Budgeting for Better Living

This Christmas, for the first time in a long time, I really got into the spirit. I played Christmas carols, I shopped (online), I stashed gifts here, there, and everywhere, and I splurged on the best tree in the lot that would fit in our house. We decided to give up at last on tinsel because the dumb cat WILL eat it any chance he gets and then throw up everywhere, so I got more ornaments. Then we needed more lights. Twinkling lights!

I got a little too far into it, from the perspective of my bank account. So I decided it was about time I got a handle on my money once and for all, and wandered around looking for something I could actually use, and found YNAB–You Need A Budget.

YNAB really seems like something I can do. I can only budget money I have–so no pie in the sky dreams of what I’ll do next paycheck, in order to have irresponsible fun this paycheck. It also encourages me to have whatever fun I want on my money–just as long as I recognize what I’m not paying when I do that.

I like it because it’s super easy to use on the fly, but it’s also easy to go in depth and see what happened when I go back to figure things out.

Because of YNAB, I know that I wiped out my savings for car maintenance, and another big bill coming up next month.

Oops.

I’m …

Continue reading

Holiday Wishes: Remember to Love

Here we are, five days till Christmas, and it feels like time has just flown by. I can remember sitting at work on December 1st thinking, “wow, twenty-four days till Christmas. It will be forever before we get there.” And now, here we are, twenty-one days later. The mind boggles. (I have a conspiracy theory that time is actually speeding up and it’s not just our perception of it. Why, I couldn’t tell you. But it’s real.)

Last night, my accountability group was discussing people we’ve lost, and how it’s been affecting our holidays. And it made me think back to my childhood. And this morning on the bus, I tried remembering my grandparents’ old house.

Because when I think of Christmas, I am always hurtled through time to when we had Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house. It was a small, two-bedroom house with a basement, a dining room, and a small kitchen. My grandparents had a beautiful tree with these antique ornaments on it (some of which grace our tree now) and a Santa on a sleigh that actually spun around the tree. It was neat. There was always mistletoe hanging from Grandma’s kitchen doorway. And, of course, there were other decorations as well. But that tree sticks in my mind.

So we’d all go to Grandma’s for Christmas Eve — my aunt, my uncle, my cousins, and of course, the four of us — my dad, my mom, my sister, and me. Usually, they’d be someone there who didn’t have anywhere …

Continue reading

Stop and Listen to the Music

Last Thursday my husband and I went to a Sonata Arctica concert. We’d snagged tickets on Black Friday ($12–and only $18 even with the ridiculous ticket fees) and so we made the fairly last minute decision to go.

And, oh, it was glorious. Small, intimate venue, music so loud I couldn’t hear properly for approximately 12 hours afterwards, a small crowd of music lovers who braved the below freezing temperatures to come hang out in a tiny venue without proper parking…

But it was really the music that made it great. Sonata Arctica is a Finnish power metal band, and they were touring with Leaves’ Eyes (multi-national symphonic metal band) and Omnium Gatherum (Finnish death metal band).

(My husband: Is all music in Finland metal?
Me: Probably.)

(For those people who are like “There’s genres of metal music?” here is a description of the various ones.)

Omnium is not really my taste, so we missed the beginning of their set, but there was a point during Leaves’ Eyes’ set where I came back into my self and realized–that probably for the first time in a long time–that all my stress had fallen off, that I was content, that all the things that I worry about day in and day out had, for at least the moment, disappeared.

As you can imagine, it was quite freeing.

Symphonic metal is my favorite music genre, and I’ve found it to be very useful writing music as well, especially when I’m doing …

Continue reading

Mental Health for the Holidays

I think November’s been tough on a lot of us, and December isn’t necessarily any easier. Personally, besides the obvious stressors, I’ve also had a truly hectic month at work and came down with two colds in quick succession. Seems like a good time to review self-care. So here are some reminders, for myself as much as for you all…

1. Take the time to do something you love.

I was lucky enough to attend not one but two contra (folk dance) weekends away from home in November. Lots of exercise, friends, wonderful live music, the state of flow, and a natural high, not to mention the excitement of a road trip. (Of course, that’s probably also where I picked up both of those colds. Argh.)

2. Do something creative. If you’re a creative professional (like a writer), do something else creative.

I’m a big believer in “creative cross-training”. We writers love to talk craft and work on improving our craft, which is important. But it’s also important to go and try something else — something that doesn’t have the same stakes and expectations attached. For me right now, it’s Instagram, contra dance, and occasionally tinkering in the kitchen.

3. Try something new.

At one of the aforementioned dance weekends, I got to try English Country Dancing (a cousin to contra) and swing dance, both new to me (swing dancing has footwork, ack, but the music is so much fun…). At the other, I got to try dancing …

Continue reading

Flame Isfree and the Feather of Fate VII

Once wild magic shattered human civilization. Mage-built cities collapsed, spell-sped galleons sank, airships fell from the skies. Magic-born chimerae turned on their creators, and then their neighbors. The peoples of Awrhee fell into barbarism.

But that was generations ago. Humanity has scraped together kingdoms again, and learned to live without magic. Those who practice spellcraft are eyed with suspicion, as are the old ways, and the old places.

Some, however, seek treasure in the ruins of what was. Knowledge, gold, power—it’s out there. Treasure untold for anyone clever enough to find it, bold enough to take it, fast enough to get away with it.

It’s out there, in the Spell-Wracked Lands.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Flame Isfree and the Feather of Fate VII
A Serial Story by KD Sarge

 

The morning had dawned far too bright, and it was too warm as well, making Flame’s head and stomach hurt as if she’d spent the night enjoying herself. She huddled under her hood, enduring the warmth in favor of shade as they left the Stone Eye.

“Flame, do you really think you should take a hearth-cat into the wild?” Lory asked.

“I’m just going,” Flame said. “He’s the one following.”

“He came from the wild,” Kessa said. “He probably doesn’t want to be a city cat. Do you?” She scooped up the cat and cuddled it. “Him doesn’t want to be a …

Continue reading