Finding My Way Back On Track

If you were to only look at my site stats for November, you would see that I am having one of the best months ever…but I haven’t posted anything since the beginning of October. Most of my traffic is coming from recipe pins on Pinterest which makes sense since this is the type of weather where you just want to curl up with a bowl of soup or stew. In other words, it is Instant Pot weather and I have a lot of recipes for that. So why haven’t I posted anything? Well, it comes down to motivation and I have had a decided lack of it lately.

There were a couple of things that led to my lack of motivation. Work has been extremely busy because new hires finally started after being short staffed all summer, but that also meant they had to be trained. We also finally heard back from Social Security about my husband’s application for SSDI. He was denied, so we are appealing the decision. Honestly, that decision had me floored since everything I had read about the SSA Blue Book rulings led me to believe he would have been approved on the first shot. Then the killing blow happened at the end of the month when I got back the numbers on how many participants I had for my doctoral study. Out of a pool of over 400 people invited to participate, I only had 8 people participate in my survey. This was two years of work, taking at conferences to inform people about what I was researching, etc…and nothing. Colleagues, co-workers, even friends didn’t take 20 minutes out of their time to help me out. I hit a rut hard and am only now digging myself out.

Now, I teach about Happiness and Productivity. I know all about fueling your fire and flipping the script to be more positive. I also know that when you get in that rut it can be hard to dig yourself back out of it. So what can you do (and what did I do)?

Self-care is a big one. I stopped putting it off and I went to get my hair cut. It might not sound like much, but I was not happy with the way my hair looked, so that was only contributing to the problem. I got three inches cut off and bangs. With my hair looking better, I also felt better. I also prioritized me and my family. We spent the Thanksgiving holiday at home instead of traveling to visit anyone. We took our time making the meal; it was also a simple meal. We watched a lot of movies during the break. Having a stress free holiday was wonderful. I did all my holiday shopping online during the sales; so I can also say that I slept in instead of braving shopping madness. Of course, I also read books. I will have another update posted with the books I read this month. I also did some simple baking of muffins, Instant Pot experiments, and setting up some of our holiday decorations…all of which qualify as small “c” activities (everyday creativity), which can help reduce stress.

The other thing is to make a list of everything you have to do and sort that list into priority order. It is okay if not everything gets done right away, but bonus points if you do give yourself a deadline to accomplish the task. Writing the tasks down gives the task value and importance. When we give it a date or time that it needs to be finished, we are more likely to stick to completing that task. We hold ourselves more accountable. So I am back to making my lists. I use Amazon Alexa to keep a list of things I need to buy. I have multiple lists for things like groceries or things I need to buy or gifts I am tracking in the mail. I have a paper planner for my personal tasks and I use my task list in Outlook to keep track of my work-related tasks. It is important to have a system in place and to be consistent. Yes, I like post-its for reminders too, but too many can create clutter and that can just stress us out further. So I try to keep my post-its strictly for the quick notes that need additional information (like the phone number for a doctor’s appointment that I need to schedule) or the reminders about the Big Hairy Goals like focusing on graduating next year and taking a big family trip to celebrate. In other words, the reminders to celebrate and look forward to something. I also have a whiteboard setup to list my three daily gratitudes. I also decorate that whiteboard with little drawings. Currently, I have a Christmas candle with holly, but I did have a turkey on there last week. Once again, using creativity to help alleviate stress and feeling overwhelmed.

I plan to be fully back on track with everything in December. It is a new month and a new start. Let’s get this holiday season rolling!

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Goals for October

Ugh! Where did the month go? I feel like I blinked and October happened. So before I start on what my goals are for October, let’s recap what happened (or in most cases, didn’t happen)with my September goals.

September Goals

1. Pass the IRB Committee Review

Yes, it was down to the wire, but I was officially approved on Sept 27th to begin my doctoral study. My survey went out to my participants on Oct 1st. So this goal can be checked off as done!

2. Contact all the doctors

This one was a no go. We did have an appointment with my husband’s primary doctor and she agreed that he needs to get up to Johns Hopkins where the specialists will actually talk to each other. But the only movement I have made on this goal is that I have the forms to fill out to release his records.

3. Post at least one blog post a week

I have had some of the best traffic on posts in September and I did post multiple times in a week, but I did not keep the pace of posting each week. I think I hit more like 3 out of the 4 weeks, so it wasn’t too bad. We could count this as a half met goal.

4. Upload a short story to Kindle Direct Publishing

HA HA HA! What was I thinking that I could meet this one? Sadly, nothing happened with this goal. My work in progress is still sitting there waiting for edits.

So what do I hope to accomplish for October? Well, October is one of my favorite months because I consider it the start of the holiday season. Yes, I count Halloween as part of the holidays because it is a fun and exciting event. You have food (candy), events (trick-or-treating), and decorations. My porch is already decorated. I miss the Halloweens from my childhood. As an adult, I don’t see as many trick-or-treaters as we had growing up. But I digress…Here are my goals for October:

1. Contact all the doctors

Yes, this one is back on there. It is an important one, so I have to make some headway on it.

