed might help you as you continue your journey.

I wouldn’t stress over pinching pennies. I wouldn’t constantly search for my next investment. I wouldn’t send every last dime I’d managed to save to my brokerage account. While I wouldn’t spend myself broke, I would allow myself to buy some new music, download an ebook that caught my interest (as opposed to waiting for a physical copy to arrive after I died), then I would stretch out, take a long relaxing breath of thankfulness, and quietly savor my last day on earth as I listened to the new music playing in the background.

That is something I can do right here and now in my current life. All I have to do is shift my focus. I can achieve the life I desire to an immense degree without having to wait and hope for a future that I may not live to see.

This is why I started taking time off each week to relax. This is why I began to eliminate drama from my life.

And this is why I encourage you to do the same.

Goals are a wonderful thing. They keep us alive and moving forward but it’s neither healthy nor productive to sacrifice every moment of your now striving for a future you may not live to attain or complaining that it hasn’t arrived yet.

Today I want you to take a few moments to step back from your entire life. Ask yourself how you would want to spend today if you were scheduled to die tomorrow. Focus upon the things that don’t require money.

Would you want to spend your last day enjoying your family? If so, make arrangements to simplify your schedule so that you can start doing that now.

Would you prefer to spend your last day free of drama? Then begin cutting the major sources of drama from your life.

Would you like to be free of the endless chores that come with caring for a home? While you may not be able to eliminate them entirely, you can begin to pare down your possessions and streamline your routine to eliminate much of the overhead.

Would you like to take one final trip before you leave this life? Start making plans and saving up so that you can take that trip in the foreseeable future.

You can still work towards the future, but you don’t have to sacrifice the entirety of your now to achieve it. I have discovered that, by simply shifting your priorities a bit, that you can live the life you desire to a significant degree immediately.

Take a moment to comment upon how you would want to spend your last day of life below. Share the steps you intend to take now to make that happen. Then share this post with the one friend is sacrificing their now to worry about an uncertain future.

Thank you.

I plan to discuss the specific ways I’ve began to streamline my life in order to spend more time doing the things I enjoy without sacrificing my goals for the future. If there is a particular subject you would like for me to address, leave a comment below.

Why Bad Things Happen

The other evening I had a moment to chat with a young friend. This person needed to share the burden of some personal problems and wanted to seek my advice.

In the course of the conversation it became apparent that my young friend was placing far too much importance on what, in the end, was a rather trivial situation. To explain the difference I shared a few of the things I had experienced in my personal life.

My friend was somewhat shocked. “Why do these bad things happen to us?” She asked.

“To make us stronger,” I smiled.

I explained to her that while the experiences I’d had were traumatic, I had gained priceless knowledge with each event:

  • I realized what mistakes had led to the situations.
  • I uncovered areas of myself that I needed to change.
  • I learned how to work through my problems and resolve troubling situations, and
  • I discovered that I was capable of surviving anything that Life decided to toss my way.

In hindsight, the traumas of my past have not only benefited me; they have helped others as well. Those experiences inspired my desire to show others that they were not alone in their struggles. While I may have had to feel my way out of darkness alone, I ended up creating the beacon of this blog to help light the way for others facing their own personal darkness.

That alone has made everything I’ve experienced worthwhile.

It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what you’re facing. Regardless of how things seem there is someone out there who has faced far worse and rose to the challenge.

Remember that the next time you feel as if your life is ruined due to something that has occurred. In the grand scheme of things, our challenges are but a tiny blip on the radar. Chances are high that in a hundred years no one will even remember them.

So take a deep breath and relax. Step back from the situation for a moment and think about it critically. Realize that it’s not as bad as it appears to be.

Then form a plan to resolve the situation, pull up your big kid panties, and get to work.

You’re going to be okay.

How to Improve Your Health and Boost Productivity

At first glance the subjects of health and productivity don’t seem to have much in common. One concerns how you treat your body and the other how you handle your time. Yet the two are inextricably entwined. It is only by maintaining and improving your health that you can find the energy to do the things you want (and need) to do.

I must confess that I only understood the correlation recently. Over the years I had noticed a lessening of my energy levels. Considering that I am nearing the half-century mark, I attributed it to age and dismissed it. Everybody slows down when they get older, I told myself.

Over the past two years a lingering dental problem (a lifetime of drinking soft drinks has destroyed the enamel on my teeth) forced me to have several teeth removed. As I began to have the teeth extracted, I noticed a surprising side effect: Every time I had a tooth removed, my energy levels increased. With every single boost of energy, I became more productive in my daily life.

I began to ask questions about this phenomenon. Dental issues can cause lingering infections in the body. By removing the source of the infection, I was reducing the load on my immune system and allowing it to work more efficiently. Instead of expending energy to keep infections at bay, my body now had excess energy that could be channeled into other areas of my life.

I pondered this quietly as I noticed the change. If eliminating the cause of infection in my body could cause such a dramatic improvement in my productivity, could actively caring for my body improve my productivity even more?

I decided upon a simple experiment. As most people in this modern age, I didn’t get enough sleep. I would stay up until late in the night writing or chatting online with friends. As a result I would have to drag myself out of bed each morning and force myself to get to work. Since sleep is essential for health, getting more of it should not only boost my health but increase my productivity as well.

