On January 1st, I listed out my goals for 2014. I thought I’d take a moment to see how I’m doing on a few of goals as of the beginning of February.
1. Write a letter every month of the year. Done for January! I sent out three postcards from Oregon to family in Texas.
2. Get back to what I weighed at my wedding. Well, I don’t think I gained anything, but I didn’t really lose anything either. But then if you ate the food we ate in Oregon, you’d understand. It was worth delaying the weight loss to enjoy!
3. Photography. I did have one mini-photoshoot this last week. I wasn’t really happy with how it turned out at all, but to my defense it was super fast, badly lit and it was my first time using my new external flash. I was destined to have a difficult time. I am, however, as I type this, downloading Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5. Taking advantage of Adobe’s deal right now of getting both for (after taxes) around $10/month for the next year. Can’t wait to try out these updates and see if they open up my abilities even further!
4. Bookkeeping. Well, it took me forever to get my finances for 2013 together to file our tax return this month. I was doing better until the great computer crash of this last weekend. Now I have to pretty much start over from scratch. I have, at least, gotten a great folder together for our tax receipts, etc. And I’m, so far, keeping it up. So I’m going to take that one as a win.
5. Journal. I did great until I got sick last week. Now I’m so far behind, its pitiful. However, I think tomorrow night will be a big catch up writing night. Its time to get this one back in order!
So… tell me. How are your 2014 goals going?
It’s no secret that long before I was a “musician’s widow” to a musician playing country music, I was a huge country music fan. I mean we’re talking rabid fan. We’re talking the girl people came to in high school to ask the scoop on the latest country music gossip because they knew I’d have researched it all thoroughly already. I could name a song and artist on the radio within seconds. Heck in many cases, I could tell you what kind of car they drove, their favorite food, and the name of their first grade teacher. I was obsessed.
Today, I live in Nashville, consider several artists dear friends, and I have a slightly different look on the country music scene as I did back then. But at heart, I am still a huge fan of the genre. So when Country Faith: 56 Reflections from Today’s Leading Country Music Stars came up for review as part of the BookLook (formerly BookSneeze) program, I jumped on the chance to get it. If I could once tell you an artists favorite food, shouldn’t I know their favorite bible verses?
And, that, my dear friends, is exactly who this book is for… the country music fan who wants to know more about their favorite artists and/or songs. The one that wants to know more about the faith driving many today in the music industry.
Personally, I love this book. It’s a great coffee table book or a gift book. It’s a book you can pick up, open to any page, and just start reading. It features new artists (some even I didn’t recognize!) as well as older established artists. The book’s layout is beautiful, and the stories are inspiring.
I highly recommend this book for any country music fan — hard core or casual alike — who wants to know a little more about the people they hear on the radio.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Last week, a friend mentioned having had their laptop stolen awhile back. My heart stopped in fear FOR them. I’m that paranoid person who leaves home for work and splits up her laptop from the power cord (after reading it makes it less interesting to thieves because a laptop without power is worthless.) My life is on my laptop. Photos. Finances. Business programs. Everything. Losing my laptop… I couldn’t even…
Then Saturday, it happened. I asked my laptop to do too much. Or something. It crashed. It locked up, wouldn’t do anything, and I did what I always do: a hard reboot.
But nothing happened.
So I rebooted again.
Finally it went into a self-repair. That worked last time! Instead, I got, “I can’t fix myself. Get help.”
No. No no no no no. NoNoNoNoNoNoooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!
So Sunday, when I was supposed to be getting ready to go to a Super Bowl party, I was at Best Buy praying the Geek Squad could save me.
They tried. But they couldn’t even get into the diagnostics. Prognosis: she’s dead, captain. There’s no saving something that they can’t even read to save. S-O-L. Done. R.I.P.
I looked at my husband who just went, “Let’s go find you a new one.”
And we did. Got a GREAT deal on a new laptop. It’s faster. All fresh, clean hard drive. And it has a great graphics card for photo editing that I didn’t even realize I was missing prior to this. Oh and its HUGE. When everyone is going smaller, I went bigger. This will be awesome for photo editing while traveling.
I got lucky on one front. I was sick all week last week. (Hence being so MIA on Social Media and the blog last week.) I generally keep my laptop hooked up to an external hard drive that constantly backs up new files, but being sick I took the laptop to the couch with me. But even with THAT, I was only on the computer for about two days total last week. So I literally only lost 8 photos. That’s it. Oh and maybe one PDF copy of paying a bill. Otherwise, everything was backed up.
AND I finally delved into using “the cloud” so I could sync things between my laptop, cell phone and iPad. I knew it was awesome for that. I had no idea how it would save me on this front. I installed my web browser. Logged into my account. And ta da! All my stuff was there. Bookmarks. Passwords. Etc.
