Thursday, January 28, 2016

The de-cluttering war

I am a packrat.  I come from a family of packrats.  The eternal thought that I should save something "just in case" plagues me.  But at the same time, having a clean and orderly space saves my sanity.  When the area around me is tidy, I feel more in control and calmer.  (My parents have told me many times that I was their only child, out of four, who would voluntarily clean.)
So for the sake of my sanity, a few years back I decided to start a war on clutter.  I'm not alone, many people have come to the conclusion that they need to do the same thing, hence the rise of minimalism and books and blog posts about decluttering.  Sorry for adding to that.
But how does an admitted packrat declutter?  It's actually easier than I thought.  I did read Marie Kondo's opus "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up", as well as a few other books and lots of online tips, and basically I'm making my own mish-mash of styles.  You know, making it work for me.
Before we left Fairbanks, wanting to move as little as possible, I spent months cleaning out our apartment.  I mean, I'd been trying to declutter for a while, but the decision to move threw me into high gear.  It turns out that moving a good way across a continent is a decent way to remove sentimentality.  Things I'd saved before because they had some memory attached to them became just one more piece of junk.  Did I actually need the object to remember whatever it was I wanted to remember?  No.  Even my wedding dress, I realized, didn't have sentimental attachments.  Don't get me wrong, I love that dress.  I felt gorgeous in it.  But, realistically, I'm never going to wear it again (although I could! I tried it on before packing it up) so on my list of things to do is to get it cleaned and listed online for sale.  I have pictures of myself in it, and that's good enough.
Now that we're here in my parents' house, I've been trying to help them as well.  It's something my dad has said for years that he wants to do, he just hasn't gotten around to it.  So I'm helping to get the motivation going.  Having less stuff around will help my mother, in particular.  I went through her closet with her (she still had stuff she hadn't worn since the 80s!) and we got rid of so. much. stuff.  It was much easier to do with two people, since I could see her trying to justify keeping something and was able to tell her, "No.  If you're making that face, you don't want to keep this."  And she thanked me, days later, saying that she could finally see all of her favorite clothes.  Hurray!
But harder than the actual deciding what to get rid of, I've found, is what to do with all of the stuff.  Since I hate the idea of arbitrarily adding useful stuff to the landfill, what should happen to all of the stuff we're getting rid of?

1. Homeless shelters.  This is my go-to with nice, office-y clothes (to help people who are job searching) and with any outdoor gear, such as coats and hats.  I took my parents through their front hall closet (which went from so packed that we couldn't stuff any more coats in it to surprisingly roomy) and pretty much everything which wasn't ruined enough to go in the garbage went to the homeless shelter.  Same thing with much of the stuff in the Munchkin's closet (which is still unusable for her because it's still got tons of junk we need to go through).

A huge pile of coats which we donated to the homeless.  I literally
could not carry all of them at once.
2. To friends and family.  When we got married, we got new, nice dishes.  We gave away our old dishes to a friend who was just moving out of the dorms on campus.  Yay!
Recently I went through a few of my photo albums and have set aside bundles of pictures to give to friends and family who probably want them more than I do.

3. Buy Nothing Project.  This is generally organized through Facebook, so if you don't have that you're out of luck, but it's been a great resource for us.  I'm giving away one graduation cap and gown to someone in the group, and I gave away a bunch of foam board which has been sitting in my closet for years for some unknown reason.
One of the women who took some of the foam board had some fold-up clothes drying racks which I'd asked for, so it was awesome to just trade in one go.  Yay for neighbors helping neighbors!
I have more stuff I keep finding to give away, such as an old Homecoming dress from high school.

4. Schools.  The other graduation gown I found will be donated to the local highschool, so that a low income student who possibly couldn't afford one can use it.  The rest of the foam board I found will go to my best friend, a teacher, who works in a school with a ridiculous amount of poverty.  (Some of her kids have talked about time spent in homeless shelters, and many get both breakfast and lunch at school.)

5. Anywhere else which serves the needy.  A friend of ours works for Fairbanks Counseling and Adoption, so before we left we gave a lot of baby stuff to them.  Someone had given us disposable diapers at my work baby shower, not realizing that we were going with cloth, and we did use some (out at the family's cabin, without access to laundry facilities) but not all.  So we gave the rest to our friend, knowing that they'd go to a girl (all their clients are under-21) who badly needed them.  Same with some of the baby blankets and other baby gear we got.  While we are so thankful that so many people thought of us and gave us these items, there are only so many things one tiny human needs, so we decided to pass along the generosity, particularly after our Munchkin outgrew some of them.

6. Thrift stores.  See how I'm putting this sixth on the list?  I'm sure it's easier for people to just drop everything off at one store and be done with it, but I'd rather that my stuff do the most good possible.  I tend to reserve the thrift store for knick-knacks, dishes, things of that nature.  The photo albums which I cleared out of pictures?  Those went to a thrift store.

7. Libraries.  Always, always support the public library.  In addition to books, they also take CDs, DVDs, Blue-ray, even tapes, tape-players, and CD players in many cases.  It's worth an ask.
I found a bunch of CDs from my childhood that I don't want anymore, but I got rid of the cases.  However, I kept the covers.  So on my list is to write to the local library and see if they'll still take the CDs, sans cases.

8. Profit-making ventures, such as Craigslist, eBay, consignment stores, and used bookstores.  I generally find that the effort I put into these things is more than what I get out so I prefer utilizing most of the other methods on this list before turning to one of these.  In fact, I generally only use these if I'm certain to make a fair amount of money.  My wedding dress will be listed for sale, as will my old bike, because each of those should net me enough money to make them worthwhile.  Furniture, also, is generally worth listing if it's in good condition.

Everything useful has a way to get rid of it so that others will take it.  After all, it's useful.  Hell, we gave away a bunch of condoms at the University's Pub when we didn't need them.  I put them in the women's bathroom and they were all gone by the end of the evening.  Three cheers for helping students have safe sex!
I still keep things around more than I probably should, and there are plenty of items which I'm undecided on what to do with.  Stash of random small fabrics in my closet?  Hmm.  Maybe give them to a quilter?  Or get out my mom's sewing machine and make a quilt myself?  Not sure yet.  (Not that we need a quilt, we've got plenty of blankets.  It would be one more thing to get rid of, but a "higher-value" item.  I could give it to a homeless shelter, rather than to someone as a craft project.)
I get discouraged by how slowly I'm decluttering, but when I look around I do see a lot of progress.  When we moved we needed only the enclosed trailer my in-laws graciously loaned to us.  It was awesome.  And my closet here, filled with stuff since this was my room from age 9 until I moved out (and still considered "my room" even when I was long gone) is finally becoming a bit less crammed, a little bit at a time.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Emergency preparedness

With the "epic" blizzard currently covering roughly 1/3 of our country, much of the news tonight was about pretty much exactly what you'd expect: lots of car accidents, grocery stores running out of food as people stock up, and all the many, many expected power outages.  Among all of this, however, they gave out a few quick tips for emergency preparedness which, while good to know, are pretty much too little, too late at this point.
Our government has put out a website to help people prepare for emergencies, but in truth we're really bad about it.  Just terrible.  As a nation, we suck at emergency preparedness.  Everyone puts it on the back burner, despite the regularity of emergencies.  How many blizzards, superstorms, and hurricanes will the east coast have to go through before people realize that they shouldn't be running out to the store the night before or the day of to stock up?
Alaskans are nearly entirely dependent upon outside food and resources.  That actually scared me when I heard it, and for good reason.  When we lived there, there were supply disruptions a few times, and there's been another one recently.  I hardly noticed them when we were there simply because we usually kept a decent supply of food on-hand.  I didn't think that I was terribly prepared (and seeing how much food my parents have in their pantry, our stock was pretty pathetic) but compared to the average, we always have been.  Some of that is privilege (we have enough money and enough sense to store food), but some of it is just prudence.
When we first moved down here, nearly everyone was talking about that New Yorker article about the big earthquake expected to doom us all, any time now.  It got me thinking, once again, about emergency preparedness and what I'd ideally like to have on hand in case shit goes down.  But it's not just about stuff to buy, sometimes it's about things to do to make myself more prepared.
By biking, I'm not dependent upon a car.  If the roads are unfit for a car, they might be fine for a bike or for a pedestrian, either of which I'm perfectly fit for and in either mode I can also transport my child with relative ease.  I'm not dependent upon the oil to fuel a vehicle, either, so if something disrupts the supply of fuel for some reason, I'll be fine.  (Hard to think about when oil is at $30 a barrel, but it won't always be.)  By keeping fit, I am also more mobile, flexible, and less likely to be trapped somewhere than people who are less fit.  In essence, I am less of a liability in an emergency, and I want to keep it that way.
Of course, as with everything else, I want to get maximum value for minimal pricing and effort in my emergency planning.  I'm lazy and cheap that way.  Some of the things on my emergency list are still theoretical, some are things you probably have on hand just as we do.  In general, being prepared is a simple thing to do.

1. Candles, at least two sources of starting fire (i.e. matches and a lighter), flashlights, and batteries.  Most people have flashlights and candles.  But multiple ways of making fire?  Fresh batteries or an alternative?  Maybe not so much.
Rechargeable batteries have actually gotten good enough to make them a worthwhile investment.  They're what we have in our bike lights.  Also, those portable rechargers for electronic devices (like a mophie) are fantastic.  When I haven't recharged my front bike light, occasionally I've grabbed one of our generic (and free! from a conference HusbandX went to) ones on my way out the door to charge my light.

2. Two ways of cooking meals.  If the electricity is out, we can still use the gas burners here.  If those are out too, we can use the camp stove.  In my perfect world, I'd also have a small, fold-up solar panel powerful enough to keep my slow cooker going on low.  Even if I never need it for the slow cooker, the solar panel could still power phones and other small devices, which could be particularly handy if the power is out for more than a few days, which has happened to us and to friends more than a few times.

3. Furniture which is anchored to the wall.  All dressers, bookshelves, televisions, anything leaning against he wall, secure it with a bracket and a few screws.  it's cheap, it's easy, and it could literally save a life.  This is not one most people think about, but falling furniture can be particularly dangerous in an earthquake and even if you don't live in an earthquake-prone area, it could save a child's life to anchor your furniture.  (If you have a child who climbs furniture, as mine does, that story is particularly panic-inducing.)  Even adults, particularly elderly adults, are injured by furniture which has been tipped over accidentally.

4. Food in the house, more than just for the coming few days or week.  I'm not saying anyone needs a year's supply of MREs (who would want to eat them anyway?), but not having to rush off to the store to buy bread every time there's a storm warning is quite nice.
This is also one of the great things about being fabulous home cooks: we're not dependent upon packaged foods.  No bread in the house?  That's fine as we've got flour, water, yeast, salt, and butter to put on that fresh bread.  The oven isn't working?  Well, here's an alternate meal we can make on the stovetop.  (Due to electrical problems in my parents' stove, we've actually been putting that to use occasionally.)
Due to the amount of food I stored and prepared last summer (ranging from frozen peaches to applesauce to vinegar) we've been slowly pulling from our food stores all autumn and winter.  If an emergency happened, we'd still have good food on hand with which to cook.  (Starting with the frozen foods in case of an extended power outage, of course.)
I realize that this one is sort of tough, because many people live so on the edge with their money that building up a supply of food is difficult, but there are incredibly cheap ways to do so and you don't need to do it all at once.  Buy a bag or two of dried beans, rather than canned.  (So much cheaper.)  Get a slightly bigger bag of flour than you usually use and just make sure you never run out of it.  Things like that will ensure that you have food on hand when you need it.
The biggest trick is to use things regularly, to rotate, so that nothing goes bad.  There are many systems people have developed for how they do this, I'm sure you can look them up and figure out what works best for you.
And as always, if you have more than you need/will use, please donate to the food bank for those who really need it.  For many families, getting food is an emergency every day.

5. Non-electronic sources of entertainment.  This is the one which kills HusbandX in a power-outage situation.  He'll read, but it's more of a last resort option, and he'll fidget the whole time.  Me, I'm perfectly content with a book or ten, and I can easily find entertainment for the Munchkin.  We try not to let her watch too much TV/too many movies anyway, so that one's easy.  But books don't have to be your only choice; try puzzles and board games, play charades with family, go for walks if it's safe (be careful of downed power lines and respectful to emergency crews--and if you needed that reminder I'm surprised you haven't naturally selected yourself out of the gene pool already).  Watching TV has become such a de facto entertainment that there are actually people who can't fathom what to do with out it.  Be more interesting than that.

6.  Don't.  Just don't do it!  Don't buy a house in a flood-prone area (although I admit that, with the price of renting in many cities, lower income people might not have a choice and that sucks).  Don't buy a place on fill-dirt when you're in an earthquake area.  (The city of Seattle has made some of this easy.)  And don't drive when you know there's a blizzard bearing down upon you, unless you absolutely have to.
And, learn to drive on snow and ice, how to avoid hydroplaning.  Please?  Those are good skills to have even when it's not an emergency.

7. Have the proper clothes on hand for all family members.  Waterproof items, warm clothes, good shoes/boots, whatever you need for the emergencies you're planning for.  Make sure kids have gear that fits.

8. Water!  Always have water on hand!  This is one I'm struggling to figure out, since I have lots of objections to bottled water, and I don't really like plastic stuff for storing food and drinks anyway.  We used to have a 15-gallon water tank (from our days living in a dry cabin) but we gave that away before leaving Fairbanks.  Here, we have a bit of bottled water, I generally keep my bike's water bottles full (mostly so that I don't have to think about it for each and every trip), and at the worst we could collect rain water and sterilize it.  I do still want to come up with a good system, however, when we have our own place.

I'm certain that I've forgotten a few items on my list, but these are the big ones I can think of at the moment.  In an emergency scenario, I really don't want to be the one people are worrying about.  There are plenty of people with health and mobility issues, with genuine problems, to whom the available resources should go.  Ideally, I would be available to help, even if it's just to charge a friend's phone so they can let family know they're safe, or ensure that a neighbor gets a hot drink or a meal when needed, to check on the elderly and others with small children.  And, while I don't think a life without challenges and troubles is a good thing for any child, I also don't want my kid to be the one starving or freezing because I couldn't think ahead.
I admit that I might probably think about this more than most people do.  I grew up with stories of my mother's experience of the big Good Friday earthquake in Alaska, and I've seen the scars it has left.  The few earthquakes we've experienced together, she's been white-knuckled with panic, wide-eyed and practically panting.  It's scary, as a child, to see that, and it has made me wonder what I can do to make such a scenario less scary for myself, or for my own child.
But just because I think about this more than most people do doesn't mean that it's a bad thing.  In fact, everyone will experience an emergency of some sort, at some point.  Probably a big one.  Flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, droughts, and I'm not even getting into possible human-caused situations or epidemics/pandemics.  (Not much I can do to prevent either of those except do my best to spread peace and wash my hands.)  Being prepared for them is just good sense, and it saves you a lot of time, money, and stress when you're feeling ready for the upcoming storm.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The trouble with student loans isn't what you think

The only debt HusbandX and I have ever had are student loans.  We pay our credit cards every month (and use them to get airline miles), we paid cash for our used car (and got $300 knocked off the price for doing so!), and since we don't own a home (yet) we don't have a mortgage.
But those student loans.  They are like a rock around our necks.  I am not going to debate, here, the many, many problems with student loans and education financing in this country and blah blah blah.  It's a problem, the end.  I'm dealing with the reality of paying back the loans, which for the foreseeable future is a necessity for many, many people.
We are lucky.  Very lucky.  My parents, with a bit of help from me, paid for my schooling.  I, mostly unknowingly, did things fairly cheaply (community college first, then moving on to a school where I got in-state tuition) so while I didn't emerge from school rich or with a lucrative career path ahead of me, I did end debt-free.
HusbandX, on the other hand, did not have that.  What he does have, instead, are investments from his parents.  Alaskans get a lovely little thing called the Permanent Fund Dividend, which HusbandX's parents wisely invested for him.  So he finished school with debt, but also with money as a backup to pay it off should he run into tough times.  Since I worked for the University for many years, we also got spousal benefits in the form of a tuition waiver, some for his first degree and his entire second degree, minus all fees/books, was paid for that way.
Still, he took his time with his first degree and with some deferment due to a period of unemployment and a few other factors, they became what I consider sizable, although according to the numbers it was about average.
And we are going to pay them off far sooner than average too.  Despite unemployment, despite the fact that for most of the time we've been paying them these loans have cost us a minimum of 1/4 - 1/3 of our total income, we're paying them off as quickly as we can.  And we haven't even dipped into the investment money yet.

Our cat is shocked by how quickly the loans are being paid off.
How the heck are we doing this, you might ask?  I have one simple answer: we've made it a priority.  When we don't go out to eat or when we don't buy clothes or when we don't have to fill up our gas tank because we biked instead, all of that money that we've saved is able to go to pay off the student loans.  It adds up faster than you'd think.
It hasn't been easy, I admit.  In Fairbanks there were plenty of times when, after rent and student loans, we'd only have about $300-400 leftover for utilities and food.  There were even times when that amount would have seemed generous compared to what we actually had leftover after rent and debt repayment.  I would say that I budgeted carefully, but I've never been a budgeter.  (Instead I'm lead by the simple goal of "spend as little as necessary", and it has served me well.)  We didn't always come in under our "leftover" amount , but we had our other secret weapon.
In the high times, such as when HusbandX had steady employment, we saved as much as we could.  Having tasted unemployment several times, neither of us wanted to be left in a situation where we didn't have a cushion to fall back upon in the inevitable hard times.  Having money set aside also gave us the freedom to determine how much money we were comfortable putting toward the student loans every month, factoring in potential future periods of unemployment (and I'm still thanking our prudence there!), rather than scraping together the minimum payment as an afterthought each month.
Now that we've been double unemployed for seven months, we're still easily able to pay more than the minimum payment, no deferral necessary.  For the most part, we let it auto-pay from our account and leave it alone, although about once a year I have HusbandX check it so that we can high-five each other about how much has been paid off so far.
Technically, we have enough saved now that we could pay off all of the loans and be done with them.  However, that would leave us without any financial cushion, and since we still don't know when employment will happen (please, please let it be soon!) we want that money to help cover our living expenses for the moment.  When HusbandX does find employment, we still won't pay them all off immediately.  Our first priority will be housing of our own, and only then will our main priority will be paying off those loans once and for all.  Forget paying a couple hundred bucks extra each month, we're going to throw all of the money we can at this loan (which is all of the money left after retirement, taxes, and the most basic of living expenses are taken out) to get it over and done with.  We want this lodestone gone.
I'm saying this because I hear so many people talk about how they'll "never" get rid of their student loans, and there are pretty much daily "news" stories about the same attitude.  What I really want to say to those people is: make it a priority.  Pay it off not with the minimum, but with the maximum that you can afford.  Pay it off as quickly as you can so that it's not hanging over you, and so that you pay less in interest overall.  Just pay it off so that you don't have to budget for it or think about it anymore.  It's not insurmountable.  If you've got student loans it's because you're an educated person, so put those smarts to use and figure out what frills (and there are always frills, even in HusbandX's and my spending during unemployment) you can easily cut out and put that money toward your loans instead.  Trust me, it will make your life better.

Monday, January 4, 2016

What I've been up to

I have already stated that I don't want to be "just" a stay at home mom (no disrespect to SAHMs, it is HARD work) but after talking it over with HusbandX we decided that it would, in fact, be better if I stay home for a little while.  (Yes, WE decided.)  I wasn't finding just the right job (or at least not being hired for it), and HusbandX felt that if I got some crappy job to pay our current bills it would interfere with his job search.  Rightly so, since trying to apply for jobs and take care of our busy, busy toddler, (at least in this house which is not our own and which we can only do minimal toddler-proofing on), would be too much.
This might sound very constricting but it is, in fact, freeing.  Very much so.  It is giving me the time and space I needed to do a long held but mostly quiet dream: to write.  So I have.  Write and write and write and look at freelance opportunities (which is still mostly just looking, from a lack of time to commit to anything solid and a crippling sense of being Not Good Enough) and trying to figure out where to go.  Sharing my writing is difficult for me.  Even sharing my blog is tough.  I have to take a deep breath each time before publishing a post, each time my brain starts telling me, "People will hate this.  No one wants to read it, you have nothing interesting to say!"  I've finally had to tell myself that if it's not interesting, fine.  But I'm going to say it anyway.*
The one concrete thing I have done is to self-publish on Amazon.  Now that I've done it, I don't know why I didn't do this years ago.  You know how I said that I've been dreaming about this for a while?  I haven't just picked up writing, I've been working on some things for years in my spare time.  To be perfectly honest, I started trying to write novels in high school.  Earlier, even?  Due to the passage of time, the vagaries of computers, and a complete lack of interest in my old works I don't have any copies, but I'm certain they're quite bad.  Really, cringe-worthy bad.  But writing, like anything else, takes work, so I've kept at it.  I've even written a few things of which I'm quite proud.  (One friend to whom I've shown my stuff said that I actually made her laugh out loud--that leaped straight onto my Best Compliments Ever list!)
I have slowly...very slowly...been letting some friends and family know about my work.  I've given out my pen name even more carefully, to far fewer people than have asked.  I wouldn't even have done that much if not for HusbandX's encouragement.  (He's more excited about this than I am.)  In part this is because I'm worried that people will see me differently, judge me a little differently, if they've read my work.  Part of it, though, is because what I've been writing is romance.  It feels, even to me, like fluff.  Silly stuff, and I should be better than that.  I got a college education based around literature, great literature, and I choose to write romance?!
BUT, here's the thing.  Romance is fun.  Dreaming up two characters and figuring out why they would fall in love has a psychological element to it.  Opposites might attract, but to have a strong and lasting relationship they must also have enough in common to forge a bond.  That's interesting to me!  Or what about the classic Elizabeth Bennett/Mr. Darcy dislike on first sight scenario?  How would that turn into love?  That could be fun to play with!  (I haven't, yet.)
Also, it's really easy to come up with plots.  I think of romance novels more as fantastical realism than reality.  I feel less constricted by the boundaries of what's real and what isn't.  I haven't actually gotten into a fantasy world (although steampunk would be really, really fun) but I don't feel the need to be bound by reality at all times either.
There are a few caveats to my love of this genre.  For one thing, there is a ton of blatant sexism in most romances.  Against both genders.  The "men are such babies" trope is so overdone and it's everywhere.  The idea that men need to "protect their women" is also everywhere.  Even just silly things like putting "male" and "female" descriptors where they're unnecessary is a constant irritation to me.  I might gag the next time I read about a hero staring at a heroine with "masculine appreciation".  WTF does that even mean?
