Thursday, January 27, 2011

So swiftly fades the triumph

"Bind off 4 sts beg next 4 rows, end row 18 of diamond cable. Bind off all stitches."

Oh, GLADSOME tidings! The second sleeve - viola! - eet ees FINIS!

Aglow with triumph, I poured myself a congratulatory gulp of peppermint tea from my thermos.

It always makes me feel EXTREMELY civilized and even vaguely refined to "take tea" while on the train...and if I've actually been able to restrain myself at lunchtime and NOT eat my pastry (or candy, or whatever-all else I grabbed for tea-time), so that I'm sitting there all, "Why yes, my good man, I *am* having tea and scones with freshly made lemon curd - isn't EVERYONE?", I might even work up a slight case of superiority.

Oh, don't worry...the instant I do, I'll either drop the cup of scaldig hot tea in my lap, sneeze with a mouthful of chocolate, or discover I haven't so much as a TISSUE on my person...right after I've gotten caramel on my hands.

Danger of me actually maintaining an "I'm sooooo vastly superior to most people" attitude: Very Low.

But I definitely had it, sitting there in the gently swaying train car, smirking at the FINISHED second sleeve - the hardest part of the sweater, really...the part where the new project smell has worn off, and every irritating habit of the pattern, yarn and needles stands out in violent relief against the sexier, newer Unknown of other patterns flickering across Ravelry...

But there it was. THERE. IT. WAS.

Second sleeve. Done. Project? Right behind it. Shoot! Might even toss it off this weekend, ha ha!

Congratulations, kid (I told myself), NOW you've got it (literallly) made! A little blocking, a little seaming, and SHAZAM! You're Queen of the Needles, baby!

After a bit more cooing lovingly at the sleeve and shameless self-flattery, I flipped open my binder with a casual, devil-may-care gesture for a quick preview of coming attractions.

"With smaller needles (those would be #2s), cast on 227 sts..."



That's the collar. The two buttonbands? Another 175 each.

I...think...I go...lie down...

Ah, fierce to arrive, so swift to fade...

(But the second sleeve? It's done. So. You know. I have THAT.)

(sent from my Treo)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The day this was

Some days are just…I mean, there are times when…you know?, and it’s like…wow…really?


That was today.

First, I missed my usual train. 4:49 came and went without me this morning. So, whatever, I’ll catch the 6:06. {time passes} Oooookay, on my way, I’ll just grab my…keys…keys…keys…where the @^*&@ are my keys…why are my keys not on the hook, GAH!, are they in my jacket pocket…jacket…jacket…OH COME ON ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!...

Missed the 6:06, too. But, I found all my accoutrements, so, you know, ready for the last train. Fold some laundry, make another coffee, la la la…but, just to be safe, I set a timer so I wouldn’t space out and miss The Third And Final Train in all the huff and bother as the Denizens were being pried from their beds and thrown into the merciless grinder of their little lives.

And then the husband called out, “What’s the timer for?” and I yelled back, “Oh, I set that so I wouldn’t miss my train!”, not realizing that it was going off, and furthermore that he was turning it off. (Why it was that he didn’t say something like, “Oh, well, shouldn’t you be going then?” is another rant for another day.)

And then? I missed the last train.

And then I said…well, what I said was…it was kind of…something like…“Gee whiz, I appear to have missed the very last train from Here to There for today. Well! Shuck-y darn! That's rather annoying, don't you know!”

In related news, we’re going to need to repaint the laundry room. The paint appears to have blistered in there. Huh. Go figure.

SO NOW, I’m going to be hitching a ride with the husband – after all the Denizens are safely dropped off at school and the rate determining step, Captain Adventure’s bus, has arrived and trundled him safely off. This is happening over an hour later than it used to happen, which is one of those ‘good news bad news’ deals: On the one hand, the kid gets to sleep in later. On the other, the husband can’t get into the office before ten o’clock.