At first it was difficult to train myself to go to bed earlier. It felt as if I was wasting time sleeping instead of doing more important things like writing or cleaning my home. I can sleep when I’m dead, I would tell myself stubbornly when my designated bedtime arrived.

I kept working on my experiment. Since a set bedtime wasn’t helping, I instead started setting my alarm clock a bit earlier. Within a week or so my body would start forcing me to go to bed earlier at night.

I didn’t see much difference at first. I would still be a bit groggy in the mornings as I woke up and began to work. Over time that began to change.

I began to wake up before my alarm each morning, sometimes by several hours. At first I was content to lie there and think but over time I began to get restless. I began hopping out of bed ready to get to work.

I began to feel a restless energy that I hadn’t felt in years. Each time I would feel it surface I would get up and do something. While some of these spurts didn’t last long, others lasted for several hours. Over time, these spurts of energy began to get longer and tiny little health issues I’d attributed to age began to decrease.

My ankles no longer swell painfully after a long shift. My shoulder rarely aches after a busy day scanning purchases. My ability to deal with the daily stress of life has improved. Things that used to upset me are now met with a shrug.

I feel as if I’m doing less yet the evidence around me proves that I’m doing more than ever. My home is cleaner. I write more. I read more books than ever. I even started mowing my own yard instead of hiring others to do it yet I still have time and energy to spare. Even with starting college I now find myself with enough time and energy to get it all done.

And it all started by taking care of me first.

If you find yourself perpetually exhausted and feel as if you don’t have enough hours in the day to do what needs to be done, you can improve that situation by making one simple change to your routine:

Get more sleep.

Sleep is like a magic potion to the human body. It allows it to recharge, giving it time to devote to healing and restoration. It can solve problems that the modern medical community cannot even detect, much less repair. Even better, the solution is free.

So go to bed earlier tonight. If like me you have trouble doing that, start by setting your alarm a bit earlier each morning so that your body will force the issue. Take naps whenever you can. This is especially important if you find yourself nodding off whenever you sit down since this is a classic sign of sleep deprivation.

Take one day each week to just rest. You may sleep the entire day away at first (like I did), but over time you will notice that your sleep periods will get shorter and your energy levels begin to climb.

When your energy levels go up, your productivity will follow.

If you found this post helpful, please take a moment to share it with a friend. If you find that you have trouble sleeping, you may want to consider picking up a copy of Set Your Sleep on Autopilot: Learn How to Fall Asleep Fast by Eric West. In this book he compiled a number of very helpful suggestions. I had the honor of contributing my personal method for dealing with insomnia to this book as well. Over the years I’ve revisited this book several times to learn from him and the other contributors so I highly recommend it.

How to Defeat Panic and Accomplish Your Goals

My daughter and I started college this past Thursday. We woke up bright and early to eat breakfast before we got started.

Katie began to cook while I turned on some relaxing classical music. After a brief phone call from Auntie wishing us a happy first day of college, we talked quietly as we ate before settling down in our spots to begin our studies.

I felt my chest tighten the moment I saw the tasks listed in this week’s unit. There was a list of items to read, a video that was suggested to watch, and a number of assignments to complete.

It is easy to become overwhelmed when we start a new project. Our mind gravitates to the big picture and we feel fear as that little voice inside of us screams that we’ll never get it done.

We’ll fail, so why should we even bother trying?

While our lizard brain is trying to protect us, it doesn’t understand is that we don’t have to do everything at once. We don’t have to complete everything in an instant.

All we have to do is focus on one step at a time and plod our way through. We are certain to reach the end as long as we keep walking.

The hardest part is getting through that first moment of terror.

My mind was screaming. What in hell were you thinking?!? There is no possible way you can do this on top of your job and everything else! You are going to fail, just like you failed the other times. You’re just throwing your money away and wasting your time. Quit now while you’re ahead!

I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, and waited for the moment to pass. Fortunately for me, this isn’t my first rodeo. When I left my husband I had no clue how I would survive. While I accepted the panic, I picked one thing and got to work.

Since then I’ve managed to raise my kids and build a successful writing business. I’ve accomplished other things during that time as well. While I may not know just how I’ll manage this new project, I know I will do just fine.

I just have to focus on the next step.

The very first thing I needed to do was download all of my reading materials. Once that was complete, I selected the reading assignment at the top of the list and got started.

One by one I went down that list. I didn’t worry about the next step; there wasn’t any point in worrying about it until I reached it. Before I knew what was happening I had reached my first written assignment.

While I may be discussing a college class in this post, the knowledge I used to get through this first week can be applied to anything we want to achieve in life.

The steps are simple:

  1. Close your eyes and allow yourself to breathe through that moment of panic.
  2. Determine the very first step you need to take.
  3. Focus exclusively upon that step until it is accomplished.
  4. Determine the next step and repeat #3.

Don’t worry about the big picture. It will only make you insane if you do. Just focus on the task that is immediately in front of you.

The journey will take care of itself.

If you have a friend who feels overwhelmed, take a moment to share this post with them. You may be helping them achieve greatness.

On another note, I recently signed up all of my books for the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale, that occurs during the entire month of July. Every single book I have listed there will be offered for free or at a significant discount so I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity. You can find my profile here.