2. Find a pumpkin before the end of the month

Sounds easy, right? There are pumpkins everywhere, but it is also a little too warm out yet to put a real pumpkin on the porch. However, my husband and I have learned that if we wait too long, there will be none to be found anywhere. Two years ago, about three days before Halloween, we went on the lookout, but could not find one. It was sad.

3. Do something self-care related

So stressed right now. Part of the reason my September goals didn’t quite happen is that I had a lot of migraines last month. So I spent a lot of time trying to sleep them off. A lot of stuff fell through the cracks adding to the fact that just feeling overwhelmed right now. Therefore, a goal for this month is to do something for me. Maybe give myself a pedicure, maybe read a book on the deck now that the weather is cooler (and hopefully no mosquitoes!). My lovely teenager made me chocolate chip cookies after school yesterday (pre-made dough, but still). So maybe I will find a recipe and make something with him.

I am going to leave the list at three items. We will see what happened this month. Though I am excited to say that I have reached some of my financial goals. I have a $1000 emergency fund in the savings account finally. So now to work on paying off those credit cards. Baby steps, right?

Goals for September

I probably should have shared this on Saturday, but the idea didn’t occur to me until after I had already posted and I didn’t want to have too many posts overlap, but I have seen a few bloggers post monthly goals and thought it was a neat idea. As someone who teaches productivity, I know that writing it down makes you more likely to follow through and if you are to share the goals, that makes it even more likely that you will achieve your goals. Creating SMART goals strengthens the likelihood even more, but well, let’s not go too far…

So this is what I hope to achieve this month, I will do a round up post at the end of the month to see where I stand on those goals:

1. Pass the IRB Committee Review

If you have been reading for a while, you know I am a doctoral student. I am at the final stage of my education: the field study. However, before I can send out my survey and schedule my interviews, I have to pass the institutional review board for my university. Basically, proving that I am not doing unethical research on humans. Usually, the process doesn’t take that long, but for some reason, my university has a backlog. So it took two months to hear that they needed me to make some edits to my study proposal. I am hoping that I hear that I am approved this month because well, I still have to pay tuition even though I am just waiting. Sounds fair, right?

2. Contact all the doctors

We actually have three doctor’s appointments just this week alone! And when I say “we” I mean my husband, but I go with him for most of his appointments because he has memory issues. Total this month I think there are five appointments not counting the weekly checkins with his counselor and the nurse practitioner. My husband has an autoimmune disorder on top of many other conditions, but we live in an area that doesn’t exactly have the best medical options. So we are trying to get him into a special clinic up in Baltimore that specializes in his condition. However, they won’t even schedule an appointment until they have all your medical records sent up to them. So we have a cardiologist, a rheumatologist, a pulmonary specialist, a neurologist, and his primary to contact to get his records. I have to say that the nurse practitioner at his primary’s office is awesome because she has helped me figure out the process for getting all these records released and who I need to get them sent up to.

3. Post at least one blog post a week

I know I have been slacking, but it has just been an overwhelming summer between the dissertation edits, being short staffed at work, teaching my summer graduate course, and a whole bunch of other things happening all at once. So I would like to get back into the swing of things. I really do like writing and I feel like as much as the statistics show you all like when I post my Instant Pot recipes, those post can be a little bit of a cop out because they don’t take much time or thought to put together (well, the cooking does, but I am just reporting on what I did). So I hope to get some more substantial stuff up on a more regular basis.

4. Upload a short story to Kindle Direct Publishing

I noticed the other day after looking at all my unfinished works in progress, that my inspiration tends to fizzle out once I get to twenty five pages or so. So I think I need to start smaller. I have been toying with the idea for a while of uploading something to KDP and I have a story that is almost ready to go. So after a couple more edits, I will try my hand at self publishing. Once I do, I will create a post here detailing how the process went and what my progress looks like. Might as well do it while I am twiddling my thumbs waiting for that IRB approval, right?

So fingers crossed that the next 30 days go smoothly! Stay tuned for updates and if I can keep to my monthly goals.

5 More Products to Make the School Year Easier

My previous post mentioned some of my go to items to make the school year a little easier. Well, after having open house bright and early this week, I realized there were some more items to add to that list. So here are five more items to help your school days go a little easier.

1.Hanging Sweater Organizer
You may even have one of these around the house which is awesome! That means you are one step closer to being organized, but are you using it to its best advantage? Most of these organizers have at least five shelves. There are five school/work days in the week…do you see where I am going with this yet? You may have heard the advice to lay your clothes out in the evening before going to sleep to save time on getting dressed in the morning. Well, this system recommends laying out the full week on Sunday night. Another advantage to saving time is that kids can gain a bit of independence on putting outfits together and mom is saved from those “Where is my red shirt? I need to wear a red shirt today!” desperation calls when you only have ten minutes left to make the bus in the morning.