It is…not convenient. Important Note: I am smack in the middle of a Very Large Project, with lots of moving parts, and I’m supposed to be testing and so forth, and it’s kind of important and we’re really hitting crunch-time here, and there’s still a lot to do plus I haven’t finished my testing-automation tool yet and I really want to get it done because otherwise the paperwork is going to be a @*^&@ on this thing and TEN O’CLOCK, REALLY?!

So, an hour later, we got in the car and started driving. Where “driving” actually means “parking, with occasional changes in location.” Because that is what 580 is like in the morning. Pretty much from 3:15 a.m. until, uh, well, I assume it clears up at some point.

Never seen it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Over an hour after that, we arrived at BART. Where there was no parking. None. Not a single space, anywhere. So he dropped me at the curb and went off to Starbucks to wait for the 10:00 lots to open.

And I got on a train and headed in.

Somewhere along the way…I apparently suffered a major head injury or something. Because somewhere between Lake Merritt and Embarcadero, I completely forgot that I work downtown, and entered some kind of reality in which I was going somewhere all vacation-y. So I’m sitting there, on the BART train, knitting, looking out the windows, people watching, daydreaming about chai and lemon scones and junk like that, and then…Embarcadero station was behind us and I was all, “WAIT!!!!!! BACK UP! I WORK BACK THERE!!!!!!”

BART train operators, it turns out, are not very customer service oriented. Guy wouldn’t back the train up for me.


So, I got off at Montgomery a fully irritable downtown wage slave. Grumbling to myself all the way, I marched up the long familiar hallway, went through the turnstiles, up the little escalator, down the other little hallway, and slapped my badge against the reader.

{slap!} {thunk!} (<= this {thunk!} noise is the sound the door makes when it is NOT going {click!}, which is the sound it makes when it is saying, “Hi! I see you have a valid access card! Why don’t you come on in, get some coffee, put your feet up, make yourself comfortable!”)


{slap!} {thunk!}


{slap!} {thunk!}
{slap!} {thunk!}
{slap!} {thunk!}
{slap!} {thunk!}
{slap!} {thunk!}

Oh, COME. ON! Now my @^*&@ing badge isn’t working?! SERIOUSLY?! You’ve got to be kidding me, I have a meeting in, like, ten minutes, and this stupid badge won’t work…!!!!!!!

I was standing there rubbing it up and down on the reader like I thought it was a winning scratch-off or something when it suddenly dawned on me that I was in the wrong building.



Haven’t worked at One Post for four YEARS.


I’ll just…take my little laptop bag and go, shall I…?

And I did. Right up Montgomery Street, dragging my case behind me and headed for…


…uh, Tama…?

Yooooooooooou…haven’t worked for MegaBank / SBCM waaaaay up there on California Street since, uh, yes. Well. It’s been a while, babe…


A sensible person would have gone right back down into the BART system, gone home, wrapped herself up in bed and refused to come out for a few days. But Your Faithful Correspondent is made of sterner stuff than that, ha ha!

…plus I had meetings, and hand-offs, and a mountain of testing still to be done and our tester is still way too green to actually handle it yet so the part of the lead QA tester will be played be me (as well as the lead only data(base) analyst and general ‘how does this work again?’ person) (and the single point of failure information for a hopefully-soon-to-be-retired system and why it does the downright Satanically bizarre quirky things it does), AND I really-really need to corner one of the BA’s and demand answers because the specs outlined in A-BRD-sub(b) do not match what is called for in B-BRD, which is a downstream of A and which should therefore simply be an expansion of what is in A-BRD, but instead it’s like…well, it’s like…

…it’s like A-BRD says, “OK! And for B, we will only give them apples!”, while B-BRD says, “OK! And in terms of what we will get from A? It will only be peaches!!”

This is what we in the industry call, and I hope you will forgive me this highly technical blurb, A Problem. (We also call it a few other things. But the paint has already taken a beating around here so let’s just leave it at that, shall we?)