The Art of Stepping Back From Your Problems

In 2011 I achieved the dream of being a stay-at-home single mother for my daughter. I had managed to build a successful writing business that supported us for several years.

Then Life happened and the Internet changed. I saw my book royalties dropping and couldn’t think of a way to fix it due to the panic I felt since it was my only source of income.

Fortunately, by then my daughter was almost an adult. Rather than continue to stress over the issue I went job hunting.

A lot of people believe that I gave up when I made that decision. They took my actions as a sign of surrender and proof that a life of financial freedom was impossible for the average person to attain.

But I wasn’t giving up. Instead, I was stepping back from a situation that was causing me an immense amount of stress. Instead of surrender, I performed a strategic retreat in order to regroup.

I’ve done a lot of thinking since I made that decision. At first I was depressed. I felt like a failure in my own mind. I had achieved what I consider to be the ultimate success and I’d lost it.

I rode out the depression, pulled up my big-girl panties, and started brainstorming. Where had I gone wrong? I asked myself repeatedly.

I realized one of my mistakes rather quickly. In my determination to spend as much time with my daughter as possible I’d jumped a bit too soon. While I had a bit of savings it wasn’t enough to sustain us during the ebbs and flows of Internet commerce.

My second mistake was violating one of my major rules. Years ago I’d learned to always have a backup plan in place on mission-critical items. That was why I had started my computer repair business decades ago and had worked multiple jobs for years. It’s always best to have a backup income source in place just in case your primary income disappears.

I didn’t know how to fix that mistake without maintaining a public job or creating another business so I began to read on the subjects of business, success, and finance extensively. I realized that I could create another passive income stream through investing in dividend stocks and immediately got started. In the time since I’ve funneled every penny from my writing business (my book royalties are actually growing again—thank you!) as well as the leftover funds from my public job into the project. In fact, just the other day I invested enough to take me $45 closer to my passive income goals.

I only need $16.67 a day to maintain my simple lifestyle so I am now two-and-a-half days closer to my target.

Had I not stepped back from the problem I would have never been able to clear my head enough to search for solutions. I would be desperately trying to make ends meet on an income stream so low that even I have no desire to tackle it; so frightened that I couldn’t sleep at night, much less figure out how to fix it.

The Art of Stepping Back from your problems isn’t just reserved for crazy old women like me who want to escape the Rat Race of Wage Slavery. It can be used to solve any problem. It is almost impossible to come up with creative solutions when you’re neck-deep in a stinky situation. Only by stepping out of the mess can we think to grab a shovel and start to scoop it away.

How to Step Back From Your Problems

If the problem is with a relationship, take a few days to distance yourself from that person. Tell them that your Great-Auntie-So-and-So desperately needs her whatsit fixed so you need to go to her house for a few days. Tell them that you have to pick up extra hours at your day job. Tell them that you forgot to pay the bill on your cellphone. Tell them something believable that will allow you to take a few days away from them to clear your head and think.

Yes, I’m telling you to lie if you have to. They wouldn’t understand if you told them the truth so I don’t suggest even trying.

You may decide that part of the problem is you, work out a way to resolve it and then return to them a better person after the sabbatical. Or perhaps you’ll realize that your life is better off without them in it. Whatever you decide, take the time away to form a game plan and then execute it.

If the problem is with your finances figure out some way to make sure the essential bills are paid so that you can breathe again. You may have to move in with a relative or a friend for a time but that’s okay. It’s not forever; it’s just until you clear your head and work out a line of attack. If that’s not an option, you may have to bite the bullet (like I did) and take another job while you figure things out. You may do like a friend of mine did. She used her last penny to rent a truck and relocate to another state for a fresh start. She stayed with me until she got her first paycheck and then rented her own place.

If the problem is with your health, take a small sabbatical away from the ones who are telling you horrible things (don’t do this in a medical emergency, of course). You may not be able to escape your failing body but you can escape the Doom-Sayers for a time. I include family and friends in this as much if not more than I do the medical community. It’s hard to think straight when everyone around you is freaking out, especially when you feel bad. Relax, take a deep breath, consider your options, and form a game plan.

If the problem is so overwhelming that it seems to encompass the entirety of your life, leave it for a time. Pack a bag and take a trip somewhere. Camp in the woods, sleep in your car—do whatever it takes to bring a bit of distance between you and your life. Even a few hours spent alone in the park can help immensely.

I’m not advising you to run from your problems. Instead, I recommend that you simply step back from them for a short time in order to clear your head. Allow yourself some breathing room so that your mind can recharge and come up with some solutions.

By stepping back from my personal situations I gained a clarity that would have been impossible to achieve otherwise. I not only devised a game plan to re-acquire my financial freedom, I worked out a way to resolve a lingering health issue I’d not had the courage to face for almost a decade.

Today I would like you to target one problem in your life. What one thing is so overwhelming that you can’t think clearly about how to solve it? Select the problem and then step away from it.

Once you clear your head, share your solution in the comments and then share this post with a friend so they will hopefully be inspired to step back from a problem of their own. If you’re still struggling, leave a comment so that we can suggest options that you may not have considered.

Together we can accomplish anything.

