Saturday, January 29, 2011

The 100 Things Challenge Book

The 100 Thing Challenge: How I Got Rid of Almost Everything, Remade My Life, and Regained My Soul

The 100 Things Challenge is now a book! How cool is that? I don’t have it yet because I just found out today. Also, I have to decide whether to add it to my things (yeah, I know - I probably will) or borrow it somewhere or just settle for reading the parts that are shown in the Amazon “Look Inside!” feature. (Seriously, I use it all the time – it’s a great way to avoid disappointment, although I’m sure that doesn’t apply in this case.)

I wrote about the Challenge back in Sept 09 in a post titled 100 Things Challenge Revived! Care to Join Me? Well, no one did that I know of, apparently not even me. I guess that’s not quite true - I have gotten rid of a lot of things. Rather than trying to pare down to just 100 things like Dave Bruno, I was simply trying to get rid of 100. And I KNOW that I have. But as usual, I got distracted and failed to update my list.

So let me get this straight. I actually started the 100 Things Challenge back in 2008 on a previous blog I’m not even sure I can still find. Then I “revived” the Challenge on this blog in Sept 09 but did nothing else? Be glad I’m not in charge ER life support. Hmm - this adult-onset ADD just gets funnier and funnier. How do little school kids cope? See - now I’m off in a couple of other directions again.

Now back to the topic of this post. Do I really need this book? After all, I’ve already read the blog (link below), right? Well . . . yeah, I’m pretty sure that I do. And you probably do, too. Dave is a witty guy with some good insight and a gift for story. So click on the picture (affiliate link, btw) to check it out on Amazon, or head on over to The 100 Things Challenge on Dave's blog.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Vastness of the Universe

Bryson's A Short History (A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (Paperback - Sept. 14, 2004))
Lately I’ve been pondering the vastness of the universe. I knew it was big, but WOW! When you stop to think about distances measured in light years, it’s more than a little overwhelming. And did you realize that the starlight you see actually left the star centuries ago? That’s right - centuries.

So what spurred all this recent cosmic contemplation? Well, my hubby received A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson for Christmas, which starts out with the birth of the universe. Despite the complexity of the subject, it’s clearly written, very interesting and an extremely enjoyable read. Couple that with a few crisp clear nights visible through the sliding glass door at the head of our bed, and there I am gazing at the stars and thinking a few deep thoughts.

So do yourself a favor and get a copy. Even if you already know most everything there is to know about, well, everything, you will enjoy this book.

Please note: As usual, I’ve included an Amazon affiliate link. Check your local library if you want but this one is well worth owning.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Success and Failure in the New Year

Do you often set yourself up for failure by taking on too much? I know I do - especially around January every year. All those future plans and goals that sound so doable between Christmas and New Year’s Eve seem to become less so as January races toward February. And I’m not talking about the usual New Year resolutions - I actually have a pretty good handle on setting reasonable goals and keeping them. What I am talking about are all the other projects I take on with NO hope of success. Let me explain.

Failures for Jan 2011

First I signed up for a blog challenge - one post per day for 30 days. The posts could be any length and spread across multiple blogs. Not too hard, right? Well, even though I know frequent posting is one of the keys to blogging success, I didn’t even make it halfway through the month. I ran out of things to say. Yes, me - the girl who was paid as a child to shut up. I did start the challenge two days early and posted daily until about the 10th, but then reverted to my less-frequent-posting ways. So there’s a habit I failed to develop.

My second project is actually a 3-in-1. I took an online class through KSURF in Nov-Dec. A 20% discount good through Dec 30 inspired me to sign up for three more classes. Well, you work at your own pace with no set deadlines other than you have 60 days to complete each class. How close do you suppose I am one-third of the way through? I’ll give you a hint - it’s quite a bit lower than one-third. The good news is I can download all the lessons and complete them at my leisure (hmm, sounds exactly like what I’m already doing!). But when will that time be? Anyway, I still have until March 1 so it may happen yet!

Now you may be feeling sympathetic because you think I’m feeling bad. Please put your sympathy to better use elsewhere! I am now so used to my adult-onset ADD that I don’t beat myself up any more about the stuff I don’t get done. In fact, I wouldn’t even have used the word “failure” if I could have thought of one that meant “didn’t get it done but so what.”

And a Few Successes

First off, I am completely on track with my main actual New Year’s resolution. Of course, it’s kind of a cheat because I’ve already developed the habit and just keep recycling this resolution every year. Anyway, I have a morning stretch and afternoon walk routine that I do every day that I’m home. And I’ve been home every day so far this year. Now before you get too impressed with my consistency, I also did my stretches and walking almost every day I was home in 2010 - and it may have even been every day but I think I might have missed once or twice when I wasn’t feeling well. So, like I said, I’m already in the habit.