So I really need to back the BA into a corner and force her to give me a straight answer. Apples, or peaches? Pick one. One of these things is not like the other…

Crap. Now that’s stuck in my head…




That’s the kind of day this was, y’all. One of those missed-train, wrong-way, absent-minded, meeting-packed, apples-to-peaches-and-then-a-brain-worm-attacks-you kind of days…

THEN, while demanding Answers from the BA fixing the BA’s knitting (yes really), my cell phone goes off, and it is the school demanding that we trot straight over to pick up Danger Mouse, who has a sore throat.

So I text the husband, who has finally acquired a parking space and is on his way into the city. And I tell him to turn around, to which he replies…well.

Let’s just say BART has a paint problem now.

To comfort him, I promise I will shoot for the very first train home.

…y’all see where this is going, right…?

Yeah. I barely caught the last train, and only managed that by bordering on being rude to a teammate. (But seriously, DUDE, please to note that I am dripping with heavy bags and backing toward the door with an anxious gleam in my eye. Quick lesson in Social Skills: This is where you say, “OK, obviously you need to go – we’ll pick this up tomorrow, shall we?”. Not, “…just one more quick question…” where ‘quick’ should be pronounced, ‘crazy, convoluted, multi-tiered and otherwise requiring about a twenty minute lecture on the intricacies of account and entity types, and how we assemble them around here.’)

And then I got home. Ah. Peace and relaxation at last…for a little bit anyway, until I got a text from our new nanny (did I even get around to telling y’all that we found one? Bet I didn’t…it’s been That Way around here these last few weeks…) saying she has a sore throat and probably can’t make it tomorrow.

…and since The Husband took one for the team today, it’s my turn to stay home tomorrow…

…which is probably just the Universe’s way of saying, “HAHAHAHAHAHA, heh heh, OK, no, seriously {giggle-snort!} {hiccup} no, really…why don’t you have a nice lie-in tomorrow, say, until 5:00! You’re welcome! And don’t worry, it’s not like I’m {shhhhh! shhhh! c'mon you guys, shut up, she’ll hear you!!!} plotting anything…”

That’s the day it was. And what a day it was. And I’m not that sorry to be putting it to bed now, either.

Good. Night.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Underwater Blogging Returns!!!

You may have noticed that the volume of posts took an abrupt dive shortly after I started working; this happened for three almost simultaneously-occurring reasons.

One, I went back to work, which inexplicably limited the amount of time available to me for such things. Go figure.

Two, my personal laptop died. It was a pretty boss machine, in its day; but that day was many days ago. It took approximately four years to boot up, the stand-by mode no longer worked, it locked up when asked to multi-task (you know, like, “please have Outlook and Word open at the same time”) and so forth and so on.

And then three, The Powers That Be at MegaBank said, No using the Internet for stuff like blogs.

Well, crud.

They are actually very generous with their policies at MegaBank. You’re allowed to jump onto Amazon to buy that birthday present you forgot to get for your charming daughter, due DAY AFTER TOMORROW, ACK! those little sundry things you just don’t have time to trot down to CVS Pharmacy to pick up, seeing as how you’re so busy working and all. And you can check your personal webmail and stuff like that (but no attaching files because, duh: It’s a bank, dude!

And by the way, yes, they are logging every.single.keystroke in on that machine.

But the kibosh was officially laid down on posting to blogs. Feh.

This essentially shut me down, blog-wise. I have a million and one fascinating things to share every day of course (quit laughing), but my methods of getting them out there to you now consist of my Treo – which I still find astonishing because I am using my PHONE to POST THINGS to the INTERNET - or, waiting until I get home after a fourteen hour day of working, commuting, child-wrangling, cooking, cleaning, updating, bill paying, gardening, canning and I’m sorry, but what was that other thing I meant to do today…?

So for the past year, I’ve been dithering around about getting myself a new, portable method of computing.

You know, like, all mobile and some junk. It has been…well, really annoying for my husband, I suspect.

I started with netbooks. All I really need, I said to myself (and my long-suffering spouse, who had to listen to this waffling), is something that can handle Word, Excel, and Internet. That’s all I need. Those three things, and I can handle 95% of our household business, and my favorite forms of entertainment, to wit, reading your blogs and writing for mine.