Peace,
Annie

Do Nothing

In a few short days my life is about to get extremely busy. While I would like to say that I am approaching the busiest I’ve ever been, thanks to the minimalist practice of eliminating the unimportant this would be a lie, so I refuse to mislead you.

Regardless of the exact details, the truth is that I have undertaken a course of action that will occupy a significant portion of my time for the next several years. At the end of this journey I will have achieved my life-long goal of graduating college so I consider the effort worthwhile.

It would be easy to fill the days leading up to my term. I’ve a house to maintain, a book to write, a blog to maintain, and a myriad of other items I would like to accomplish before I start this adventure.

Instead, I scheduled a day to do absolutely nothing.

The act of doing nothing can be immensely beneficial. It allows us to refresh both mind and body, recharging us so that we can regain the energy we need to keep moving closer to our goals. While you may not be able to do this very often, schedule at least one day a month to do nothing. One day a week is ideal but in this modern age that can be difficult to achieve. If you have children to care for you may not be able to spend the entire day relaxing (children need both food and supervision) unless you are fortunate enough to have someone in your life who will watch over them while you rest. If you don’t have someone who can watch them, take them to the park. They get to play and have fun while you sit on the sidelines and relax. It won’t be perfect but it will be better than nothing. I used to take my Katie to the local parks on a regular basis in order to recharge.

When you institute a day of doing nothing into your schedule you will discover that you feel better and have more energy. Your mind will be clearer and the tension you didn’t realize you were hoarding in your muscles will ease. Your immune system will improve so you will fall prey to illness less frequently. This will result in you having to take less time off of work or reduce the times you have to work while ill.

I highly recommend it.

How to Do Nothing

Schedule a day off from work (you can use your normal day off to do this). Warn your family and friends in advance since they might become concerned if you don’t respond to their calls or messages and wonder if you are feeling ill when you don’t climb out of bed first thing in the morning. The goal is to reduce stress, not exacerbate it with the frantic concern of others.

If you don’t feel that those around you would understand you can use the Stealth Method: tell everyone that on this certain day you will be immersed in a project and unavailable. This is the method I personally use. Since I have a habit of limiting my daily communication when I’m immersed in a writing project they don’t think to question when I announce that I’m scheduling an entire day for this.

Turn off your alarm clock the night before. Put your phone on silent or turn it off entirely. Mute all notifications from Messenger apps that you have on any of your devices (computers too). You can completely disconnect your Internet if you don’t use it to stream music as well, but this is not required if you mute all of your notifications.

Right before you go to bed the night before, take a long bath or shower (your preference). Dress in something comfortable that you can lounge around your home in the next day. Light some comforting incense, turn on some soft music (I recommend Weightless by Marconi Union), and go to sleep.

When you wake up do not hop out of bed immediately. Just lie there and relax. Note any thoughts that travel through your brain but don’t act on them. Just let them flow. If you find any of your thoughts creating stress, focus on your breathing as you think about how nice it feels to rest. You have nothing to do today so just be.

In time you will find yourself growing restless. You will have to use the bathroom or will want a cup of coffee. This is perfectly normal. Your body is accustomed to constantly rushing so it won’t be used to taking a vacation. Get up, do those simple tasks, then curl up in a comfortable chair or go back to bed.

Ignore the dirty dishes. The world is not going to end if you skip them for a day. Just stretch out and savor the luxury of not having to do anything for a change.

While it is perfectly acceptable to read during this time, resist the temptation to turn on the television. The last thing you want is to waste your day of rest on mindless drivel designed to sell you something by making you feel inferior. That said; do not read anything related to your daily life. Read something soothing, inspirational, or completely fictitious.

Take deep breaths and long naps. You may discover that the only thing you want to do is sleep and that’s okay. In fact, chances are high that the first few times you do nothing that your body will demand it. As a whole we push our bodies hard and rarely give them sufficient time to recharge, so ignore the voice in your head that tells you that you need to get things done.

Give your body what it needs instead.

Do not go shopping with your friends. Reschedule your Tinder date. Skip the coffee shop latte. Just stay home, relax, and do nothing.

At the end of the day turn your alarm back on but don’t bother with your phone or your notifications. You can restore those settings tomorrow when you rejoin the chaos.

After you schedule your first day of doing nothing, send this post to your one friend who works far too hard. Tell them that the world will not end if they take one day to care for themselves for a change. If that person is a single parent, volunteer to watch their children during the time. If you are both single parents, offer to take turns so you both can rest.

Above all, remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, no one will.

Wishing you peace and happiness,
Annie

The Reality of Aging

I woke up to a face filled with pain the other morning. I sat up with a moan, trying to figure out what was happening when my daughter entered the room.

“Oh my God! What happened to your face?” Katie exclaimed.

I staggered to a mirror. My upper right lip had swelled to the size of a sports ball.

That would definitely explain the pain. Poking around the area I determined the source of my agony:

I had another toothache.

Shit!

I thought I had sorted all of my teeth. I choked down some pain meds, applied an ice pack to the swelling, and waited until my dentist office opened.

I spent a week on antibiotics to reduce the infection before my dentist felt safe removing the tooth. I am now teaching myself to speak with my upper lip covering my remaining teeth to conceal the gap and aid in pronunciation.

