Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Current Reading List

So for the first time in way too many years I have found myself with out steady work and without classes every couple days... translation: lots of free time.  It was nice for most of May, but here it is almost June (only two days till my birthday :-)) and I am bored and stir crazy.  I have had to start planning errands and activities outside the house at least ever other day, to keep myself from going crazy.

Not that I don't have nothing to do.  I still have a teacher work sample to finish and applications to fill out (anyone need an elementary teacher next school year?) but my lack of activities has also caused a lot of motivation.  Ever been bored and just piddling away till the next thing you know its 6 hours later?  No?  Maybe just me, but that's what has happened a few days.  It took me a few days, but I realized this was a symptom of stir crazy, so I started planning outings.  Even simple things like going to the chiropractor for an hour today helps.

So far, the new plan is going well... Only on the second day, but still.  Yesterday I had errands to run and had to stop by work.  Unfortunately I woke up with a killer headache, so my morning routine didn't work, but I still did my errands and then came home and did some cooking and financial related stuff.  Today, I got up an hour later than planned (still trying to get the insomnia under control... trying to find that balance between too much medicine where I can't get up for 12 hours and too little medicine where I don't sleep at all, but still had enough time to go for my morning walk and get my shower in before the chiropractor.  After the chiropractor, mom took me to lunch, and then came home and did the menu for June.

Anyways, rambling.... Because of this abundance of free time, I decided to take advantage of it and get some summer reading it.  Here is what I am currently reading and waiting for from the library:

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen.  I have attempted this book before, but never seem to finish.

I Beat the Odds- Michael Oher.  This is from the guy the movie "Blind Side" was based on.  Great read for anyone interested in foster care or adoption.  This among with a few others on the list, I came across last week when I was looking for some books to take on my Kindle down to Chad's family reunion.  I get my books through the library (can't beat free!) so I sometimes have to wait for the good/popular ones so every once in awhile when I need some to read I look through the available title list and find some that sound good.  Some are, some are not.  This one is good so far.

Plugged- Eoin Colfer.  Same author as the Artemis Fowl series that I enjoyed, so I thought I would check it out.  Haven't started it yet. "Lincoln McEvoy has a problem. Well, really, he has several, but for this Irish ex-pat bouncer at a seedy, small-time casino the fact that his girlfriend was just murdered in the parking lot is uppermost in his mind.That is until lots of people around him start dying, and not of natural causes. Suddenly Linc's got half the New Jersey mob, dirty cops and his man-crazy upstairs neighbor after him and he still doesn't know what's going on. Bullets are flying, everybody's on the take and it all may be more than Linc's new hair plugs can handle.And Linc's got to find the guy who put in those hair plugs—or at least his body—and fast, or else he'll never get that voice out of his head. Head-spinning plot twists, breakneck pacing and some of the best banter this side of Elmore Leonard's Detroit, will keep you on the edge of your seat and itching for more." Sounds interesting.  Being that it is about an Irish man... Chad might enjoy it more than me, we shall see.

Blackout (Oxford Time Travel Series)- Connie Willis.  "Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being sent into the past. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser into letting her go to VE-Day. Polly Churchill's next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London's Blitz. But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments and switching around everyone's schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, and dive-bombing Stukas--to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past."  I am a sci-fi/fantasy nut so this sounded good.  Was a few chapters into it till i realized it was not the first by the author.  While it is the first in a two part series, many of the characters are introduced in previous stories.  So I have put this one on hold, till I read the others before it.  One is mentioned below, and the second and third I am on waiting list for.

Fire Watch- Connie Willis.  "Short story set during the Blitz with Mr. Bartholomew, an Oxford historian from the mid 2100s, travelling back in time to be part of the Fire Watch at St. Paul’s Cathedral.   It also introduces Kivrin and Mr. Dunworthy."  The first by the Oxford Time Travel Series author.  Reading this online, found it for free. Good, so far.