Well. 80%, anyway.

Maybe 75%.

And they’re relatively inexpensive, and they’re light, they boot fast and have super-long battery life and hey, it would get the job done.


Except…well There’s no onboard optical drive. Which I use a lot, so I know I’d end up buying an external drive and lugging it around with me everywhere.

…there goes the ‘relatively light and inexpensive’ part, and the long battery life…

And then there’s the small matter of all the software I would inevitably want to load onto the thing. Quicken, a full version of Office including Microsoft Acess, SQL Server and Management Studios, maybe Expressions for web development, definitely I’d need the tool packs I’ve gotten through the years for Excel, the statistical add ins and ow, I just bonked my head on the RAM limitations…

Soooooo, now we’re looking at laptops.

…and hence the cost starts to spiral up, because I want this and that and that and this and it must be able to blah blah blah, and for only fifty dollars MORE, I can have…

Pretty soon, I’ve built myself a $2,200 laptop that can handle the computing needs of NASA and play the Really Boss Video Games, it weighs as much as a hippo and requires a case that cannot fit under any train seat (and might just break the luggage rack if I tried to use it) and then I get all pissy and snarl something like, “Oh, I! GIVE!! UP!!!!!”

(Keep in mind that I don’t do this quietly inside my own head. Ooooooh no. I involve my husband in every last thought along the way.) (FOR OVER A YEAR.) (It’s a wonder I’m not divorced, y’all. Seriously.)

These last couple months have been particularly brutal on me, free-time-wise. While I seriously doubt anybody else really keeps tabs on these sorts of things, my available writing time has plummeted to about half of none at all. I’ve also had increasing trouble keeping up with paying bills in a timely fashion (oops), returning emails, and all that other home-business kind of stuff; we’ve been in the middle of a fairly significant project at work, which is a large part of the abrupt removal of free time, but it’s also a matter of not being able to put off other domestic chores any longer.

So I’ve been looking even harder.

But still not buying anything.

Because when it comes to spending money on something I want, but can’t prove to myself that I need, and/or can’t pinpoint a quantifiable, concrete return on investment for, I freeze up.

And then I talk it to death. And weigh options. And network about it (“What do you think of these? Here, look at these technical specs…whaddya think? This, or that? I mean, this has more RAM, but that has less storage, BUT!, this one has onboard wireless, except I don’t need that really since I already have this other thing and will want to use it instead, soooooooooooo…?”). And so forth, and so on.

…and so on, and so on, and so on…

Until finally, someone (*cough-husband-cough*) says, “Right, that’s it. The end. I’m done listening to this.”

And then comes home with a laptop.

Which he quite nobly did not chuck at my head.

Which is why I am back on the blog this morning, from under the San Francisco Bay!

Woo hoo, underwater blogging! with more knitting

VIP Sleeve
remember this? Still working on it…on the second sleeve now, so only about 2,700 hours remain…ought to be done right about the time the recipient and I are entering a nursing home together…memo to me: fingering weight yarn + twisted seed stitch + adult sweater = 12-layer Crazy cake…

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Not so long ago…

I needed a small binder, and I needed it fast – the kid who had only just remembered she absolutely HAD to have one, BY TODAY!, was supposed to already be on her way to school. So I grabbed one out of my cupboard, pulled out the contents and handed it to her, dumping the papers into my drawer to deal with “later.”

Turns out they were our financial reports from 1995.


The first thing that struck me was that our entire combined monthly income back then is less than one (1) biweekly paycheck for me, alone, today. And there, I get to enjoy a smug moment of self-congratulations – it wasn’t too long after these pages were printed that I sat at my fugly old kitchen table, sick and tired of the constant battle to keep the net income above the net expenses, and mapped out what I intended to do about my pathetic earning potential.

Made a good call when I circled “database stuff” as something that paid insanely well and was likely to be the kind of thing I’d be good at, and tolerant of…and an even better call when I dove in, worked hard, went to school, put up with ‘junior’ titles for a while and iced that cake with the continual reading of way-too-many articles and whitepapers to keep myself technically current even when my full-time job for six months straight consists “only” of herding children and growing carrots said children refuse to eat. Yay me!

