Checking back in--I did it!

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First, the big news: I DID IT! During the month of November, I wrote a novel. It's not great. It's not even good. But I wrote it, start to finish. I won. And I have to say, it feels great.

Between that and the fast-approaching end of 2009, I was reminded of my goals. You know, the ones I was updating every week until I completely lost the plot? I thought it would be nice for me to check back up on those, since we're now 11/12 of the way through the year.

So:

#1: Read one book per week.
Fail, sadly. I've read 28 books this year, and only completed 23 of them. I might get 2-3 more in before the end of the year, but there's no way I'm hitting 52.

#2: Watch one movie per week.
Check! I've watched 71 movies so far this year.

#3: Take at least one overseas trip.
Fail. However, we are beginning to talk seriously about a trip to Ireland this spring, so I'll just roll this one forward to 2010.

#4: Improve my eating habits.
I have been up and down on this one, but I'm pretty happy with where I'm at right now. I've cut way back on coffee (I'm drinking a lot of tea), I'm not drinking soda, and I'm trying to be more portion conscious. It's imperfect, but it's definitely a start.

#5: Exercise regularly.
Again, up and down. However, I've been making a regular practice of taking a long walk with Ata nearly every day since I've been working at home, so I'm going to put this one in the win column. It's not enough, I'm sure, but it's way more than I was doing last year at this time.

#6: Pay off my credit cards.
Done. In fact, as of right now, since we sold the house and paid off the car, the only debt I have is my student loan. I feel pretty fantastic about that.

#7: Save at least $100/month.
Done and exceeded. I have more in savings right now than I ever have previously. It's not as much as it should be, but it's growing steadily.

#8: Learn a new craft.
I didn't so much learn a new one as re-dedicate myself to an old one, but I'll talk about that in a minute. When I made this goal, I thought I meant knitting or embroidery. Those are still things I would like to learn, but my artistic side led me in a different direction in 2009, and I'm fine with that.

#9: Journal and blog regularly.
Sadly, fail. I did blog very regularly during some periods, but these last couple of months have found me seriously slacking. However, I have been writing regularlyl--as in every day--and that is what this goal was really about. So, I think that gets me credit for #9 and #10.

#10: Sell our house and move.
Done, successfully and with relatively little pain.

#11: Practice cooking.
This turns out to have been a win. I've been cooking dinner at least once a week since we got settled in here. That may not sound like much, but given how little I have cooked over the course of my relationship with Mark, it is. Turns out the key was getting a Crock Pot.

#12: Make my home more livable.
This goal came with us when we moved, and we're slowly working on it. This house doesn't come with the natural perks our last one did, but we're making it our own, with art, a little bit of new furniture, etc. It's also being kept much cleaner than our old house was, thanks in part to my working from home. I think I've met this goal.

#13: Build my freelance resume.
Things have continued to go well in this area. I've done a good bit of grant work, continued to build tenure as a technical writer, and I think I'm more marketable as a freelance writer all the time. I never actually made a new resume, as there hasn't been a need, but I keep telling myself I will. Maybe in January?

So, by my count, that's 8/13 successes; 2/13 partial successes; and 3/13 failures. I'm pretty damn happy with those numbers, and I am definitely going to make myself a list of similar goals for 2010 (with a couple of reappearances from here) and try to hold myself to them as well as I did this year.

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Black Friday from the couch

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While I have no desire to go and fight crowds at malls today, I do like to shop, and I like to shop sales. Being able to "partake" in Black Friday online, from my couch, in my calico cat pajamas, is just lovely. So, I thought I'd share some of my favorite Black Friday sales with you all (a la Mir).

First, Threadless t-shirts are all $9. I love these, and I particularly love buying them for Mark. This one is today only, so be sure not to put it off.

SmartBargains has fancy high thread count sheets and duvets for $34.99, any size. They've also got 30% off Vera Bradley stuff, if you're into that. Again, I believe these are today only.

6pm.com has a bunch of crazy good deals, but the one I like it the flip for $50. I can't quite justify buying one of those, but I'd really like to.