Nearing Home- Billy Graham "In this moving narrative, Billy Graham once again takes up the pen not only to share his personal experience of growing older but also teach us some important lessons on how to view our time here on Earth. He says that the Bible makes it clear that God has a specific reason for keeping us here. So what is His purpose for these years, and how can we align our lives with it? How can we not only learn to cope with the fears and struggles and growing limitations we face but actually grow stronger inwardly in the midst of these difficulties?" Haven't started yet

Waiting for Superman- "The American public education system is in crisis. Millions of students attend "failure factories" that produce more drop-outs than graduates; millions more attend "nice" schools that mask mediocre achievement. The U.S.'s reading and math scores stagnate and even fall behind, while other countries continue to advance. But many are working to reinvent this system. The film Waiting for Superman, directed by An Inconvenient Truth's Davis Guggenheim, chronicles these efforts through the interlocking stories of a handful of students and families searching for alternatives, and of reformers proving that all kids can learn. Expanding on the film's arguments, the book Waiting for Superman explores politically charged topics through a series of essays by thinkers at the leading edge of educational innovation. It shows how failing schools destroy neighborhoods—not the reverse—and how research reveals that dedicated, attentive teachers are what help at-risk kids succeed. With candor, poignancy, and hope, this book encourages those inspired by the film to join the battle to save American education and our children's future."  Haven't started yet

DragonFlight- Anne McCaffrey "HOW CAN ONE GIRL SAVE AN ENTIRE WORLD?  To the nobles who live in Benden Weyr, Lessa is nothing but a ragged kitchen girl. For most of her life she has survived by serving those who betrayed her father and took over his lands. Now the time has come for Lessa to shed her disguise--and take back her stolen birthright. But everything changes when she meets a queen dragon. The bond they share will be deep and last forever. It will protect them when, for the first time in centuries, Lessa's world is threatened by Thread, an evil substance that falls like rain and destroys everything it touches. Dragons and their Riders once protected the planet from Thread, but there are very few of them left these days. Now brave Lessa must risk her life, and the life of her beloved dragon, to save her beautiful world. . . ." This is book one in a series.  Love fantasy series, but haven't started this yet.  Was one I found while looking through available titles... we shall see.

Mind the Gap- Christopher Golden "Always assume there's someone after you. That was the paranoid wisdom her mother had hardwired into Jasmine Towne ever since she was a little girl. Now, suddenly on her own, Jazz is going to need every skill she has ever been taught to survive enemies both seen and unseen. For her mother had given Jazz one last invaluable piece of advice, written in her own blood.Jazz Hide Forever  All her life Jazz has known them only as the "Uncles," and her mother seemed to fear them as much as depend on them. Now these enigmatic, black-clad strangers are after Jazz for reasons she can't fathom, and her only escape is to slip into the forgotten tunnels of London's vast underground. Here she will meet a tribe of survivors calling themselves the United Kingdom and begin an adventure that links her to the ghosts of a city long past, a father she never knew, and a destiny she fears only slightly less than the relentless killers who'd commit any crime under heaven or earth to prevent her from fulfilling it."  Another found while browsing, sounds different.  We shall see.

Knowing the Bible 101- This is the book for the class I am taking at my church starting next week.

Beautiful in God's Eyes-  Elizabeth George.  Been reading this for awhile, had to stop when things got crazy with work and school.

Complete Guide to Money- Dave Ramsey.  This book goes along with the Financial Peace University class that we are doing on our own right now.

Total Money Makeover- Dave Ramsey.  Pretty similar to book above.  This is one Chad and I are reading together.

Divergent- part of a series, currently 39 our of 46 waiting for this book.

World without end- Ken Follett.  2 out of 3 waiting for this book.  Sequel to Pillars of the Earth that I finished a month ago.

Doomsday Book- Connie Willis.  part of the oxford time travel series.  1 out of 1 waiting for this book.

To Say Nothing of the Dog-  Connie Willis.  Book 3 of the oxford time travel series.  In my wish list till I read the one above.

Icebound Land- John Flannagan- book 3 in the Ranger's apprentice series.  3 out of 3 on waiting list.

First 3 Sue Grafton novels- You know, the alphabet ones.  Have this in a physical book on the holdshelf at the library, just haven't made it there to pick it up.

Also in the middle of the Game of Thrones series, Septimus Heap Series,  and the Dresden File books, but 5 is my limit for my holds, because they all have a tendency to come available at the same time.

Also still reading Star Trek books from my dad..... Only on #30 of the original series, so I will be reading these the rest of my life. LOL

Have had some recommendations from friends, but haven't gotten around to look into them yet.

