Progress Reports

Last year I did occasional posts reporting on my progress.  But, they turned out to be spotty at best.  So, this year, I decided I’d do what seems to be all the rage in the blogging world, put progress reports in my sidebar.  So, if you look to the side you should be able to spot my Big Rocks Progress Report.  If you are reading in a feed reader, you won’t be able to see it, so you’ll have to click through to my actual page.  I’ll try to do brief posts once in a while letting you know what’s been updated.

Lately, I’ve managed to do 2 perfect skipping rounds.  Not in the same workout mind you.  I’ve also decided that I’m going to have to re-tape my skipping rope as the current tape is starting to wear and affect the movement of the rope.  I’m hoping to snap some pictures of the process and post a tutorial.  One of the things I noticed when planning this challenge was the lack of information for skipping techniques and tips.  This is really a shame since it’s quite a good conditioning workout and a lot of fun too.  I’ll do my best to fill this void.

The only other update is that I actually drove.  I can’t believe I went almost an entire month in 2009 without driving, but there you have it.  Today I drove to and from work and my in-laws place.  I’ll also be driving again tomorrow and will try to update the progress bar accordingly.

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Arcade Cabinet Assembly Plan

I think I mentioned in my last post that we were building an arcade cabinet and I just thought I’d stop by and let people know how it was progressing.  I didn’t really have a good concept of what still needed to be done, so my husband emailed me a step-by-step list of things to do:

1)      Cabinet sides
a.      Slot cut sides once slotting cutter arrives
b.      Sand edges to even
c.      Prime sides again if necessary
d.      Base paint
2)      Other boards
a.      Angle cut where necessary
b.      Cut speaker holes, ventilation holes.
c.      Sand edges to even
d.      Prime pieces again if necessary
e.      Base paint
3)      Cabinet assembly
a.      Buy caster wheels
b.      Buy 2′ x 4′
c.      Cut 2′ x 4′ to frame bottom of cabinet
d.      Install casters on base
e.      Assemble upper and lower portions of cabinet
f.      Buy and install t-molding
g.      Adjust monitor shelf
h.      Install angle braces under monitor shelf for additional support
i.      Install angle brackets on upper cabinet, to align holes for carriage bolts
4)      Control panel
a.      Design and print CP graphic
b.      Cut boards for CP
c.      Mark layout on board
d.      Cut laminate to size
e.      Drill holes
f.      Router board for flush mounting of joysticks and track ball
g.      Install buttons
h.      Wire grounds and controls
5)      Finishing
a.      Mount computer inside cabinet
b.      Hook up components
c.      Buy plexiglass/glass monitor shield
d.      Buy plexiglass marquee shield
e.      Design and print marquee graphic
f.      Make and install monitor bezel
g.      Create side art stencil
h.      Paint cabinet side art

Yesterday evening we made a trip to Home Depot to pick up a few of the supplies that we could get.  The weather is slowing us down the most right now.  We’ve gotten a rainy spell and the only sunny periods seem to happen while we’re stuck at work.  The fact that my husband usually works 6 days a week hasn’t been helping much either.  We’re also waiting for a particular tool to arrive which we were expecting sooner.

Projects, Old and New

I realize that I haven’t been blogging very much lately, but this is the time of summer that is the busiest for me and my family.  Right now there are lots of birthdays going on.  Plus, my extended family has a wedding and a baby fast approaching (two different women though). 

This is also the last summer that my husband will have free from the CGA program, and so he’s been ready to go and tackle all sorts of projects.

While we didn’t get any sunflowers in the ground this year, we did manage a fine little garden and some houseplants.  Not only have some of the plants lived through the initial trauma of discovering that WE were going to try to grow them, but our tomato plant is actually starting to bear fruit!

