Remember that New Year’s Resolution?

Yeah, me neither. But in my case I’ll bet it had something to do with losing weight and getting in shape. I don’t know what it is about teaching – I’m on my feet all day, I don’t sit behind my desk and teach – that leads to weight gain. Or maybe it’s not teaching, maybe it was my thyroid or just age catching up with me. We had a biggest loser’s competition at school when we returned from winter break and another after spring break. I joined both and tried in a desultory way to win. I ate less food (no breakfast except coffee and I nearly always ate salad for lunch) and attempted to ‘get my steps in’ but didn’t really make any headway.

When my annual blood test came back with a high thyroid number (meaning my thyroid wasn’t working at the normal level) I was happy to blame it for my lack of progress. Surely the hormone pill I was prescribed would kick my metabolism back into gear and the pounds would melt off! Of course I scaled back my own effort to ditch the pounds figuring the pills would do the work for me (ha ha! wouldn’t that be nice?) since the medication insert said weight loss was a possible side effect of the drug. Possible but apparently not necessary. If anything as school came to a close and the relatively lazy days of summer kicked in my weight increased.

Finally I decided I had to do something about it. Joining the gym was out of the question. Gym memberships are too expensive and the extra driving would also eat into my budget. Living on a farm means there’s plenty of work to do – fixing the chicken coop, hefting 50 lb bags of feed, raking hay, even without the garden there was outdoor physical activity. There was also a lot of 90+ degree heat and an explosion of biting and stinging insects, both of which conspired to limit time spent outside.

One benefit (?) of all my professional development is that spending the odd night in a hotel gives me a chance to channel surf (we don’t have commercial TV, just an internet connection and Netflix) and recently while flicking through channels I happened on to an infomercial that caught my attention. The end of exercise – Cize! It’s a dance workout program – very hip and modern moves (I think – haven’t been dancing in ages) with music that gets you going. They showed all those amazing before and after photos.  It was a seductive sales pitch but the multiple payment of just $19.99 brought me back to earth. Still I kept thinking about it and when I got home looked up Cize on eBay. I managed to pick up a used set of the basic DVDs for a steal and they arrived this week.

My middle daughter and I are now working out together (everyone else is banned due to mean critiques and laughter) and I’ve already lost a pound! I’m pretty sure I can keep in up until school starts. My goal is to lose 30 pounds. I won’t be posting any music videos (I can’t move as fast as the dancers) but for those of you who want to check it out here’s a YouTube link to Cize.

Posted in exercise, fitness | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The high cost of summer

Summer is expensive. No, I’m not talking about a cruise to the Bahamas or a visit to Disney World. I’m not even talking about summer camps or swim lessons. I’m talking about the cost of having kids home all day, every day during the summer. What’s so expensive? The internet, electricity, and food. And bug spray – flea and tick products for the pets, fly spray for the goats and endless cans of Off for the rest of us!

The internet bill has more than doubled as the kids are online longer hours and are streaming more video (we’ve long since graduated from the initial 6-month cheap rate deal and now the only way to keep costs down is to strictly limit the amount of data streamed). We don’t have cable so the internet is used not only for web browsing, my daughter’s AP Biology and English summer homework, email, blogging, and facebook but also for video streaming.

The electricity bill is up because we are home all day and we finally have a small air conditioner unit that has been running non-stop during the day to bring the temperature down to a livable level in the living room. We each have a fan going in our rooms that moves around the warmer air and provides the semblance of a breeze as well.

The food bill is up because the kids are all growing teenagers and the very proximity to food seems to trigger an urge to eat! Nibble, nibble, nibble.

Additionally my various professional development activities, while in some cases providing a stipend to cover expenses, generally require some outlay up front. The rocks and mineral conference was completely paid for, including hotel and meals, but the other three workshop/conferences are a pay and get reimbursed several weeks later deal.

Unfortunately my income is still the same (insufficient) so I’ve been looking for opportunities to make some extra cash. As you know my eBay venture was less than successful as what I have to sell isn’t what other people want to buy. It turned out to be quite a bit of effort with little return. I have a few things on eBay now but with no way of getting new product to sell it’s going to stay a small endeavor.

Since most of what I have are books I looked into different ways to sell them, for instance. The best market is in up-to-date textbooks or antiquarian books, of which I have neither. I was able to send a few books to for credit. It’s always nice to have a little money to spend at Amazon but it doesn’t pay the electric bill.

The Penny Hoarder (which has over 3 million active subscribers) has a lot of suggestions on how to make extra cash, so many in fact that it seems impossible not to be making hundreds of dollars every month on the side doing fun and rewarding things! Officiating weddings, selling crafts, writing ebooks, reviewing movies, carving walking sticks, babysitting, participating in clinical trials… the list is endless.

I could be a mystery shopper. I actually did this once while living in California and got money to spend at a clothing store – Christopher and Banks or Talbot or some such place – in return for filling out a survey about the displays and service. But I think this job is more suited to an urban dweller living in the midst of large chain stores. I don’t think Bear Hardware needs mystery shoppers! If, however, you live on the East Coast Ben and Jerry will pay you to eat ice cream.

I could answer surveys that purport to take 20 to 30 minutes each. Surveys on the brands of cat litter I use (least expensive) or the make and model of my next car (what next car?)  or my investment strategy (high yield or risk averse?), with the possibility of earning $2.50 or maybe more per survey. I’ve done this as well but somehow I seem to end up spending 18 minutes answering the preliminary questions only to be weeded out (“I’m sorry, you don’t qualify for this survey”) in the end earning only .25 for my time. I’m not sure how long it will take me to reach the cash out threshold at this rate; I currently have $2.75 in my account.