I have never had to start from fresh on a laptop before where I didn’t have an old laptop to refer to find things. It’s always been a case of transferring files. Trying to remember passwords. Looking for links. I was freaked out that it would not only take days to get back to where I was, I might not be back up and running for MONTHS.
Instead? It look about an hour. And I’m slowly transferring “must have” files from the external drive to the laptop, but I am being very picky what I transfer, allowing me to keep this new computer cleaner longer.
So. Who knew? A computer crash ending pretty positive? Never would have thought that, but that’s what’s happened! Taking it all in stride and realizing it is what it is. I still fear having my computer stolen, but at least now I know… its possible to get back on your feet fairly quickly. WHEW!
My parents own and run an income tax preparation service. And every year, I fly down for a few months to help them through “tax season.” Basically, everyone in Nashville just knows I disappear for about two months to “help do taxes” and then suddenly I am back after April 15th.
There is one big mistake in that assumption.
I don’t “do taxes.”
My parents do taxes. Specifically, my dad does taxes. He’s an Enrolled Agent, and that makes him pretty much a bad ass in regards to preparing tax returns. He takes pride in his work and he’s not going to “cheat” the system either way. When he does a return, he does it after having done all his homework. If his name goes on the bottom of the return, he’s going to stand behind his work.
I recently did a post over on Road Widows about bus driving, and I commented in it that I myself get really irritated and angry when I hear about careless drivers. In the same way, when I hear about tax preparers cheating the system to “get you the biggest refund” or they do extra work to charge their clients more money, I get angry.
I’ve worked for/with my parents long enough that I do have a decent grasp on some portions of the tax code. I mean, I found great amusement in my reaction to the report on New Years Day about twin babies born minutes apart, but technically in two different years. My reaction: “Bummer, they only get to claim one of them as a dependent this year on their tax return!” I can tell you a lot of the basics with complete certainty…
…but generally I won’t do it, even if I can.
“But you go to Texas for tax season every year…”
Yes, yes I do. I do clerical work. I like to say that I make the returns “look pretty” by putting the finished product in folders. Putting labels on the folders. Addressing envelops for payments to the government to be sent in by the tax payer. I do the occasional spreadsheet, etc. I may lay my hands on a return, but I don’t do any of the figuring or any of the work.
I’m not trained in the tax code officially, and I refuse to give advice.
So, if you come to me asking tax questions you’ll probably get me to listen. I’ll nod along. I might even ask a couple questions. Then I’ll end it with, “Well, I’ll run that by my Dad and get back to you.” Because HE knows the tax code. I do not. I will not answer your questions. And I ask you kindly respect that fact… because I am looking out for all of us in that. You can know you’re getting the correct answers, and I can rest easy knowing I didn’t give bad advice. Its win/win. Honest.
Yesterday evening, my Facebook timeline lit up with several friends posting a link to a blog, “I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands and Kids and I’m Not Sorry.” (I feel a little weird linking to the post because it need not any more attention than its already gotten.) The debates that were raised by everyone commenting on the post were interesting, but the general consensus was that everyone has to do what works best for them.
Ironically, this lit up my Facebook the same night as the Grammy Awards… an award ceremony that focuses more on critical acclaim than on fan-based voting.
Case in point:
Folks ask y we weren’t at Grammys. True fact… Because it’s not fan voted, and I’ll say it again. We have the best fans @FLAGALine
— Tyler Hubbard (@THubbmusic) January 27, 2014
Now, if you follow me on Twitter you know I have absolutely zero love for Florida-George Line. Critically they are the epitome of what I believe is wrong in country music today. Yeah, I said it. BUT, I gotta give it to them on one front: they’re selling records and somehow have been able to keep a song in the top 10 pretty much non-stop for the last year. (I’m not going to go look up the exact stat on that. I don’t care enough to know.) That’s a big deal. And I am not going to take that away from them.
Even if I question their fans’ tastes.
THEY measure success in record sales and how many fans come to a show. And there is NOTHING wrong with that. In fact, in many ways that is the exact definition of success in the music industry.
Similarly, though, other artists measure success by critical acclaim. They put their heart and soul on every song on every album and they don’t give (much) care as to if its radio-friendly or if it sells a million records. It would be nice if it did, sure. But that’s not their goal. Their goal is much more, well, deep and personal.
Success is what YOU make it.
So I turn back to Ms. Glass, the writer of that blog I grudgingly linked to earlier. SHE measures success based on a corporate ladder of sorts. And that’s okay! I’ll be honest, when I was in college, I thought that was how I would measure my success as well. I felt success equaled a high powered job with six digit salary.
Then, well, life happened.