In addition to being busy watering plants, my husband also decided to take on an inspiring project – build his own Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME for short).  Since it’s basically a computer built into an arcade cabinet, he’s also going to wire it to serve a few other functions like be a jukebox for our music collection, and store our recipes (because it’s going to go in the kitchen).  It’s something he’s always wanted to do and it’s an excuse for me to increase my tool collection and do a little woodworking as well.  I’ve actually gotten really excited about the design of the cabinet, as we are going to be working with the steampunk theme.  Before this project, I hadn’t really clued in yet that I actually really like steampunk stuff.  One of my favourite book series was steampunk.  One of my current favourite webcomics is steampunk.  And now, I absolutely have fallen in love with this clock!

So, we now own a router (one of the few power tools we couldn’t borrow from one set of parents or another) and have purchased all the wood to make the frame of the cabinet.  This evening we hope to finish the cutting.  It turns out my mom has the perfect copper paint in her stash of painting supplies and all of the actual arcade bits (joysticks, buttons, spinner, etc.) have been ordered and should be arriving over the next few weeks. 

For the guts of the machine, we’re putting my old computer to use.  Still have to figure out if the hard drives are completely toast, or if a re-formatting will work.  But, it’s also just the motivation my husband needed to hook them up and start poking around with them.

Between now and September all my weekends are already booked and September is usually only marginally slower.  I will be starting a course (not sure what yet) in the fall and then NaNoWriMo 2008 will be here!  For my writing this year, I’d really like to take some time before November and plot out what I’m going to write (and now I’m toying with the idea of taking my newfound love for steampunk and putting it together with my writing).  But before all that, I also have to plan two 30th birthday parties!  One for my sister and the other for my husband.  They have basic plans, but I still have to do a bunch of phone calling and reservation making and gift shopping!  But, I’ll still try to pop in and blog once in a while about what’s going on with my various projects.

A Post in which I Ramble a Bit About Work

One of the things I set out when writing this blog was that I wasn’t going to focus on the small details of my life.  This post isn’t going to go into the small details of my work, but the broad themes that influence my level of satisfaction at my job.  My husband and I have been reviewing financial and career goals lately and it’s spawned a few thoughts and truths I thought I’d share here.

Working for family is different.  I’ve got experience working with my blood family (sister) and my in-law family (a whole bunch of ’em).  It can be a huge asset or a huge liability, but it is definitely not the same as working for strangers.  I’ve learned a few things about working with family that can make it a lot easier.

  • Rules and guidelines are important.  It’s important to treat everyone as a professional and make sure each person understands and acknowledges their roles.
  • There are times when it’s important to just be family and not bring work into it at all.
  • Don’t make people pay for professional mistakes during your personal time, and vice versa.
  • It doesn’t work for everyone.  If you think it isn’t for yourself, don’t let yourself be pressured into it.

There are many different ways to interact with people – stick with the one(s) that work for you.  I’ve reinforced a valuable lesson working at this current job: I do NOT like customer service positions.  It isn’t that I don’t like, need and appreciate customers as they are what makes the business continue, but my strengths lie in other areas.  I think I’d much rather have an internal management position than a front line sales position.  That’s just me though.  Figure out what works for you and try to play up your strengths.

Don’t be afraid to ask the outrageous question.  When I asked for three weeks off to tour Japan, it wasn’t so outrageous since I do work for family members.  But, in my job with customers, I’ve seen some pretty outrageous questions, and sometimes the answer surprised me.  This happened just the other day with a file that I was sure was going to get sent back to me.  There are a few things that can help your results when asking for the outrageous (though following these guidelines do not guarantee success by any means!)

  • Ask the right person.  If you ask someone who doesn’t have the power to do or get what you want, you aren’t going to be able to get it.  Plain and simple.  Plus, if that person thinks it is outrageous and relays the question on your behalf, there’s a chance that they will influence the outcome (could be good or bad).
  • Be blunt.  Give the person in authority enough information to understand where you are coming from, but don’t give more information than is necessary.  Be honest that you might be stretching a bit.  Don’t try to hide the nature of your request.  This just adds a layer of deceit to what you’re trying to do.  Be bold and ask for what you want.
  • Deal with the answer, whatever it ends up being.  Don’t whine or try to win over the person you are asking.  The outrageous question is not a negotiation.  Negotiations have their time and place and different rules apply.  If you are successful be grateful and acknowledge whomever granted your request.  If you are rejected, accept it, acknowledge that it was worth the try, and move on.
  • Don’t abuse it.  If you come up with something new and outrageous every day of the week, you are just going to annoy the heck out of people.  When a person who normally makes reasonable requests occasionally goes out on a limb they are more likely to get away with it than a person who routinely tries to push the envelope.
  • Have a ‘Plan B.’  Be ready for a rejection and have a contingency plan in place for if/when it happens.  Putting all your hopes on a favourable answer can have disastrous consequences if you aren’t prepared.