My favorite types are series and sci-fi/ fantasy books.  So feel free to throw some recommendations my way.

What are you reading this summer?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

One year

Tomorrow will mark one year of me being unemployed.  Now it wasn't a great job, but it was income.  I am still relatively unemployed- meaning I have done a few cash jobs on the side, but nothing permanent or with benefits.  Most people at this point would have a lot of negative things to say about their life.

And there are quite a few in my life I could dwell on- loss of income, having to move in with in laws, having to rely on said in laws for food and shelter, having to ask for help, multiple times, from both sets of parents (something we both said we didn't want to do when we got married), 3 month sickness on my part, Chad having to repeat a class (which put him a semester behind in graduating), massive amounts of debts- both from debt from before we were married, to stuff we have acquired since then (the since then is mostly the 2,000 dollar ER debt I acquired during my 3 month sickness),

But instead I am choosing to PRAISE GOD today.  Why?  Because as I look back on the last year, I don't see the negatives (those I have to actually think about), I see the positives.  What positives could an unemployed broke married woman have?  Well read on.

First and definitely one of the top ones is that my relationship with my husband has improved to an exponential degree that you can't even imagine.  I am not saying we had a horrible relationship before, but it was rough.  If you know us, you know that we are completely opposite, in everything.  I mean think North Pole- South Pole.  He wants to go out; I like to stay home.  He would spend like crazy (if we had any income) while I would save every penny.  He likes to watch TV and play on the computer; I would rather read.  He is non confrontational; I would gladly get in your face. His love for people pours out in conversation; I have to really work to not sound sarcastic and uncaring.  He moves slow and steady; I am full speed ahead.  He is content to do nothing; I can't stop moving.  He would love to sit and cuddle with me while watching a sappy movie; I want a shoot em up sci fi thriller.  He is a team player; I am a one (wo)man band.  I could go on, and on, and on.

Every time I think about how opposite we are I think back to our premarital counseling days.  At one of the meetings where all the couples came together they did this activity.  On the floor was a long piece of masking tape, stretching the room, one side was completely agree and the other completely disagree or something along those lines.  They asked us some questions and then had us stand on the tape where we fit.... the entire time.... Chad and I... were at opposite ends of the room.  Every single time.  Not once where we near each other.  That should of been our wake up call that if we wanted this marriage to work, it would take some work.  But I guess in the excitement of planning the wedding, and starting a home that clue fell by the wayside.

Again, I am not saying we had a bad marriage.  I never once felt like he didn't love me (but with my explosive emotional personality he might of).  But our first year was rough.  I for one on more than one occasion seriously wondered if it would work.  And getting fired in the middle of that first year, sure didn't make things better.  But, I am happy to say, year two has been so much better.  And I credit it to me losing my job. Why?  We became flat broke.  When you have nothing but love, you hold onto that love like a drowning cat digging his claws into anything around him.  At some point, and I can't pinpoint that point for me, let alone for Chad, but we both decided that if we wanted it to work, we were both going to have to make some changes to our attitudes and the way we communicate.  If you are having issues in your marriage all I can say is find a way to communicate with each other, that's 9/10ths of the battle- finding a way to talk to each other that fits the other person's style.  Our relationships isn't perfect, I don't think any relationship ever is, but I no longer wonder if it will work, I know it will, because I know we both want it to.  Besides learning to communicate, we have started doing devotions together (most nights, when he doesn't work till 2 hours after bedtime).  That has helped.  But I am not sure our relationship would have gotten better if we hadn't hit rock bottom in every other area of our life.

Second, we are finally getting more involved with our church.  We started attending a different church a few months before we were married, but we don't always go.  In fact more often than not we don't go.  Whether it was because he worked, or I was just too tired (insomnia sucks).  We just didn't go.  But my recent open schedule (due to the loss of a side job and school being out), I did something I didn't think I would- I am taking a church class by myself, without Chad.  That's a big thing for me, since I would rather stay at home than go out places; to do something that requires me to drive and go out by myself, without Chad or anyone else with me, that was a big push for me.  As soon as my class is done I plan to start volunteering in a ministry at church.  I wish Chad could to, but just attending services are hard enough for him since he has school 4 days a week and work 2+.  The class has also gotten me to start reading my bible and other religious books again.