But of course, the next thing that struck me was the way that, month after month, the bottom line was a negative number. By a couple hundred dollars. By a couple thousand.

Again and again and again, a simple, one-word category: Car. Month after month, one or the other of our broken down, sad excuses for vehicles, dying on a road somewhere in the middle of nowhere, requiring towing and fiddling and Dire News about how it would cost $X to keep the blasted thing on the road another month or two. (There comes a point where it is “obvious” that you’re throwing good money after bad on a car…that point came, and went, and still we kept throwing hundreds a month into “one last” repair on the truck and the van…ugggggghhhhhhh…)

Account balances on the credit cards, ratcheting inexorably upward… $29,000… $33,000… $40,000…

…interest payments, $400…$500…$800…

It’s strange, really, to look back over that kind of paperwork. It’s just numbers, a bunch of dot-matrix (remember those?!) printouts…income items, $150 for playing at a wedding, $68.05 for sixteen brutal hours of performing at a fair, $35 for spending three hours cutting up coupon books (yes way).

Expenses…$370 to fill up the cars. $735 for rent. $360 for groceries. (Really? For two people who never ate at home?) $580 for eating out. (Which really does make me ask myself again: What groceries?!)

So many things that I look at now and just shake my head. For gosh sakes, I say to myself. What in the HELL was the MATTER with you?! It’s so obvious! I mean, just look at the numbers!

…they have “unsustainable lifestyle” stamped allllllllll over them…

But it took a remarkably long time for The Obvious to dawn on me; and longer still for me to do anything about it; and even longer than that to actually be effective with my efforts; and yet-still-longer before I realized just how good the lifestyle is to me, the deep feelings of satisfaction, the hard sleep you have after a long work day, the simple gratitude you develop for things people forget are awesome.

Like being able to grab butter out of the fridge – no milking or churning required. Having a freezer to store your food…and a pressure canner to help avert botulism. Microwaves.

Homemade. Cheese. Danishes.

cheese danish

Ah well. At least I eventually cottoned on, huh?

…and figured out how to make Danishes…

…mmmmmm…cheeeeeese Daaaaaaaaaaanish…

Friday, January 07, 2011

Suddenly, it’s easier to plan the next few months

So, Wednesday morning I’m sitting there at work, working. Which is a thing I do when I’m at work.

It’s kind of expected.

So, I’m sitting there coding away like I had good sense, and our departmental manager-types are all in a phone meeting, and they're talking about budgets and resource-management and all kinds of Manager-Type-Stuff; we're in a "hoteling" style layout, which means there are no offices, cubicle walls or even flimsy dividers between our desks.

Every word spoken into any phone on the floor is going to be overheard by every ear within at least a six-desk radius.

So the “budget” and the “resources” and we’re all grabbing our iPod earbuds because the conversation is getting loud, and then suddenly all the managers are grabbing their stuff and dashing for a meeting room. Whew.

Then, about five minutes after they’ve all vanished…my laptop started acting up. Couldn’t run a query. Email kept prompting me for a password it refused to take. Couldn’t access the Sharepoint sites. Couldn’t even look at my own Reporting Services stuff.

My first thought was that I had a network issue. Some kind of weird ‘server is down’ thing; or maybe because I just changed my password…?

…and then I thought, …wait…budget + resources, which is a code word for head-count…?, and I looked at my information in Outlook.

I was a zz.Name. A. Zee-Zee. Dot. Name, people! That generally translates to, “Don’t let the door bang you on the butt on your way out, Terminated One!”

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Seriously?!

Now, I try very hard not to jump to conclusions. It had seemed pretty likely that I would actually have my contract extended, because frankly we’re in the middle of some stuff that it would be very hard for them to get done if I were to walk out the door; they don’t have another me, somebody who can handle the trickier analysis questions, understand what the system is doing and why, and all like that. They have a ton of business analysts, and enough QA testers to fill an entire warehouse, but database analysts?