It is time I faced reality. I could end up killing myself if I continue with the misguided notion that I can save any of my teeth. My dentist has urged me to at least remove all of my top teeth and advised that I may want to have the remaining bottom teeth removed as well. While they may have a few years of life left in them, their removal is inevitable.

I’ve known this time was coming for years even if I didn’t want to face it. I’ve spent the past few years asking people who have had all of their teeth removed about their experiences as I sought their advice.

Interestingly, while those in the lower and middle-class income spectrum all recommend getting an immediate denture, every single wealthy person I’ve questioned has informed me that I would be wasting my money. Immediate dentures rarely fit right so they are uncomfortable to wear if one is able to wear them at all. Even the people who recommend them have told me that they only wore them on rare occasions if they could wear them at all.

One distant relative, a very wealthy businessman, had all of his teeth pulled at the height of his professional career. His research indicated that dentures would not fit properly until his mouth settled so he dressed in his business suits, taught himself to conceal the issue while he spoke, and waited three years for his mouth to completely settle before investing in his first set of dentures.

Other wealthy people have told me a similar story. Almost every single one of them decided to throw vanity aside and wait three years before acquiring their first set of dentures. Not a single one of them had any regrets over the decision, and every single one of them told me that I would be throwing my money away if I didn’t wait at least a year before acquiring my first set of dentures.

My auntie has suggested a middle-of-the-road approach. Have them all pulled and wait until at least Spring of next year to evaluate the condition of my mouth and decide if it has healed enough to justify the expense. She believes that, while I may have to replace that initial pair in a few years as my gums continue to shrink and the bones readjust that it would offer a reasonable compromise between vanity, health, and expense.

I’ve got to do this. If I don’t, I could end up killing myself. This last infection came completely without any warning. While I had noted that I had less energy over the preceding week, I did not make the connection between my energy levels and my mouth.

I have no desire to regain my freedom just to drop dead from a tooth infection.

Despite what society tells us, losing our teeth is not necessarily a sign of poverty. Even multi-millionaires have removed their teeth to avoid health issues and have opted to go without dentures for a time to allow their mouth to properly heal. As one wealthy lady informed me, it makes no sense to spend thousands of dollars trying to save something that will have to be removed regardless or to spend a thousand dollars on a set of dentures that will be useless in a few months to a year.

I happen to agree.

When my dentist office opens today I intend to call and make arrangements. I will set my vanity aside and allow the world to think what it wants about my toothless demeanor; my health is more important than societal beliefs.

To answer the question you may be asking: no, I am not completely comfortable with the thought of eliminating my teeth. I am definitely not comfortable with having to walk around toothless for an extended amount of time. It has to be done, however, so I may as well get it over with. Procrastination serves no purpose.

Stiffly Moving Forward

My first thought this morning was that someone had replaced my joints with a box of Rice Krispies. Every part of my body snapped, cracked, and popped after yesterday’s adventure.

But at least I got the front yard mowed.

I may not feel like moving from this spot but I still had stuff to get done. While I’ve accomplished a lot towards my 2019 goals, there is one area I’ve barely touched:

My will.

I went online, revisiting the websites I’d trolled earlier. I located some examples along with a form where one writes out their funeral desires and printed it out.

In the next few weeks I’ll sort through the data, design the legalese, and concoct the paper that will serve as my Last Will and Testament until this cheapskate decides she can afford to have an attorney work up a better one. Once that is done I’ll round up a couple of friends and track down a Notary to make it legal.

For now I am going to swallow some pain meds, get dressed, and head to work. Sore muscles or no, this girl has got to make some money.

Self-Analysis

Last night I face-planted into my computer keyboard.

That was a definite sign of why I’ve become so grumpy and frustrated as of late. I’ve pushed myself a bit too hard again, sacrificing sleep for my goals.

I have really got to establish some limits here. While I’m happy that I am more productive than I’ve been in quite a while, I do not want to push myself so hard that it negatively affects my health.

On another front, a friend of mine has decided to create some goals of her own. Like mine, her goals include increasing her current income and establishing passive income.

She has heard about some local factories that may be hiring, so we have made plans to apply together at several places as soon as our days off match up. We can split the cost of fuel if we work the same shift, which will buy me some time to build up the extra funds needed to comfortably purchase a vehicle and pay for the higher insurance that I’ll be charged for the first year.

This has the potential of helping both of us if we work together. It would propel both of us income-wise, into “lower middle class.” While she is currently right on the border of that based upon her gross, I make a bit over half of her current income, so the financial change would be dramatic for me.

I would be forced to work a bit less on my studies (and my book project) but the increased income would greatly benefit my long-term goals.

That is a sacrifice that I am willing to make.

In the meantime, I clocked out early from work today since we were really slow, came home, and took a long nap. I need to start taking care of myself if I want to do this.

Reviewing the Past

Every day I make it a point to restore at least one of the older posts that I had to delete several years ago.

The post I restored today had to deal with relationships. I really wanted a relationship back then.

It’s amazing to see how much I’ve changed in just a decade.

I couldn’t help but chuckle as I restored that old post. Just this morning I was brainstorming responses to keep the males at bay. I no longer want a relationship; I definitely have no desire to be pursued by the current crop of males that tend to target me. As I wrote earlier, I purchased a ring to discourage them from even trying.