Third, I learned that God really does provide.  In so many ways, even when we don't realize it.  Like the substantial check that arrived from Chad's inheritance at the exact moment the little money we had saved up from when I was working got used up.  Or tuition reimbursements that were available just when we needed them.  Or the fact that for the first time our budget ended in the black instead of red during the first month that we actually tithed (and tithed at the beginning of the month instead of waiting to give what was left at the end of the month-because there never really is anything left).  Or the fact that a side job appeared for me just when my other one was ending.  Or even the job God provided for my mother in law mere days before we came to them to ask if we could move in, he knew they would need extra income to help provide food for us.  Or the wonderful student loan officers He created and had pick up my call, who have spent hours on the phone finding me ways to lower or defer most of my student loans. I know He has done so much more for us, more than I could list or even think about.

Fourth, I have learned more about money management in the last year, then the rest of my life before that.  We have been following Dave Ramsey's Total Money makeover plan.  Even with only one income (and a small one at that because of school schedules) we have managed to complete baby step 1 (small emergency fund) and are 2 months into our debt snowball.  We have managed to pay all our bills on time, have begun to tithe, and have even managed to squeeze and extra $75 a month to help put towards our debt snowball.  We both have medical insurance (mine through an outside agency) , car insurance and cell phones.  We are still able to eat out occasionally and go out for dates.  We are both still able to attend school and have money for everything we need.  Our cats still have food to eat (expensive food at that since Prince has health issues) and a litter box to use.  How?  Because I budget and I track every penny that comes in and every penny that goes out.  I also don't give Chad cash(he can't help but spend it lol).  We watch for sales, we use things till they break, we don't have the newest gadgets (come July we won't even have smart phones anymore).  We decide what's important and what we can do without and we make it happen.  I can tell you last month we had 250 dollars more income than I expected (I have no idea how, but I PRAISE GOD for it).  I can also tell you we spent less in every variable category last month than the month before.  I know every minute of every day how much is in each of our accounts.  Why so particular?  Because when it comes time to move out, I want to be able to tell Chad that we can spend x amount on rent and y amount on utilities and z amount on groceries without overpspending.  Which means before that can happen we need K amount of more income! Lol.

Yes, getting everything set up budget wise took a lot of work, but after 4 months I have it down to a science and as long as I don't miss a week, it only takes me an hour or two, to update the budget and the expense tracker, pay bills, and file receipts.  And besides checking the bank account every day, I do almost all my money related tasks on Sunday, one day a week.  Unless I need to call about something and then I do a bit on Monday too.  I originally set it up to do it just one day a week so that I only had to get depressed about it one day a week, but lately it's not so depressing.  I haven't seen red numbers in our bank account in months, we are paying bills a week ahead of time so no late fees and I am seeing God's work in our finances so it no longer stresses me out but lifts me up to really see the progress we are making.  One step at a time we are working our plan.

Fifth and Sixth, I have more and better relationships with people around me and more time.  Losing my job caused me to be able to watch my baby nephew 3 days a week till he started day care.  I got to help out my sister and brother in law and spoil a nephew.  I have a more open schedule so Chad and I were able to hang out with friends, even go out of town one weekend with them.  We have been able to take 3 our nephews to the movies, and 2 of them to the zoo... still have to take the other 2 somewhere but getting there.  I have been able to attend Chad's hurling games, which makes him happy.  I have managed to keep our part of the house mostly clean (even though Chad seems to make it his mission to make sure it doesn't stay that way for long- j/k!).  I pack lunch boxes for all four of us every day, and cook some of the meals (Chad and Sharon help with the cooking).  Having to cook most of our meals has caused me to lose some weight.... now if only my feet would stop hurting long enough to get some exercise in.  Speaking of feet my plantar fascitis bothers me much much less.  I have read more books this year, then in the previous 6 combined.  I can actually enjoy my nights and weekends, instead of having to answer phone calls or text messages from work all the time.  I have time to do puzzles, play games, watch TV (though I find I don't really want to watch TV or movies most days), do craft projects or blog quite often.

I could go on, but you are probably bored by now.  Let's just say God has blessed my life since I have lost my job and as the one year mark comes up, those blessings are what I am choosing to focusing on and praise God for, because they far outweigh the negatives.