…I might be the only one on the floor, come to think of it…there’s only one other “pure” data analyst, too, and the poor guy is positively swamped trying to keep up with all the stuff that gets dumped on him…

But still. I’m not a cheap date, either. And if the budget is tightening, well, I’m sure the line item that is the invoice from my agency isn’t exactly under the radar, you know?

When my manager emerged blinking into the daylight, I moseyed over to her desk as casually as I could manage and said, “Ya, uh…my access suddenly got cut off? Sooooooooooo…is that, you know, some kind of…? Or is there something you need to, um, tell me…?”

“Oh!” she said, and blinked a couple times. “Oh. Crap. It’s probably my fault…wait, I thought we had another month…are you just dead, or what?”

“Uh, yeah, completely shut out. Well. I get email, and IM still works, but I can’t get to any of the shares or the servers or anything like that.”

“Crap. I gotta get on this call. You call them, find out what I need to do, and when I get out of this meeting I’ll expedite it.”

“Cool. So, I’m not fired or anything?”


“No! I’m extending your contract. Wait. Didn’t I already tell you that?!”

“Heh. No.”

“Crap. Well, I am.”

“Sweet! OK, I’ll call the Access Dudes.”

And I did and a lot of huff and bother later, they told me that “somebody” saw “something” that morning and decided I needed to be shut off immediately. (What it was, nobody could say. And I can’t imagine what it might have been; I’ve worked for MegaBank off and on since 198{achoo!} – I know better than to do just about anything on their wire, thank-you-very-much.)

And then they told me it would take two to three business days to get my disabled access re-enabled.

To which I said, “!!!!!!!!!!?” because We. Only. Have. One. Week. For. Initial. UAT. Testing. And. Test. Plan. Submission. You. JACKASS! (<= I didn’t say that part out loud. That would be how not to get the nice Access Dude to switch your user ID back on. Unfortunately, he was based Elsewhere, or I would have used the single-best method of getting what you want from the Technology Team, which would be baked goods.)

Then my manager got on the horn with the same guy and said “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

And then he said, two hours.

So! I went for a very long walk around the Embarcadero, both to cool off a little bit and to keep myself from being annoying to everybody else. (There is nothing worse than a bored Tama. Seriously. I get really twitchy and talk-y. And if I’m bored when I’ve got a lot to do? Ohmygah. Somebody bring the tranquilizer gun…)

And then I came back and my access was back and I went back to work.

Where I will be until around mid-May. It’s good information to know; it makes planning these next few months so much easier.

Plus, it gets me out of having to put on my Fancy Clothes and going for endless cycles of interviews in search of the Next Big Thing for a while.

Also? Mid-May?

That’s right about the time the first round of produce from the garden starts to come in.

…just sayin’…

Monday, January 03, 2011

Money Monday: January 3, 2011

Happy New Year! Yes, that's right, girls and boys – it's time to start writing '2011' on those checks…which naturally, I personally will forget to do until roughly March

As we enter this most sobering time of year, when the bills for all our joyous celebrations start rolling in, it's an excellent time to take a step back and put the old daily finances under a microscope, identify where we might be going wrong and take appropriate action; to ask ourselves where we are, and how that compares to where we want to be, and start firing off instructions to the engine room. Five degrees starboard! Engines at half! Steady as she goes! ICEBURG!!!!!!!!

But first, we've got to break the romance we probably have going with our failures.

We humans really like to hold onto our failures. We like to pick them apart, analyze them, get some therapy about them, talk them out, confront and embrace them, own them, write bad poetry about them, and acknowledge them…over, and over, and over yet again. We like to assign, and then reassign, and then reassess and reassign, the blame for every aspect of our lives deem to be less than perfect, bouncing it back and forth from ourselves to our parents to our gummints to ourselves again.

Don't get me wrong: it's important to do that. If you refuse to take ownership of your own shortcomings, won't acknowledge what motivates you to act that way and then take responsibility for the change you want, well, dude.

Nothing can change. The behavior, and the inevitable consequences, owns you, if you won't own it.