What changed?

I did. I’ve went from just surviving, from trying to keep my expenses as low as they could go in order to get by and spend time with my daughter to actually having a major goal.

Instead of hoarding every penny to take time off from working, I’m now picking up extra shifts at work so I can combine the money with my book royalties to provide seed money for my investment business.

I want to prove that the American Dream isn’t dead, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

That is a huge mindset shift for me, especially when you notice that just those few short years ago I dreamed of meeting someone who would sweep me off of my feet.

I think I like that change.

How has your mindset changed in the past decade? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Process of Recharging

Day by day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.


Émile Coué de la Châtaigneraie

I sleep in when I can. I rest instead of endlessly working. Bit by bit, I can tell a difference.

Instead of scolding the dogs for their excitement in the mornings when they wake me to go potty, I gather my coat and take them out without a word.

Instead of sighing in frustration when my co-workers page me for help at work I cry “help is on the way!” and race to the front with a laugh.

Instead of internally bitching when someone wants a few minutes of my time on the phone or in-person I give it to them. I limit it, as I’m still drained, but I’ve regained enough energy that I can safely give something back.

When I have a small spurt of energy I get up and do something that needs to be done. Last night as I visited with a friend I noticed that my dog’s collars needed washing so I pulled them off and scrubbed them while we chatted.

Five minutes later I was one task closer to catching up on my backlog.

The fridge is slowly getting emptied of the detritus the kid left behind. Her little Katie-piles are being dealt with as I stumble across them.

I’ve brainstormed one thing I can do now to improve my quality of living and I’ve taken steps to make it happen. I’ll cover that in a future post when it is more than just a plan.

I’ve even went back to tinkering on my plan to reduce my smoking. I’d started on a plan before things blew up around Thanksgiving but let it go due to the chaos that surrounded me. Now that things are calming down, I’ve gotten back to work on my goal of being a nonsmoker.

Last but not least, I’m processing my emotions with my journal. I fill several pages a day with random thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I find my thoughts repeating. I dutifully jot them down regardless. The very fact that I’m noticing the repetition is a good sign.

I suspect that my internal battery had been operating in the red zone for quite some time though life had been a bit too chaotic for me to notice it. I’ve been pushing myself quite hard for a couple of years now in order to make up for time lost back when I was injured, and even harder once I’d decided to teach myself about investing while focusing more on this website. Between that and everything else I suspect I’ve been heading for this physical and emotional crash for quite some time.

And that’s okay. It’s okay because I’m taking steps now to correct the issue, and I’m aware of the fact that I need to slow down, which makes me a wiser person.

I’ve got something I want to do. I’m not letting go of that, but I’ve realized that in order to accomplish that goal I’ve got to take care of myself now in a way that I’ve never really been able to do before.

So I am still here, and I am still fighting. I will do whatever it takes to achieve financial freedom, and I still intend to take you on that journey with me.

This is part of the process.

Are you still working towards your goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Practicing Selfishness

It has been six days since I watched Katie leave with the recruiter. Five days since I saw her last, on the day she shipped out to BASIC. Four days since I’ve had any contact with her.

And I’m doing perfectly fine.

I’ve not had a day off work since last Tuesday, the last day I saw my little girl. One of the kids quit at work, so my schedule was adjusted to take up the slack. The change was exhausting on top of everything else (I’m still recovering from the Crud) but I’m not complaining.

I’m actually thankful for the busyness.

That said, I’ve still got a lot on my plate right now. Not only am I adjusting emotionally, I’m recovering physically from illness (101F temp at its worst). I’m also dealing with family and friends who are more than a bit concerned that I will go batshit crazy now that the kid is gone.

Among the well-meaning suggestions I’ve received:

  • You need to get a car so you can get a better job now.
  • You need to relocate to another part of the state so you will have better access to jobs/opportunities/housing.
  • You need to relocate to (wherever) so I can help you recover and so you won’t be alone.
  • You need to find a good man to take care of you.

There have been more but those are the highlights.

It’s been more than a bit annoying. They mean well, so I accept their suggestions with a polite nod and continue on.

Instead of heeding their suggestions, I’ve been politely distancing myself from them.

My first priority is to take care of myself, so I have been selfishly doing just that.

I allow myself to sleep in every morning. I need as much rest as I can get between my work shifts in order to recover physically.

I’ve paused all reading and research. I’m still thinking, but at the moment I’m no longer actively collecting knowledge concerning my goals. I want to be rested both mentally and physically before I continue.

I’ve limited my housework, as well as my writing. I do the basics in order to keep from falling behind but I’m not going to worry about the other stuff at the moment. I’ll get to it when I feel a bit better and my schedule eases.

I’ve readily accepted rides to and from work. I need to conserve my energy so I’ve shoved my pride into my pocket and allowed myself to take advantage of every single offer. I’ve even asked for rides a couple of times. While I don’t intend to make bumming rides a habit, I am wise enough to understand that the less energy I expend, the faster I will heal. I compensate my friends for their help, of course.

In short, I am being selfish. I am taking care of me. I am refusing offers to go out after work for shopping, meals, or a drink at the local watering hole. I work, come home, and rest.