I somewhere along the way re-evaluated that measurement of success. I looked at friends around me who had taken the more “typical” path of job, marriage and family and went, “I seriously admire that.” That is THEIR path of success, and I think that is amazing and beautiful. I absolutely love following their escapades with their children and admire their tenacity as Moms and Dads. Personally, I think being a parent — a good parent — is the hardest and absolutely MOST important job in this world. (And by the way, Ms. Glass, stating that, “We have baby showers and wedding parties as if it’s a huge accomplishment and cause for celebration to be able to get knocked up or find someone to walk down the aisle with. These aren’t accomplishments, they are actually super easy tasks, literally anyone can do them.” clearly shows you do not know or care about anyone who has had the heartache of not being able to have children. Perhaps its time you step out of your perfect little world bubble.)
I, myself, have found myself walking the line between the two. Working to build my own photography business while also managing a home. (Because lets face it, keep up a house is a full-time job… and Ms. Glass implying otherwise is asinine.) Hopefully starting a family at some point. I am doing what is right for ME.
We should never — never — look down our noses at other’s successes, and by extension their life, because they are doing what is right for them. Frankly, to make this world run smoothly we need all of us doing our “jobs.” We do need corporate-focused people to make sure companies run smoothly and stay in operation, allowing everyone from the CEO to the janitor to keep their jobs. We need Moms and Dad to raise our youth to some day take over those jobs. We should be raising each other up in all ways, not turning our noses up and smacking each other down.
Having just been on a vacation in which I learned a few things the hard way, I thought this would be an excellent chance to share a few travel tips in hopes of saving someone else some money and/or time. Or at least take a little stress away. (Most of these are aimed directly at anyone flying to a destination…)
1. Clean your house before you leave. I know, you’re swamped with packing and making sure everything else under the sun is taken care of before you leave. Did you stop the mail? Is there someone coming by to check on the house while you’re gone? Boarding passes printed? What about money? Do we have enough money?
But seriously. Take an hour to clean your house. Throw the bed sheets in the wash and remake the beds. Do all the dishes and put them away. Vacuum the rugs and sweep. Take out the trash. Run a toilet brush around the bowl.
Why is this an important tip? Its two-fold. If you have someone coming over to check on things… maybe you have pets that need to be fed or plants to be watered. Just think how much better you’ll feel having someone coming into a clean house… and on their end, how comfortable it’ll feel to that other person. But beyond that, think how nice it’ll be to walk into a clean house after your trip. You’re going to be tired. You’re not going to want to face a sink full of dishes. And how amazing is it to sleep on fresh sheets?? Your future self will thank you.
2. Research your airport parking options. Ideally, you find a friend to give you a ride to the airport. If so, skip ahead to #3. Otherwise, start looking ahead of time at GroupOn or Living Social, etc. for parking deals. On our last trip, I kicked myself for having not purchased a park-and-ride deal for $45 for a week’s worth of parking. Yes, it was an off-site parking lot, but they are secure and have regular shuttles to and from the airport. And, $45 is cheap. In many cases you can’t even get a cab ride for that price one-way. Many cities have deals like this… even if you can’t get a “deal” on the parking option, many off-site parking options are cheaper than at the airport.
3. Book a rental car before you arrive. Don’t think you can “negotiate a cheaper price” upon arriving at a car rental location. Just the opposite. They know you’re stuck and they have the upper hand. You’ll find waiting to rent a car will run you 3-4 times as much as if you book early. I repeat BOOK YOUR CAR AHEAD OF TIME.
Now, that being said, you can negotiate an upgrade AFTER you get there still. But you want to do so after you’ve already locked in the lowest rate you can.
4. Think about luggage logistics. I have a problem with this one and will be looking into a remedy before my next flight. Many luggage sets have straps that let you hook your luggage together and make a train for you to pull. USE THIS. Especially if you are on a long trip and you’re carrying two bags, plus a laptop case and a purse. (Or am I the only person who does this??) We had to hook one of my bags to my husbands (because I don’t have three arms, darn it) and lets just say we over-taxed one of his bags with the extra weight. I should have had that sussed out ahead of time…
5. Realize something will go wrong and go with it. It doesn’t matter how perfectly you’ve planned a trip, something will go wrong. Your flight will be delayed. It’s going to rain when it was supposed to be sunny. The restaurant you had your heart set on eating at is closed for a week for cleaning. That hotel room that was supposed to cost $70/night is actually $150/night. Whatever it is, don’t let it ruin the whole trip! Relax and have fun and realize that something going wrong happens, and generally there was nothing you could do to avoid it. Or if there was something you could have done, you can’t go back in time and change it. You can learn from it and deal with it. Maybe even have a little fun with it. Whatever you do, just don’t let it be the end of a great time!
What are some of your favorite travel tips??