BUT. At the same time, there comes a point where you have to

Mistakes and failures are just…well. They're raw material. A building block for life, and hard-won ones at that. They're also natural, perfectly normal, something all of us experience, something that would be completely bizarre to be lacking, come right down to it.

Failure can become anything. It can become your ladder to the stars, or it can turn into a fence to keep you in. You can make it part of your toolkit, the way to NOT do this or that, or you can build a wall around yourself and then sit in your compound moaning about how you can't possibly succeed because just look at all this failure!

There comes a point, then, at which all that owning and acknowledging and analyzing needs to be released; where forgiving has to begin to bleed gently into forgetting - not the deed itself, but the need for continued blame and examination.

Keep the lessons. Drop the beloved guilt that gives that delicious sting of self-loathing…which in turn allows us to feel that the lack of control over ourselves is all we deserve or can hope for, that success is beyond us anyway since we're such losers and all, sooooooo we might as well wallow in this self-destructive but delightfully easy mess we've made for ourselves.

So! With that out of the way…in the coming week and month, I want to do a couple things.

This week, I want to carefully examine our spending over the last year. I want to get a feel for where we might have overspent, and where I'm probably going to have some deferred spending that will catch up with me soon. I want to make sure that I'm saving appropriately for the "big spend" items I know are coming this year – property taxes, annual insurance payments, the next junior livestock auction and like that. With that in hand, I can begin working on next year's budget…hopefully at the same time wrestling it down so that it all fits neatly within the confines of just one paycheck without sacrificing retirement savings.

At the same time, I want to take a moment to take a look at our regular monthly bill payments and make some adjustments. Last January, I locked down our payments at the then-minimum monthly amounts; there's nothing wrong with that and if I had a regular full-time employee paycheck I was pretty sure was going to be continuing ad infinitum I wouldn't mess with it…but I don't. It's entirely likely that I only have three and a half more paychecks coming on this particular contract, and a big old question mark around What's Next.

It's time for me to enter Dragon Mode and hoard-hoard-hoard these last few paychecks.

The last thing I want to do by the end of this week is think through the garden plans for next year; I want to go through what-all I canned up last season, what we're eating and what we're not eating, list out the things I ended up rushing off to the supermarket to buy all the time (onions, which I have had positively abysmal luck with thus far), and which things tended to end up going right into the compost because we didn't get around to eating them before they became science experiments (people? I can grow the beets…I am practically a magician when it comes to beet-production).

Meanwhile, in a more casual-but-don't-blow-it-off way, I need to think long and hard about What's Next. I have an awful lot of possibilities to choose from, really; things that pay ludicrously well like this contract, but which have the same (well, actually, even worse) Crazy attached to them; things that pay a lot less but which would provide much better work/life balance; things that pay next to nothing but which let me work around the rhythms of the household; things that are big gambles, things that are sure bets.

It's rather a paralyzing mountain of possibilities, actually…which is a double-edged sword of blessing and curse. None of the options suck, really; none of them are 100% awesome, either.

I'm about to give myself a mental whiplash, I've been ping-ponging back and forth so much in my mind. I want to do this, no, that, no, this, no, that, NO WAIT, THIS IS AWFULLY COOL…hang on, it's kinda scary, maybe I want…noooooo, that's too crazy…but!, well, is it any more crazy than this? Or that? Or…?

So I really need to clear my mind, set some things down on paper, do a good old fashioned listing out of the pros and cons of each possibility, and make some decisions.

And then probably some phone calls.

2010 was a psychotic year. I've seldom been so tired for so long; even for me, it was a year of sustained work that…kind of staggers me, when I actually stop and think about what-all went down through it.

The end results were good…more than good. We kicked butt and took names, y'all. In one year, we undid about two year's worth of bad decisions and worse economy.

I'm not sure I can repeat that kind of performance in 2011…but I'm sure going to give it my best try.

What about you guys? Got some high hopes for this year's finances? Jump on in…the new year is feelin' pretty warm from here, and ready for us to start swimming…