A second BIG success is that I am finally moving forward with my Custom Memorial Quilts site. This has been in the planning stages way too long - I registered the domain name clear back in Sept 09. Anyway, I signed up with HostGator (affiliate link but not for me) for 3 years. Am I committed, or what? Then I chose Suffusion as my WordPress theme and am tweaking it to my liking. For me, moving this project forward from just an idea to something tangible is HUGE.

A third area of success is my online writing earnings. I’ve actually met my goal and raised it twice. What? That’s right - I met my initial earnings goal in the first week so bumped it up. Then I met it again, so raised it again. What was I thinking? Truth be known, my actual original goal was to take time away from writing for up-front pay and focus on other writing projects, so maybe this success is actually a failure - oops. Oh well, I guess we’re right back to my adult-onset ADD.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Save BIG on College Costs

Have you seen the recent article on Yahoo News? Apparently nearly half of college students “show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years.” WHAT?!?

Want to know another troubling finding? How about this one? “Half did not take a single course requiring 20 pages of writing during their prior semester, and one-third did not take a single course requiring even 40 pages of reading per week.” Are you kidding me?

Ok, we’ve all been told that a college education is the key to higher earnings and general success in life. Parents so firmly believe this that some seriously jeopardize their own financial well-being to pay for their kids to go to college. I have a money saving idea - DON’T! Unless your present and future (think retirement years) finances are in excellent shape (think no debt and plenty of savings) AND your kid is a super-serious, motivated student with a definite plan, let the kids pay their own way. How’s that for saving big on college costs? Are you being remiss in your duties as a parent? NO! They may defer higher education for several years but they will go when and if it actually becomes important to them.

Now before anyone gets too upset about my stance, let me give a little backstory here. I went to college in my 30s and maintained a 4.0 (with the exception of one class toward the very end) while earning a BA in Business Management. I was also a single parent and worked at least half time (usually more). What I noticed was that for many of my younger classmates, college was simply an acceptable way to extend the fun of the teen years (think supported by parents) and delay taking on adult responsibilities (think get a job and pay your own bills). This was not the case with every student, of course, but seemed a common theme.

So do yourself and your kids a huge favor. Take care of your finances so that you are comfortable during your later years and train them throughout their childhood and teen years to become self-sufficient adults. You see, it’s a win/win - if something should go wrong on either side, the other will most likely be in a position to step in and help.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cruz Reader Coming Soon!

Velocity Micro Cruz Reader, Black (R101)
Cruz Reader
Well, I did it – I ordered a Cruz Reader! After much research, I decided it was the best eReader option for me. I tested a Kindle and it was ok but the lack of backlight was a problem, as was the maximum viewing size for a pdf without scrolling. I sent the same pdf to my sister to try on her Cruz and it displayed better due to the bigger screen. The other deciding factors were price and color (the screen, not the case). So I’ll make a full report when I get the thing in a week or so and figure out how to use it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Choosing an eReader

I’m looking to buy an eReader soon and am trying to figure out which one to get. My sister has a Cruz Reader, one sister-in-law has a Nook, and another sister-in-law and a brother-in-law have matching Kindles. I’ve about made myself crazy researching online – reading reviews, comparing features – you know what I’m talking about!

At this point, I’m leaning toward the Cruz Reader despite some awful reviews. I am going to wait a while to order it, however, as the return policy is 30 days from the ship date and right now I’m sort of snowed in – I’d hate to have it sit in the Post Office and burn up the better part of my time limit. Anyway, for what I want to do, it seems the Cruz Reader may be the best option. Many of the negative reviews are about watching movies and listening to music, neither of which I intend to do. What I do want is color and a backlight.

Does anyone have any eReader experience or opinions to share?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Organize Your Notes with OneNote

If you’re like me, you have sticky notes and scraps of paper all over the place. I’ve tried to get organized – really. I got a little spiral notebook to keep by my computer and guess what? I can’t find anything in it! Yes, there’s plenty of stuff written there but on which page? I know – I should have colored tabs or something, right?

For years I’ve wanted an easy way to make notes for myself (and actually keep track of them) on my computer. I tried having a dedicated Word doc just for notes – same problem as the spiral notebook. Last Jan I used a calendar template and that worked great . . . for about 3 months. WordPad, Notepad – nothing worked for me. What has actually worked the best is creating draft emails with descriptive subject lines, which is far from ideal. Well, I think I just got introduced to the perfect thing!