And I patently refuse any attempts to persuade me to do otherwise. I don’t care how well-meaning the offers may be, I know what I need right now, and I’m going to get it. Period.

Sometimes you have to be selfish. Sometimes you have to ignore the well-meaning offers and suggestions on how to better your life. More times than not, you know what you need better than anyone else. In that case, you have to stand your ground.

You have to take care of you.

How are you taking care of yourself lately? Are you practicing selfishness in order to get the rest you need? Please share your stories in the comments below.

New Beginnings

This is it.

Last night I said my final farewell to the kid. The very last call was scripted, just letting me know that she had arrived safely and that she would be out of contact for the next couple of weeks.

I am now officially free of the full burden of motherhood.

It started a few days ago. We had a farewell party for the kid. Here are a few photos to mark the occasion:

With my grandson, her nephew.

Once the party was over (I didn’t show photos of others to protect their privacy), Katie made one final trip to say goodbye to her best friend who died. She left here on the 2 year anniversary of Emery’s death:

After her farewells, we kept it normal until the recruiter drove up to carry her away. She gifted me with some earrings to wear while she was gone in order to keep her close. I donned those to watch her pull away.

With her Recruiter.
Driving away.

I had quietly arranged to take the next day off, to see her one last time at MEPS. It was going to be a surprise but her uncle spoiled it when he saw us walk in. Darnit!

.I would include a photo of her uncle but he’s a rather high-ranked member of the military so I’m unsure of the wisdom. I will take the cautious route and not. I hope you understand.

Waiting at MEPS for Katie with her sister.
Katie’s final, official swear-in. She is now an official member of the US Navy.
One last meal together before we part ways.

I thought Katie was going to cry when we gave each other our final farewells but we all stayed strong. I’ve spent the past few days with tears streaming down my face so for now I believe I’m cried out.

Her last call was late last night. It was scripted. “I’m here. I’m okay. You will get a package in the mail soon. You will hear from me in approximately 2-3 weeks. I love you. Bye.”

So it is over. The 29 years I spent as a parent with kids at home have come to an end.

I intend to take the next few days to decompress. I want to get in the proper headspace before I move forward.

It is time to take a deep breath, relax, and to move on.

That is all any of us can do when we reach a turning point in our lives. We just need to breathe, realize that it is not the end of the world, and figure out what we want to do next.

I’ve already gotten the bones of that path started so I doubt much will change aside from my living circumstances. Just in case, however, I don’t intend to make any sudden moves until I know I am okay. While I’m a bit more okay than I was the day I watched her drive away, I know I’m not there yet.

We will all be okay at the end of the story. We can survive more than we realize.

I’ll write more when I can.

Distraction

At first it was the television.

It sat front and center of every living room. Residents and visitors alike would stare at the glowing screen, chatting during commercial break.

Then came the video games. Names like Atari and Commodore. Devices attached to our precious televisions gave us something to do while we were glued to our televisions. We could direct glowy bits against glowy bits to earn points on a screen.

Now it’s the cellphone; a computer, video game machine, and television rolled up in a device so small it fits in your pocket.

I’d never really thought about any of the devices much; I’d grown up with a television so I wrote it off as the changing trends of time.

As I sat in my break room at work I watched my coworkers all glued to their devices.

I went out to eat with my friends, not to talk, but to watch them stare at their screens as they ignored me. I looked around to discover that I was the only adult aside from the servers not staring at a screen–until I saw a server sneak a peek at her phone between rounds.

“Do you have a charger?” a recent guest to my home asked as soon as she entered.

She sat at the power outlet, mumbling at me as she swiped at whatever she was doing.

At first I was annoyed by the trend. Why bother hanging out with someone if all you’re going to do is ignore them? What’s the point in having real-world friends if you spend your time staring at a screen during visits?

Now I’ve finally turned the question on its head:

What are we being distracted from?


Carpe Annum

This is it. The dawn of an entirely new year.

I couldn’t wait to greet it. I woke up, made my coffee, and journaled as I watched the sun rise.

I changed so much in 2018. I started out the year without a single serious idea of what I wanted to do with my life. Aside from my work schedule, I didn’t even keep track of my days and I published only a single post a week on this website.

But look at me now! I came through the doldrums. I figured out what I wanted from my life. I set a new goal of financial freedom and I actively started working towards it. Starting at absolute zero, with no experience whatsoever, I managed to invest a total of $2,153.20 in stocks and precious metals.

Wow.

I did that. I did that on a part-time minimum wage income, not even bringing in $700 a month between my public job and my writing.

I accomplished more since my birthday on April 5, 2018 than I have since I can remember.

And I did it with less money coming in each month than many people earn in a week.

You look at that. You look at that long and hard. And you pay attention.

If I can invest over two thousand dollars in a year making as little as I do, knowing as little as I know then guess what?

You have no excuse.

You have absolutely no excuse for being broke. You have absolutely no excuse for living paycheck to paycheck. If I can accomplish this much making so much less than you, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t manage to save money and invest towards your future as well.

So stop your whining. Stop saying that it can’t be done. Stop with the bullshit, get off your ass, and get to work.

Cut your expenses. Do your research. And start investing towards a better future now.

Read a book. Create a habit. Start a business. Open a savings account. Invest. Do something, even if it’s wrong! Just get started. You can work out the details as you go along.