2. Snack Size Baggies and Sliced Lemons
I actually use these in my freezer. Maybe because I grew up on city water, I need lemon and ice in my water. So I will typically fill a stainless steel tumbler with ice water and two slices of lemon wheels. The rest of the lemon is also sliced into wheels and placed in these snack size baggies 2×2 and placed in the freezer. In the morning on work days, I add the frozen lemon along with my ice and some unsweetened tea. Then take that to work. When I run out of tea, I refill at the office water cooler, but by this time, my lemon is melted enough that I get a nice citrus dash to my water. It is also perfect to add a frozen lemon wheel to hot tea as it cools the tea without watering it down. Since these are in the freezer, I prep everything on Sunday night to last all week. If citrus is on sale, buy a couple of bags, slice, and freeze on sheet trays. Then you have plenty of frozen lemons ready to go. I have also been known to do this with cucumbers, oranges, and strawberries for jugs of spa water.

3. Blutooth Trackers
These small tags are a lifesaver if you are one of those people who misplaces things. The most popular brands are the Tile ones that you see in BestBuy or other computer stores, but I didn’t like that they stop working after a year unless you resubscribe. Unfortunately, my husband has memory issues as part of his medical condition. He misplaces his phone and wallet frequently. It only took a couple times of this happening at restaurants for me to know we had to do something. So I purchased a small plastic device that fits in his wallet and is connected via blutooth to an app on his phone. If he loses his wallet, the app tells him the last location it was at. If he loses his phone, he can hit a button on the device and it sends out a beep on his phone. It is also rechargeable and lasts for about two months on one charge. So far we are doing good on it and it takes hardly any room in his wallet. I wish we had known about these when my son lost his glasses last year. After two weeks of looking for them, we purchased new glasses only to find his old ones in the lost and found at taekwondo.

4. White Boards
We use the Amazon Alexa for reminders, but there are still things we need to write down. For example, I use a small whiteboard as an inventory list of what is in my freezer in the garage. We also have a big one that contains our son’s chore chart. Granted, he is almost thirteen and we don’t pay him an allowance allowance. It is expected that he help out by feeding the dogs, emptying the trash, and unloading the dish washer. In turn, I will give him money when he is going out with friends to the movies, the amusement park, or school events. He also gets to keep any change from these events. He loves food shopping because I tell him to grab what he wants (it is Aldi’s, so snacks are cheap though he tends to gravitate to the fancy cheese and bread). However, if there is something big that he wants (like a PS4 game), he does extra chores to help pay off whatever it was that he wanted. Like $10 for mowing the front yard or vacuuming the living room (we have three dogs, so this one is actually a big one). He also has to clean before friends come over which means making a list of the things he needs to pay special attention to…like cleaning his room.

5. Ice Packs
We have several ice packs of various size in our freezer. This year lunch is not until 7th period! So those ice packs are going to get a lot of use this year. We also have the flexible ice packs that are used for things like sore knees and shoulders. I have used this on my head too when migraines or sinuses have been bad.

I am sure there are many many more things that can be added to this list. Life is hectic, but why not try things that might make it just a little easier? Remember that we might not be able to be superhuman, but we can certainly try!

A Back to School Must List

Our district goes back to school next week which means time to change our summer routine. While the school may have their official supply list with the notebooks, pencils, hand sanitzer, and the hundreds of dollars worth of other necessesties (seriously, our list ran us about $150…middle school), there are still some other items that can help the mornings run a little smoother.

1. Amazon Echo

This is my go to device for helping me stay on track. We use it for a timer, alarm clock, to check the weather, reminders of things to grab before walking out the door. Alexa helps to keep us organized and running on time.

2. Bento Boxes


My son actually picked this out for his lunch box. The one he has features flexible dividers to separate food like a traditional bento box. It also includes ice packs to keep food fresh. The best part is that it is dishwasher safe!

3. Academic Planners

I bought one of these for my son for school and liked the layout so much that i bought one for myself. This planner comes in two sizes making it perfect for a backpack or purse. It is an academic planner so it runs from July to June. There is plenty of room on the Monthly grid or the Week at a glance pages to keep all of your tasks, appointments, and lists well organized.

3. Bins & Totes

Grab a couple of these totes and some snack size or sandwhich bags. Fill them with things like bulk pretzels, popcorn, raisins, etc. Refresh your bins every week and you will have snacks ready to go to throw into a bag on the way to the bus stop or to grab as an afterschool snack. By buying snacks in bulk (or even making your own) and divying it up, you can save some change to help defer the costs of all those gluesticks.

4. Reusable K-Cup Pods


If you send a kid to school before the sun is up, chances are you are going to need some coffee. And if you are the only one in the house who drinks coffee, chances are you are going have a Keurig in the house. And if you are worried around all those plastic pods filling landfills, well, then these pods are for you. I buy my coffee by the canister, but use the reusable pods instead of the pricy k-cups.

5. Sharpies!!

Your child’s school list might already have Sharpies on the list, but these are for you. There will be gym uniforms, brown bag lunches, and so many other things that are going to need a name written in them…don’t find yourself lost without a permanent marker on hand. Stock up at the beginning of the year and if you are lucky, you will still have some by the end of June.

What other items would you add to this list? Leave us a comment through the link at the top of this post.