I am a ‘big picture’ kind of person.  Know what you are and don’t be afraid to ‘guide’ your own training.  If you just go through the motions of how to do something, without telling me why, it probably won’t stick.  If you tell me why, I still might forget until you tell me a couple of times, but I can’t fully wrap my head around it until I get the big picture.  Perhaps it’s my English Literature background – I thrive on theme!  All the little details that come up, don’t really mean much until you see it as part of the whole piece.  But, other people don’t need to see the big picture and need to be shown the little steps, one at a time.  Know what works for you and ask appropriate questions to guide the person you are working with into helping yourself out.  We aren’t in Elementary School anymore folks.  The only person responsible for your success or failure at future learning is YOU.

I’m finally getting fired up at work so that I might just start making some things happen.  I won’t bore you with details, but hopefully it will not only make me a bit happier at work, but it’ll help the business do a little better as well.  I’ve got co-conspirators whom I will be working with, which will help me to be brave and take the steps that are necessary.

I also stumbled across a management certificate program offered through one of the local university’s continuing education programs.  I’m seriously considering enrolling in it.  I am very lucky to have any education opportunities paid for by my company (so long as it relates to our business somehow) and some of the courses sound kind of appealing.  It would be in the same vien as a CGA program but without the intensity or 5 year minimum commitment (and it looks a bit lighter on actual math skills as well – I did mention I was an ENGLISH LITERATURE student, right?).  I’ve given myself a fall deadline for picking and enrolling in something and this would definitely be something my boss would spring for.  I just need to decide if it’s the best thing for me.

May Progress Report

Since I was on vacation for most of the month of May, it feels like we just kind of skipped the month. But on the other hand, so much happened I could write pages and pages and pages about it! For my job, the date is extremely important. I work with dates repeatedly all day long. Slices of time are artificially separated out of reality by naming it with a date. When we were on vacation, since we weren’t obsessing over dates we were free to experience the passing of time more naturally and intuitively. I felt more in connection with myself, my husband, and the world around us. I liked that feeling and I’m going to try to bring more of it into my daily life.

Overview: May was incredible, due in large part to our vacation to Japan.  Coming back has been bittersweet.  If nothing else, we’ve been inspired to make some changes at home that will hopefully continue moving our life in the right direction.

Checklist: Big Rocks

  • The Women’s Health Ultimate Fitness Plan – I should probably just remove this one from my list of big rocks for the year because I haven’t touched it in months.  I don’t feel bad about ‘failing’ at this goal, but I also have gained a lot of weight.  I’ve gained some, but it’s a manageable amount.  Right now I’m just trying to make healthy choices and not gain any more weight.
  • Master Push-Ups – I managed to be faithful with this one even while in Japan (actually rolling out of a futon made it really easy to start my push-ups right away).  On one day when I realized I had forgotten to do it when I got up, I actually hit the pavement and did them right where we were at the time – luckily, there weren’t many people around to see.  This week I’m at 25 push-ups – halfway!  I’m arranging an appointment for a manicure and pedicure for Monday to treat myself!
  • Travel to Japan – Done 🙂  We’re working on sorting pictures and I’d like to get a scanner to scan some of the brochures and tickets, etc.
  • Complete my Japanese Lessons – Done 🙂  Though, not as well as I’d like to have done.  I’d also like to learn to read and write the language as well.  Also, next year we’d like to take a trip to Germany, so you can expect some more language related Big Rocks next year!
  • Enroll in Further Education for my Career by Fall 2008 – I still have no clue what I’m going to do.  Also, I’m beginning to question whether I can continue in this career for the long haul.  So, should I invest my time and my company’s money in further training when I don’t intend to continue working in this field?  I know I’d much rather pursue some of my other interests and things that I’m passionate about.  But, the expectation at work is that I’ll continue educating myself.  I’ll have to make some pretty tough decisions over the summer.
  • Participate in and Win NaNoWriMo 2008 – I’m looking forward to this again and I’m kicking around ideas of what to write.  My story from last year I’d like to go through and do some editing.