You likely already know about Old Navy's sales, as they're going on yesterday through tomorrow, but there are some good deals there: $15 adult jeans; $10 kids jeans; $15 sweaters; and lots more. Free shipping on $50+.

Smashbox Cosmetics is having 20% off everything until December 1. They are one of my favorite makeup companies.

If you've got a teen on your list Aeropostale has 50-70% off everything in the store. They've also got some online door busters that might be worth looking at, and free shipping on $75+.

Now, on to the stuff I really love--independent sellers having Black Friday sales!

Knitty Knitty Bang Bang is having a huge sale. Everything is 20% off, and orders of $15+ ship for free. That means hand-knitted wool/bamboo blend socks are going for $32. Nice.

Bathtub Bling has everything 50% off, which is really exciting for me. My eye is on the honey collection stuff. Bath bombs are only $1.50. They've also got free shipping on $50+.

Lue Cosmetics has BOGO on everything in the store! I really don't *need* mineral makeup, but I'm still tempted.

Indira Albert, who makes beautiful things, has free shipping on everything and 50% off selected items. I'm coveting her 2010 desk calendar.

Harriet's Haven has very cool printed towels and onesies and the like, all 20% off. I really love the flour sack towels, and a certain bike-loving baby in my life is definitely going to be getting this for Christmas.

That ought to get us started! I'll likely be back later with more.

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Today's proof that I have totally lost the plot

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People ask my advice about getting a dog fairly regularly. Almost without fail, I tell them to adopt a young adult dog from a rescue. I have repeated at least a hundred times that puppies are an excessive amount of work, and that there is no reason to put yourself through that work unless your heart is set on a particular breed that can't often be rescued as an adult, or the puppy is going to require some sort of specialized training (like an assistance dog). For a regular pet dog, get an adult. It just makes more sense. Let someone else handle the destructive phase and the part where they aren't house trained.

I already held this position before we fostered seven Lab puppies from their fourth week to their twelfth, but even if I hadn't, doing that would have solidified it. Those pups were a shitload of work. They were, like, an infant-level of work. Up every two hours, feeding with bottles, constant crying, and a mess I can't even describe. Though the experience remains among the very most rewarding of my life, I've always said I would never do it again.

You know where I'm going with this, right?

Today we were in a big box pet store, buying cat food (yeah, I know, but I'm damned if I can find a local anything here, much less a local pet store). And there was a rescue group there with several litters of puppies. Lab mix puppies. Shepherd mix puppies. Husky mix puppies. All sort of medium-to-large mutt puppies. Dogs that are going to be infinitely easier to adopt out at this cute puppy stage than they would be as very average looking adult dogs. Dogs that are likely not house-trained, probably chew everything, and may well cry all not.

I wanted one so bad I swear my ovaries twinged. It was just like baby lust. Their bellies! Their noses! Their too big paws! The way they tripped all over each other! I very nearly squealed.

And then I got to thinking about it, and it would actually be fairly reasonable to get a puppy now. Well, maybe not now, since we're going away for Christmas, but in the new year. I'm home all day, in a perfect position to house-train and spend as much time as is needed with all the basic puppy care stuff that made me crazy with the Labs. Ata is a gentle and patient dog, but also an Alpha--he'd be great with a puppy. The cats are used to rescue dogs, but aren't aggressive in the least--they'd do fine. We really could adopt a puppy and have it be OK.

The thing is, everybody wants to adopt puppies. No matter how much I tell them that they'd be better off with young adult dogs, puppies adopt out much faster. So would it be wrong for us, people who know about taking in adult and even elderly dogs from shelters and aren't afraid to do so, to get a puppy instead this time? Would it be a cop-out? And if not, is there any chance in hell I could talk Mark into it?

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Behind

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I don't know if it's the amount of time I spend staring blankly at my National Novel Writing Month novel (I'm at 24,000 words, by the way--behind, but not terribly so), or the rainy weather, or Mark's somewhat frenetic insistence on making preparations now for the perfect Thanksgiving, but the hours in my days seem shortened lately. I feel chronically behind in a way I haven't for several lazy months.