I could watch videos, clip coupons, shop online (not the best way to MAKE money) and earn Swagbucks which I could then (eventually) redeem for gift cards. Once I have enough. But again, it won’t pay the electric bill.

So enough with the gimmicks – what about a real work from home via the internet job? The best (for me) thing that I’ve seen is the WEM – writing for the education market – blog that a Boxcarkids supporter told me about. It is much more relevant to my interests, skills and experience. Jobs are regularly posted for curriculum development, assessment and lesson plan writers and editors. Unfortunately I haven’t been selected for any of the jobs for which I’ve applied so far.

I could put more ads on the blog (thanks everyone who shops Amazon through one of my links) to earn more ad revenue but that only works if I write frequently and you all click on ads (and if you are like me you probably don’t).

I could see if the plasma center would take me – it’s been over a year since I had my hospital stay so I might pass muster but I’m not sure if my file there has been flagged. I’m not spending money on a doctor visit to get cleared for donations. It’s probably worth a try.

In the meantime summer is winding down – school starts for me on August 3rd and on the 10th for the kids. In August, for some reason that appears to make sense to the HR people (who say it’s something to do with the fiscal year and Fridays) but not to me, I will only have one paycheck with 3 tight weeks on either side. Hopefully by then one or another of these side jobs will have actually paid off!


Posted in Amazon, blogging, internet, Job, monetizing blog, money, summer, work | Tagged | 10 Comments

This relationship is beyond repair!

It’s a troubled relationship for sure. What can I tell you? It’s been a long term relationship – gosh I think it’s lasted a decade! We started flirting when I bought my first (and only real) house in Colorado. Back then it was kind of superficial, other people were involved in the same activities so you might say it was more of a friendship. We bonded on life’s textures, colors and patterns but never got beyond the surfaces – walls, fences and floors were the boundaries. But it felt like a relationship upon which I could build.

Then there was a hiatus of sorts when we moved back to California. Distance, you’ll say but it wasn’t that. I was just too busy with a new job and living space and the gradual but unrelenting upheavals of the recession. We were renting back then and it wasn’t a good space to meet up and that only got worse when we moved into our tent! We had no contact at all to speak of during that time.

We reconnected when we moved into our first travel trailer. Not at first but some time on when I really needed help with the rotting floor in the bathroom (long time readers will recall – for newbies that was back in the early days when we discovered that the ‘soft’ floor that the salesman assured us was NOT a problem, was a sign of rot). The floor was caving in. Leaky toilets, peeling wallpaper, loose screws  – these were all well within my ability, but rotting unstable floors and toilets that listed dramatically when sat upon – those issues required assistance. And this relationship was built entirely on the doing and making of things so it was natural to hook up again.

Making and doing – oh that wasn’t all of it of course – I can’t discount the pull of the bright and attractive, the fresh and new, and sure there was a bit of fad and fashion involved as well. But deep down it was a relationship built on need. My need. And so it went. On again, off again. There when I really needed it, on the back burner otherwise. There were no hard feelings when things cooled. It was extremely easy, albeit usually expensive, to start up again.

And start up again we did after we moved into our latest abode (aka the big tin can).  This has been the most intense and difficult phase of the relationship. It’s constant for one thing (and I’m a person who likes her space), and the kids are much more involved as well. We never seem to have any down time – there can be such a thing as too much togetherness you know – and there’s been a lot of mistakes and failures. Sometimes I just want to throw in the trowel and walk away from it all.

Before you judge believe me when I say it’s not like I haven’t tried. I’ve invested. I’ve spent time. I’ve tried to acquire the right tools to make it a success. I’m not oblivious to the benefits of the relationship. I want, heck, I need it to work.But despite all of this, I’ve come to this conclusion: DIY and I are incompatible.

That’s right, even after nearly a decade of increasingly difficult ‘do it yourself‘ projects I am still incapable of making a straight cut with my reciprocal saw, I can’t snap together the easy-lock laminate flooring, can’t hammer in a nail with one or two confident blows without one landing on my thumb. My fences sag and the goats clear them in a single bound. My chicken coop egg boxes (made with the oh so cute idea from Pinterest of repurposing old kitchen cupboards) melted in the rain making it easy for raccoons claw their way in to massacre our flock. My planned porch consists of four deep hand-dug holes positioned at almost the right spots to place the 4×4 uprights that will support the old porch. The old porch that was removed from the house when it was moved and which has been propped up in the pole barn where it ages and warps ever since (it’s quite heavy and beyond my ability to move on my own). My driveway is still muddy ruts, my garden overgrown weeds, and there’s a patch of drywall that the dog chewed through that still needs to be patched. I confess to being a do-it-yourself failure.

Unfortunately the alternatives are win the lottery and pay someone to do it right or keep making a muddle of it and hope to improve eventually. So many of my failures are due to cutting corners and jury-rigging things. I recall a picture book from my childhood about the backwoods Tatum family (mainly the boy named Beanie and his dog, Tough Enough). They lived in a ramshackle sort of place, all patches and mismatched bits and pieces. That’s us.

Postscript – I was interrupted while writing this post by my daughter who informed me that the goats had escaped again. So we rounded them up and then I went out into the pouring rain and pounded in another fence post to shore up the sagging fence. 🙂

Posted in DIY, garden, goats, home repairs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment