Monthly Review: September 2017

I spent half the month on vacation, and the rest of the month recovering from vacation and the change in the seasons. It turns out that sleeping on the ground for 9 days in a row is rough on your body in your early thirties ;)

Last month’s review.

Play — A

Stars over the Athabasca River in Jasper National Park

At the beginning of the month, I spent eleven days in Alberta, mostly at Banff and Jasper National Parks. Smoke from this summer’s innumerable fires impacted the vistas, but I had some fun with photography and art anyway :)

  • Watercolor of the Athabasca River and same ridgeline as pictured in the night photo

    Took sunset and star photos (even though it was nearly a full moon) at my campsite in Jasper with a new friend from the neighboring campsite

  • Did a watercolor painting of the Athabasca River, even though I really don’t know how to watercolor
  • Photobombin’ Albertosaurus at the Royal Tyrrell

    Had a blast checking out the dino skeletons and superb displays at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in the Alberta Badlands

  • We took a dorky train tour at an old coal mine in the Alberta Badlands
  • Took texture photographs at Jasper National Park
  • Went to a gin bar and tried some Albertan gins with various tonics – Park Gin was the winner for me

When I got home, I decided I want to learn how to ink better, so I signed up for a How to Ink class by Jake Parker, whose work I admire. I’ve completed 5 of the 10 videos. (I just bought the course itself but you can subscribe and watch all their videos for cheaper than I paid, so that’d probably be wiser.)

I didn’t read a huge amount on vacation, but I heartily enjoyed All Systems Red, first novella in the Murderbot Diaries. Total 8 new books read in September, 10 if you count the last two days of August when I started vacation.

Play Next Month

Aside from Inktober and planning for NaNoWriMo, I’ll be spending at least one weekend out of town – at a medieval wedding! I’m also toying with a camping trip for my birthday, if the weather’s decent.

Creatively Productive — B

Hard-copy markups at the coffee shop, working my way through revising part one of my book.

Illustration for short story “Amber: Liquid, Whispering”

I illustrated another story for Liminal Stories Magazine, “Amber: Liquid, Whispering” by Czech writer Tom Hadrava. I was happy to use one of my new textures from Jasper as a subtle addition – I love photographing textures but am not so good at using them in my own work.

I took most of the month off from my book. I guess I needed a big break? I did some hard copy markups but haven’t entered them into the computer yet. I completed one half-hearted weekly novel progress report in September. But I’m cutting myself some slack for writing since I did a good bit of illustration and inking practice, plus other art while on vacation. For the past year or more, I’ve been focused on writing to the exclusion of all else, reasoning that I don’t have time for multiple creative outlets. But I think that doesn’t necessarily help me write more. I’m going to try out working on what I want to work on, whether it’s my book, a drawing, or a short story. I’m hoping that the creative energy will feed back into itself and keep me more motivated.

  • Time Spent Writing: 4 hours 15 minutes
  • Time Spent Illustrating: 8 hours
  • Time Spent Editing Photos: 3 hours

In October I’ll be doing Inktober, daily ink illustrations (I’m excusing myself from days I’ll be out of town). NaNoWriMo is an important tradition in my life but no longer that much of a challenge – so Inktober will serve as a much bigger challenge for me this year! I want to get back into the practice of drawing and try out different inking techniques to support my long-term goal of illustrating a graphic novel.

Comfortable Sustainable Living — A-

Home Improvements

  • Added a bird bath to my garden, the last thing I needed to be able to apply for wildlife certification, a goal I’ve had since I moved in to my house
  • Mailed in my application for WDFW’s Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary certification
  • Added some plants with winter interest to my front yard and planted my gross planting strip with groundcover
  • Picked up a large custom framed print I ordered before leaving for vacation and hung it in my living room
  • Coordinated getting a quote for insulating my crawl space

Household Practices

  • Dropped off my toner cartridge to be recycled, and bought a remanufactured toner cartridge
  • Signed up for a program through my energy company to offset half of my natural gas emissions
  • Keeping up with refilling the cold brew growler and bringing my own tupperware for leftovers when I go out to eat
  • I’ve been gradually transitioning to local foods – I already bought a lot of local items, but over the summer switched my sour cream and now tortellini (not that we eat a ton but whatev)
  • I needed new clothes, so I ordered used items from ThredUp and splurged on a few pieces of indie American-made clothing

Room for Improvement

We’re a messy household, and I feel like I’ve tried everything to get us to clean more often. I’m going to look into a green home cleaning service, maybe monthly or twice a month if we can afford it.

I still need to add a third coat of paint to my pink wall, and I taped off my kitchen for paint but then didn’t actually paint :/

Taking Care of Myself — B

  • Continuing PT for my knee (haven’t been great about doing my exercises though :/)
  • Completed my annual wellness appointment
  • Got one massage for my neck and found a new provider who will hopefully have better availability starting next month
  • Attempted more menu planning, with improved success although not batting 1000 on actually making the meals that I chose
  • Tried out not eating fish all month – I’m typically pescatarian but felt like I was eating way too much fish, especially fish and chips – it hasn’t been that much trouble (though we accidentally bought lox and bagels while camping so I did eat that)
  • Tried slow cooker beans – not a success in that they were overcooked and underseasoned, but DH is game to try again – part of the problem was trying a bean blend so they had different cooking times

Room for Improvement

This summer I wasn’t very active in part due to my knee treatment – and in part due to laziness. I need to make physical activity a bigger part of my everyday life. It’s hard to make myself be active while I’m doing challenge projects so I looked up some fitness class options to try out, and have added them to my calendar. My goal is to try at least two of them during the month. If I don’t go to at least two classes in October, I’m going to try a personal trainer for November.

I think we ate out a little less in September (after vacation at least), but still need to continue working on meal planning. I made a big pot of minestrone, which used up stuff in the fridge and gave me multiple days of lunches afterwards – so I should plan in incorporating bigger dishes like that.

I hardly meditated in September. My whole bedtime routine needs some focus. Bedtime alarm is officially set, so we’ll see how that goes.

Strategic Spending and Saving — A

In the long journey to Financial Independence (FI), there are few roadmarks to recognize how much progress you’ve made. This month, we achieved Zero Net Worth, meaning we have as much money saved as we owe. It’s wild to think that I could theoretically pull my life savings and pay off my house (technically it wouldn’t be possible due to retirement account restrictions). It seems funny to feel proud of saying I’m officially worth nothing.

I fully acknowledge that I’m coming from a place of privilege, being able to reach Zero Net Worth in my early thirties. I was raised upper middle class, with college paid for by my parents, and lucky enough to inherit a chunk of money in my early twenties. Though I started working at age 14, I didn’t need to work full time until graduating college. A hand-me-down Honda tided me through my twenties. Between my inheritance and investments (and a financial gift from my parents), we were poised to take advantage of the housing crash to purchase a house in a neighborhood we could never have afforded even a year later. 

About a third of our savings came from inheritance and gifts, but I am still going to give myself major credit for reaching this goal. Even more valuable than the money I inherited, the act of receiving a windfall in college drove me to learn about personal finance. That led me to discover FI as a goal early in my twenties. Full time work burned me out, hard, and it was mind-blowing to realize it was OK to work towards getting out of the rat race early. I started actively pursing FI before 2010, first reading Get Rich Slowly and then getting into Mr. Money Mustache.

I was wise and prudent enough to invest most of my inheritance money (not where I’d invest it now, but I was learning). Despite being pretty cash poor when I got my first full-time job in 2008, I invested everything I could afford during the recession to take advantage of dirt cheap stocks. We’ve been thoughtful in shaping our lifestyle, choosing to live in the (rather expensive) city where I work to reduce my commute, and allow us to be a single car household. Our lifestyle is very comfortable but hardly decadent. Of all our furniture, only our sofas and bedframe were bought new — everything else is hand-me-downs or Craigslisted.

We’re not hardcore Mustachians, only saving about 40% of our income, but it’s a good compromise between my aggressive saving (and self-depriving) tendencies and a more relaxed, comfortable lifestyle that involves a lot of eating out and usually one nice vacation a year. We also chose to delay our FI goal to allow me to work three-quarter time, which has been such a huge boost to my mental health and happiness.

So I’m patting myself on the back and buying myself a celebratory cupcake. Gonna splurge on a full-size one ;) Go me! Only…eight more years to go? *cries*

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About Tracy Durnell

Seattle-area graphic designer and SFF writer inspired by the Pacific Northwest, crafting a sustainable and intentional life.

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