Recently my computer had a super crash and I ended up with updated software. Well, I don’t like change. If something is working, what’s the point? In fact, I was still using Word97 and loving it. I don’t like the Word2007 on my laptop and know from my limited experience that 2010 is even worse. But the most recent version is what my computer tech told me I had to have.

Enter OneNote

Part of the MS Office Suite, OneNote is an absolute dream come true! If you have it and you haven’t tried it already, DO IT NOW! Big WOW! I don’t really know much about it yet – just got introduced two days ago, but do I ever see the possibilities. You have this page on which you can write notes anywhere. You can make more pages with the tabs or open a new notebook. How cool is that? So all those sites I want to remember to check out further, my to-do list, other tidbits – all right there! And you can dock it to the side, open all the time.

OneNote is going to improve my life! No more wasted time looking for misplaced scraps of paper. No more flipping through a notebook. What a time management and organizational boon! If you already know all about it, please share any tips or tricks or cool features that you’ve found. If you haven’t noticed it yet (like me until two days ago) open it up and see if you find it as wonderful as I do.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How Do You Spend Your Time?

There’s an eye-opening exercise in my new “How to Be Organized In Spite of Yourself” online class. You write down how many hours you spend per day on various activities, and then calculate your total number of “free” hours each week. For me, the eye-opening part of the exercise was the realization that there are ONLY 168 hours in a week! TOTAL! How is that even possible? It sure doesn’t seem like much.

Ok – well, here goes . . .

How I Spend My Time

First off, I decided to calculate on a daily basis only instead of going by the week. We’re a little remote here and if I go to town, it takes the better part of a day and I often don’t get home until the following day. So days that involve any time not at home are more like being on vacation and don’t count as a regular schedule. With that in mind, here’s my best guestimate of my hours spent daily:

  • Sleeping – 8 (including an hour or so reading time)
  • Grooming – 1 (no make-up, low-maintenance hair/clothes)
  • Meals/snacks (including prep) – 1.5 (I like simple and we share cooking duties here)
  • Exercise – 1 (morning stretching routine and daily walk)
  • Travel to work or school – 0 (Yeah!)
  • Chores/errands – 1.5 (chores only; running an errand from here takes ALL day)
By my calculations, these basics take over half of every day. How did I EVER have time for an away-from-home job? And raising kids? I just don’t know how I did it, but I did – and there’s living proof in three different states. But now back to the subject at hand.

So Why Don’t I Get More Done?

I know that I have way more “free” time than lots of folks. That wasn’t always the case but I’ve chosen a scaled-back, simpler life because I prefer a slower pace. Looking at these numbers, however, makes me realize that I am not making the best use of my time. What on earth do I do with the other half of every day that I’m home and all my time is mine to spend as I see fit?

Ken at The Freelancer Today posted about writing more in less time by identifying your peak and devoting those hours to writing. Well, that got me thinking. I indulge an old habit every morning of spending an hour or two online while enjoying my tea and having breakfast. There’s nothing wrong with this other than it’s my peak time. Oops. I’m squandering my peak writing time dinking around. I’m getting things done, such as answering email, checking my favorite blogs, writing my own blog posts, or educating myself in some fashion but . . . it’s definitely not the best use of my time.

A New Schedule

Starting this morning, I spent a few minutes online and then went to my “office.” Well, guess what? Ken is right. Before it was time for my morning stretching routine, I had my articles for the day written! It’s not even noon and I’m mostly done “working” for the day. Now I can focus on my current custom memorial quilt project without any writing deadlines to distract me. It doesn’t get much better than that!

So figure out where you’re spending your time and what your peak is. See if there are simple ways to shake things up a bit and free up some hours for other things. And please share here what works for you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Finally Get Organized in 2011

It's time to declutter!
One way to improve your life is to be organized. Prerna over at The Mom Writes has a new blog post series this month titled Organized Home, Organized You to help you get everything in order. She states that she’s going to provide “Simple, practical, easy-to-do and economical tips and ideas to inspire and encourage you to join me in decluttering, organizing and creating a home that is organized without going overboard.” Boy, I can sure use this!

So check out Organized Home, Organized You. I’ve subscribed by email so that I don’t miss anything but you can also subscribe by RSS feed. And at the end of the month there will be a free eBook with over 100 tips. How can you beat that? Thanks, Prerna!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Learn Something New to Exercise Your Brain

Thumbs up to lifelong learning!
Just like every other part of your body, your brain must work-out to stay in shape, so I just signed up for three classes through KSURF Virtual University. That’s right - I don’t already have enough to do. Never mind all my unfinished projects - I’ll just let my adult-onset ADD get the better of me yet again and add some more stuff to my plate. But they’re great classes . . . really!