You will never change your life unless you actually do something to make it happen. So start doing it.

This is a brand-new year. This is your fresh start, your chance to transform your life into something magical.

Don’t pass it up.

Making Christmas Memories

Christmas dawned bright and early in the Brewer household. Katie had been sad since it was the first Christmas since her father had passed so I wanted to make it memorable. We invited a few friends to come visit with us so it was time to start cooking!

It is amazing what you can whip up using a toaster oven, a microwave, and a hot plate. The evening before, Katie made a white chocolate and Macadamia nut Christmas cookie. She ran to the store as it cooled, daring me to touch it, so guess what I did?

I took this photo and sent it to her:

The next day we set to work. Two Cornish hens, a bunch of Deviled eggs, and assorted sides later we ended up with our Christmas feast.

Assisted by our friends, we ate ourselves into a food coma by evening’s end as we listened to the Christmas music I splurged on for the event. To my delight, we had just enough room in our tiny fridge to store the remaining leftovers for the evening. Dishes were left until the next morning.

At one point, my childhood friend and I started discussing the artwork we’d made in the past. She mourned the fact that she no longer possessed any of the pictures she’d drawn as a child. With a smile, I ordered them to stand up and help me scoot the kitchen table to the center of the room. They watched me curiously as I tugged down the attic ladder and climbed up to retrieve a large tote. I’d saved a sketch she’d given me when we were kids. The expression on her face was priceless. I wanted to take a photo but she’s a bit camera shy, especially where my blog is concerned.

I became lost in memories as I went through the photos. I stumbled upon an old 8×10 that we’d had professionally taken years before Katie was even born. It was the best photo I’d ever seen taken of my ex-husband, so I gave it to Katie for her memories.

I retrieved a number of the photos, filling what frames I’d collected over the past few weeks and sticking them up on my walls. With the next round of frames I purchase I intend to start filling the walls in my kitchen. Here is the current layout:

My Main Photo Collection

Honoring Dad

Ignore the notes on the wall. As I read books late at night, I write down important things to store them until I transfer them into a notebook. If I pull them down before I transcribe them, I’ll misplace them. I don’t have many photos of my mother (she detested photos), but I intend to frame several photos that I have of her as time goes on. I have one gorgeous black and white photo of Mom in her youth that I may get enlarged into an 8×10 when I’m ready to make an honor wall for her.

Before it’s all done my home will be filled with my little treasures. My walls will be filled with photos of memories and people I’ve loved, my shelves will be filled with books, and my windows will be overflowing with plants. I can see my future home already; it will essentially be a giant library. I’ll have an old stereo, one with an old record player and old albums that I acquire here and there. I’ll have older radios, older clocks, and whatever older technology that I want to preserve. My furniture and appliances will be a mix of antique and modern. I am hoping to acquire a home with a large dining room that I can line with shelves from floor to ceiling to fill with books. In one corner will be a reading nook and the dining room table will be a place for me to spread out my research as I write my future books except on the random occasions when I invite friends over to entertain.

This house will be my haven.

It feels so good to finally be able to close my eyes and see where I’m going. It feels so good to be able to make small steps where I am, using the few things I already have.

And it felt like heaven to make yet another memory with my beloved Katie before she leaves the nest.

I am luckier than I ever imagined.

***

What memories did you make over the Christmas holiday? Please share your stories in the comments below.

When Life Takes A Left Turn

My life has taken a really strange turn since Thanksgiving. Not only has my ex-husband passed away but certain aspects of my personal life that concern the situation have also gotten very, very strange.

The worst part of the whole situation is that I can’t share what’s going on yet. Things are still in motion; I might jeopardize the outcome if I say too much online. I’m writing it all down in my journal because I want to share the story with you when all of this is over. Truth is much stranger than fiction in this situation.

Even with the chaos, I’ve got to regain my focus. I have something I want to achieve and I’m not going to do that if I allow my mind to keep thinking about a situation that is mostly out of my control.

With that in mind I’ve made myself start reading again. I’m not reading much, but every little bit of knowledge I glean will take me a step closer. I just need to focus on what I can do right now, with what I have, and let the rest fall into place as it can.

I initiated a transfer from my savings account today, emptying it for the next round of investments. That account only collects a portion of my royalties but it’s enough at current stock prices to increase my holdings a tad. That will allow me to make some more progress while I get through the holidays. Once those are over I’ll analyze my finances and invest a bit more.

I’ve also discussed having a will drawn up by a local attorney. I have a price now; I’ll work that money into my budget next year. I want to make sure that anything I leave behind goes where I want it to go, especially in light of what I’m witnessing since my ex-husband has passed. I may not have much right now but I’m no longer in the mood to take any chances.

Since 2018 is now waning I’m in the process of making a list of things I want to accomplish next year. The end of this year may be traumatic but it will pass. I see no point in allowing my current situation to derail me. I’ve waited far too long, had far too many false starts on a goal I’ve had in my head since I was a child to allow anything to stop me now that the fog is slowly lifting from my path.

I have a sneaking sensation that 2019 will be even more eventful than this year has been. I’ve grown so much this past year; I’ve experimented, made adjustments, and learned more about myself than I ever have in times past. I intend to continue that progress.

I will write more as time allows.