I can't promise my novels are entirely without sexism.  Two of them, so far, are historical and while I feel like I get to play around with reality a bit, I also don't want to discount historical accuracy entirely.  (I HATE historical romances with modern dialogue and actions--just write a contemporary romance and be done with it!)  So certain attitudes were given a head-nod to, but without letting them truly shape the characters or the plots.
I also don't like the timeline of many romances.  Some of them take place over the course of a weekend.  Seriously?  Does anyone really think that's enough time in which to truly get to know someone?  HusbandX and I have been together for nine years (as of the beginning of this February) and I'm still getting to know him.  So I can promise that none of my characters rush into romance, at least not that short.  It sets up unreal expectations, and I find it just plain silly.
Lastly, I am really, truly prudish in many ways, and this genre is...not as blatantly about the sex scenes as erotica, but it's still there.  Even I have found myself reading a romance which doesn't have sex and thinking, "Bor-ing!"  So part of why I haven't told people my pen name is because I wrote graphically about sex.  Shocking, right?  I can see it.  You're turning away, disgusted.
Seriously, though, I should take a time-lapse video of myself writing a sex scene because I'm sure it's absolutely hilarious.  I laugh at myself.  A lot.
The reason I'm OK with this aspect of writing romance is simply that sex is important in a relationship.  It's not the only or the most important thing, but it is high up there so in books which are about romance and relationships, I don't really feel that that aspect can be entirely discounted or left out.  Also, it sells, and I wouldn't be publishing my work at all if part of the point wasn't to have it sell.
So if you want to know the nitty-gritty details, here we go: I write under a pen name, but I will admit that I have five works up.  One of them, probably my best since I worked on it the longest (over 3 years), is a historical (with five star reviews!!!).  Of my five works, the two historical works are full-length novels, and I have three novellas.  One of the novellas I managed to write over the course of just two weeks, and another all in one week with only minor editing later on.
I put my first work up in the last week of October.  All of my books are available through the Kindle Select program, so readers who are signed up can read them "for free" (really, they've paid into the fund via their recurring fee) and I get paid based on the number of (normalized, formatted) pages read.  So for that last week of October I made a little over $20, and I was finally paid at the end of December.  For November I made just over $75, which will be paid to me at the end of this month.  I'm hoping that December was kind to me, and that I'll make a bit more than in November since half of my overall book sales (only 14 so far) were in November, but I don't find out until the 15th.  And now you'll understand, if I seem particularly anxious on the 14th of the month.
This is a slow game, working to build a readership and have enough works out there to grab people's attention.  So I'm not making much yet, but hopefully one day I will as I keep working and getting better and putting more stuff out there.  As HusbandX pointed out to me, I might have only earned $75 in November, but those works are up there as long as I choose.  I don't have to go back and write more just to make another $75, they will continue to earn me money.  And at the moment, every bit counts.  It's not all profit, though.  I have to make my own covers, which means that unless HusbandX and I want to pose for the pictures (ha!) I need to pay a stock photo site for their pictures.  So far I've paid about $50 for that privilege, although I should be able to eke 1-2 more covers out of that.
And, this isn't just about the money.  This is my outlet, my fun at the end of the day, my break during nap time.  It keeps me up at night sometimes, helps me fall asleep other times.  It's not "back to work" as I intended last summer, but it just might be the perfect blend of staying home and having work to do.
I'm really having fun with this, and I hope that it will give me the confidence to branch out and to do more.  I have a few non-romance ideas that are percolating, but which still aren't ready for me to write out, and a few ideas for freelance articles and such.  It's coming slowly, but I am starting to think of myself as "a writer", which is something I've wanted since elementary school.  Success feels good.

*I'm not writing this to fish for compliments or get messages of support.  This is an internal battle I must wage.