My KSURF Story
I found out about KSUF a few months ago and signed up for a free class through an introductory promotion for new students. I really enjoyed the online format and got a lot out of the class. My favorite parts were working at my own pace and no required homework or tests. You see, although I love learning and even fancied that I might enjoy life as a professional student at one point, after I finally finished up my degree during my 30s, I swore off anything that involved term papers or tests.

Well, I liked the free class so much that I just couldn’t resist signing up for more when KSURF offered a holiday discount - either $5 off $20 or $10 off $40. Simple math tells me which the better deal is so I selected $45 worth of classes despite the fact that I already had plenty of projects in the works. See how susceptible I am to bargains? (I’m also a sucker for free shipping and never order anything from Amazon without exceeding $25.)

A Few More Details
Anyway, with KSUR classes, you can start at any time and have two months to finish. You can submit assignments or not, take the final or not - your choice. If you don’t take the final, however, you won’t receive credit for the class on your transcript but I don’t care about that. But for those who need CEUs, you’d have to be more serious about finishing up. Also, check ahead of time to make sure that the CEUs earned through KSURF are accepted by your employer or organization or association or whatever.

Now for my new classes - I’m taking How to Be Organized In Spite of Yourself, Intro to Personal Journaling, and Memoir Writing: The Journey to Myself. So see? They’re all useful on a personal and a professional level. I’ve started the first lesson in How to Be Organized and have discovered how few hours are in a week but that’s a subject for a different post. Suffice to say, you will be learning along with me if you follow this blog.

Now Exercise YOUR Brain!
So exercise your brain today. Resolve to learn something new on a regular basis throughout the year. Try an online class, read up on an unfamiliar subject, start a new hobby, or try your hand at Sudoku or logic puzzles (my two personal favorites). Regardless of age, but especially as you get older, brain exercise is critical. And it’s easy - you don’t even work up a sweat or get out of breath (two things I'd rather avoid). So what are you waiting for? And if you know of other online learning opportunities, please leave a comment and share with the rest of us!

Please note: I am not affiliated with KSURF other than as a student and am simply sharing my personal thoughts and experience.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year, New Focus

Well, it’s another New Year! I know it’s just another day but I always look forward to the New Year and feel refreshed when it finally arrives. Maybe it’s because the holiday hustle and bustle is over . . .
Or maybe it’s because the days are getting longer again . . . Who knows? But I love having a fresh start!

Here at The Best 50 Years, I’m planning a new focus for 2011. Or maybe a re-focus is more accurate. Actually, now that I think about it, I’m simply going back to my original focus. Let me explain.

Back when I started this blog, I did have a purpose - to help and encourage folks to live better, fuller lives. Turning 50 was an interesting experience for me. I realized that I could very well have another 50 years of living - I was stepping into the second half of my life! WOW! Now take that concept one step further. I’ve always believed your real life doesn’t start until you’re an adult, so let’s say 20 to make the math easy. Well, that means at 50, you’ve only burned through 30 years. Think of all you’ve done during that time . . . And now you still have more than that much time left? WOW again!

Out with the Old
Over the month of January, I’ll be looking at the content posted here. I doubt I’ll actually remove anything, but I might. More likely, I’ll clean up my categories to make things easier to find. I might also work on the format some, although I’m pretty happy with it as is. Anyway, if anyone has suggestions or tips, please let me know!

One of the things you won’t see here again are sponsored posts. I did several during 2010 and have decided they don’t fit here. There were a couple that fit my purpose, such as the one on vision correction to eliminate the need for reading glasses, but most were neutral. So, out with the old and . . .

In with the New
Future content will be tightly (ok, loosely) focused on helping YOU live a better, fuller life starting right now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. NOW. And from where you are right now, wherever that may be.

And age doesn’t matter. Yes, I’m coming from a 50+ perspective and am in what I like to call "The Second Half." If you’re not here yet, great! You can still have the best 50 years. In fact, you’re probably more likely to have another 50, so think about what you’d like to do with all that time. It really is true that life is what we make it and the best years are yet to come. So start now, today - a New Year awaits! And if you’re reading this at some later date? Start now, today. (Good advice doesn’t expire, you know.)

In Closing
Help me out here, ok? My adult-onset ADD may get the better of me and I might get off track. If I seem to be veering too far off in some other direction, please let me know. And if you have any tips for better living or topics you’d like to see covered, please let me know that too.