I’m not doing a medium rocks checklist because the only thing for May was to go to Japan.  However, the months coming up are a bit bare for my medium rocks.  So, I should probably go through and fill them up with a few things.

The bad: Not working out regularly and probably getting too many calories in my diet.

The good: We’ve been totally inspired to de-clutter, organize, and decorate our house.  We also underspent in Japan, so we’ll have some of that extra money to put into those projects and update our wardrobes.  I finished reading 2001: A Space Odyssey and need to find time to watch the movie.  I also started and finished reading Ella Enchanted and LOVED it!  I’ve worked a bit on reading In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts and Style Statement and am looking forward to reading more of them.

Coming up: I’m looking forward to working on the house with my husband.  I’m also looking forward to updating my wardrobe and doing more reading this summer.  I’m also looking forward to working more on our garden and seeing how things fare.

February Progress Report

Another month is already come and gone so it’s time to check my progress yet again. This month has been interesting for me personally. I’ve been a bit stressed out from some family issues. I also went to a very interesting lecture that was all about addiction and it’s gotten me to thinking about my own addictive behaviour about more than just food! Lots of thinking and working and not enough sleeping.

Overview: I think this month went really, really well! I was still working out some of my motivation issues, but I was making enough small steps to feel proud of myself. When I look at the big goals that I’ve got, I feel like I’m totally able to tackle those and am just getting going.

Checklist – Big Rocks:

1. Women’s Health Ultimate Fitness Plan – so I still have it up there on the big rocks page, but I’m thinking about striking it out. I haven’t followed it at all this month. However, I got a serious a** whooping from kick boxing last week (at least I wasn’t the only one though) and have just discovered http://www.sparkpeople.com, which I think might work well to getting me back into a routine of healthy eating and working out.

2. Master Push Ups – I only missed 2 days this month (due to the aforementioned a** whooping kick boxing class) and am up to 11 push ups a day now. More importantly, I can see that the giant anti-motivational wall I’m trying to bring down is looking not quite as solid and daunting.

3. Japan – Only 2 months away!

4. Learn Japanese – Almost on to the last segment of 30 lessons.

No work on the rest of the big rocks.

Checklist – Medium Rocks:

1. Project 29. That’s what I called my daily picture project. I am pretty pleased with my progress on this project. I managed to take a picture every day for 29 days in a row. Some days more than 1 picture. I’m planning on posting the set here early next week. Not all the pictures were great. Some were rather mundane, but a few of them were really nice. I also got practice in changing settings and figuring out what settings might work well. And, for the record, I really love Picasa’s ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ button. I’ve gotten some pretty nice effects using that button. I’ve also really found out that I like editing photos and playing with different effects.

2. Gather final Supplies for Japan. We didn’t get everything that we had to, but we got some clothing, a bunch of laundry supplies, travel toiletry bottles, my husband got his own digital camera and I sewed up a little cozy for it, some journals, and a plug adapter. We’ve still got a few more things to pick up, but the clothes were one of the more major things we wanted to get checked off the list.

The Bad – Still not working out as much as I’d like. But I’m honestly starting to knuckle down! But I’ve actually set a fitness goal for our vacation to Japan, so that might be the extra motivation I need.

The Good – Excellent progress on Japan and Japanese. And, I’ve found some ideas and inspiration for future month’s goals.

Coming Up – Next month I’m going for some more cerebral goals. I’m going to start reading some more and begin daily meditation practice. I’m not sure if I’ll actually set a target for number of books to read, but I’d really like to read the new book I got when I attended a lecture on addiction: In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Dr. Gabor Mate.