Clearly, I haven't been blogging, but it's worse than that--I haven't even been reading other blogs. And it's NaBloPoMo, so I hope you'll believe me when I tell you my reader is truly out of hand. Other things I haven't been doing include all sorts of housework, any craft projects, thinking about Christmas gifts, and showering on a schedule appropriate for an adult woman obsessed with bath products.

So what am I doing, besides working on this book (and the book is just not very good, but I'm OK with that--done is important, good is not)? I'm organizing a Christmas Gift Giving program for some families who need holiday help on a message board I frequent. That's been really rewarding and fun. I'm walking my dog, which is good for both of us. I'm, along with Mark, making slow improvements to turn our soulless rental house into something more like home. I'm mourning Leo. I'm surviving.

Guess I just wanted to check in and make sure you all know I'm still out here and I'm OK. I'll be back in more force after November.

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Love Thursday: The Feline Edition

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IllyI'm so focused on my dogs, it's probably easy for WINOW readers to forget that we have cats. If I'm being honest, sometimes I forget myself. Cats are such self-confident creatures, so much less needy than dogs. I'm not proud of it, but because my cats demand so much less of me than my dogs (or now, dog), I do sometimes overlook them.

Lately, though, I've been so glad to have them. All three cats, though Atticus in particular, have been particularly loving and helpful since Leo died. Atticus often spends all day on the couch with me as I work, and Illy sleeps with us most nights. Esme remains reserved, but she's more present than she used to be for sure. They may not need us, but they know we need them, and they're doing their best to help us through. I love them for that.

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Bite me, Go Daddy

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There have been rants all over the place for a long time about Go Daddy's smarmy and sexist advertising. Remember the Super Bowl ad? Well, I'd almost forgotten it. I've never used Go Daddy, but also hadn't given them a lot of thought lately.

Then, just now, I saw a Go Daddy ad on TV, featuring the "old Go Daddy Girl" schooling the "New Go Daddy Girl" on what would be expected of her. And then the ultra disgusting CEO popped up and made the innuendo that she'd also be expected to strip for his pleasure or something. I wish I could find it online, but I don't see it anywhere. Anyway, you've probably seen it. It's real class.

So, PSA: Go Daddy is not the only place to secure a reasonably priced URL. Mine are through Domain Site. I pay about $18 for two years of ownership on each domain, have had no issues, and they aren't, as far as I know, sexist asswipes.

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The inspiration of the mundane

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A few years back, one of my New Year's goals/resolutions was to publish a piece of writing. Not long into the new year, I was able to do that, with the help of the incredibly lovely Karen Walrond. At that time, Karen had just started up an online magazine, Indigo Leaf, with the goal of providing a forum for previously unknown writing talent. I wrote a piece about Mary Prankster as music to grow up to, if I remember correctly, and Karen accepted it for publication.

In the grand scheme of literature, or of reviews, or even of online magazines, my little piece in Indigo Leaf wasn't even a ripple. The magazine didn't last too long (I'm not sure what happened with it, you'd have to ask Karen), what I wrote was serviceable, but not a masterpiece. But the importance, to me, of meeting that goal is hard to overstate. It was the first time in a long time I'd thought of myself as a writer. And I kept writing--I wrote for another online magazine, As We Are (also know defunct). I started blogging more seriously. I even started (and then stopped, and then started...) a journal.

Today, as I struggle through the beginnings of my National Novel Writing Month novel--my first real attempt at fiction in a long, long time--I'm drinking tea out of the Indigo Leaf mug Karen sent me as a thank you for the piece I contributed. That mug is a reminder, every day, that I set a goal and accomplished it. It doesn't matter at all that the article on Mary Prankster didn't catapult me into a career as a high-powered music reviewer. What matters is that I did it. This mug proves that. And it's going to go on proving that every day until the end of this month, at which time I will have a 50,000 word novel. It may not be a publishable novel, it may not even be a good novel, but it will be something I set my mind to doing and did. And if I do someday write a great novel, or even a publishable one, it will because I wrote this novel first. And that, in turn, will be because I wrote that piece for Indigo Leaf, and because I have this mug staring me in the face, reminding me that I can do this.

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