Still not decided what we’re going to try to grow, but I might just wander in a plant store until I find inspiration.

I’ve left April intentionally open because I do a little bit of tax return work and am anticipating a very busy month at work between that and preparing to be gone for three weeks.

January Progress Report

I decided that it would probably be a good idea to post at least once a month on my progress with my various projects. This keeps me accountable to anyone who happens to be reading. Knowing that I’ll be posting once a month will also give me regular intervals to examine my progress, reflect on what I’m doing right, and on what I should be doing right. Now that we are one twelfth of the way through 2008, let’s see how I’m doing so far.

Overview: So far, I’m actually pretty darn happy with how the year has begun. I’ve had some setbacks, but I’m still focused on my goals. I am feeling a bit of the blues right now, but my motivation is picking up a bit of steam again. I think it’s probably a combination of winter blues and the rebound from a stressful Christmas season. When I take a look at the big picture of my life, there are a lot more things that are going right than wrong.

Checklist – Big Rocks: Nothing completed yet. Making very good progress on my pushups and learning Japanese (or at least getting through the lessons – not sure how much is sticking long-term).

Checklist – Medium Rocks:

1. Assemble Emergency Preparedness Kit – Not finished. But, I still feel successful. We started with basically nothing more than a few litres of frozen water. Now we’ve got a bin in a designated location, canned goods set aside, toilet paper, paper towel, disposable dishes, basic sanitary supplies, a bunch of miscellaneous small items, and I’ve got an entire spare outfit put in there too. At least now when I think that I should add ‘x’ to the emergency kit, I just need to run downstairs, pop open the lid and toss it in. I can definitely see coming back to this in the months to come and spending another month adding to the supplies.

2. Kick boxing has begun again. I am LOVING it! I did not realize how much I missed the class atmosphere and the hour long intense workout. I finally bought my own skipping rope (nothing fancy, but it is a nice bright green) to use at home and in class and I’m seriously considering spending the time and money on finding a martial arts dojo after we return from Japan so I can continue classes more seriously. The other part about regular workouts hasn’t really materialized. I did the first four days of January and then got sick. I haven’t really gotten back into (mostly because I’m a big wimp and can’t pull myself out of a nice warm snuggly bed to go into the cold non-snuggly garage in the mornings to workout).
3. Dietary cleanse was technically a success. I feel a bit healthier from it. I also feel as though my willpower is stronger and that I’ll be better able to resist temptations. I’m not going to just start eating everything again either. I’m definitely going to say no to regular potato chips (but corn chips are a different story) and no soda. I’m also going to try to resist iced tea because it also has quite a bit of sugar. I’ve been very inspired by Eatopia this month and I’m glad that she’s been posting regularly detailing her battle with sugar. Another thing I’ve decided is that I’m going to limit myself to one ‘junk’ day a week. I think I’ll even schedule it in on my calendar. That way if I face a small temptation, I’ll have to ask if it’s worth it to spend my junk day today, or if I should wait until another day. (Note that it’s a ‘junk’ day and not a ‘binge’ day – portion control is still going to be followed).

4. Finish insulating the garage – not even started. As you can tell from reading items #1 and #2, the emergency kit didn’t get finished so we never moved on to the insulation (or, should I say back to, since we started insulating in December) and as such, the garage is still freezing cold, which means we don’t work out as much as we should.

The Bad – Haven’t been working out as much as I had originally wanted to and I’m generally feeling a bit stressed out. I’ve been having a few pity parties over the fact that I’m not a perfect housekeeper and wife (I’m sure I’m driving my husband nuts with my insecurities in this matter since he insists I’m doing just fine).

The Good – I’m feeling healthy and like I’m heading in the right direction. I started work on getting to 50 pushups (7 a day this week and next week will be 8!) and feel like we’re more prepared for an emergency than we were last month. We’re also more than half way through our Japanese lessons (we have 41 to complete in 90 days). I started tracking some of these things using Joe’s Goals and I’m hoping it’ll help me track my progress a bit better and motivate me to work harder. I’ve also been doing a little more reading, writing and thinking lately, all of which helps me keep things in perspective.