Life is a Dance

You know what you want. If anything was possible, you know what you would do.

What is holding you back?

More times than not, I realize that barriers are self-imposed and that obstacles are meant to be navigated around. Then one of two things happen:

  1. I push ahead, jump over the obstacles, and do what it is that I really want to do — because the dance feels awesome; getting ever closer to the finish line feels awesome.
  2. I recognize that I don’t want to do it bad enough. Sometimes I impose barriers because I want an excuse for not doing it — because the dance to the finish line doesn’t energize or excite me.

And sometimes I start the dance feeling all happy, light-headed and giddy and then over time, I get bored with the repetitive steps and I want to quit before the song is over. Does this make me a quitter? Shouldn’t I push on through the boring, repetitive steps and see it to the end? Or is this an indication that I am ready to tackle a new dance or create a new twist to a beloved old favorite?

I’ve shared this internal dialog with me, myself and I on many occasions. It is always a process: I take a breather, write in my journal, make pro and con lists, weigh my options, ask friends and family for feedback, daydream. Some of the people in my life don’t understand my process — they say I think too much. But it works for me. Once I remain still for awhile and listen carefully, a catchy new tune floats my way. I tap my feet and sway to the beat, and I move.

I am my life’s choreographer.

What about you: What stops you from doing what you want to do? Do you feel obligated to finish what you’ve started? Are you a planner or a leaper? Do you enjoy the journey? How do you feel when you reach your finish line?

(Email subscribers, you’ll need to click on the post title to view the relevant video embedded on my blog page.)

The Economy Relies Upon You Being A Good Consumer!

thanksgiving turkeyYou are an individual. But you are also a member of a global community. Most important of all, you are a Consumer. As a member of this community, it is your DUTY to consume.


Because the system would collapse if you stopped spending and the consequences would be AWFUL. The system that runs your country relies upon you being a Good Consumer. This film will show you how:

I jest, of course! Before you head out at the break of dawn this Black Friday to gobble up merchandise, do yourself a favor and watch this fabulous video. (Email subscribers, you’ll need to visit my blog to view the video embedded in this post.)

Should you choose to go shopping anyway, perhaps you’ll remember the turkeys you watched here and it’ll help you curb your spending. Or print the following list of questions and suggestions and review them before exchanging your hard-earned dollars for crap products:

Before you buy, ask yourself:

  1. Will I change my mind? Advertisers and retail stores are notoriously skilled at making shoppers believe that they need something– even when it isn’t true. When I find an item I want, I leave the store to think about it for a day or two. During this brief period of time, I usually find that I stop wanting it.
  2. Can I buy it for less? Comparison shop. Find it on sale. Negotiate. Look for a recycled one in the newspaper, at garage sales or consignment stores, on ebay or craigslist. Avoid the mall. I bought all of my daughter’s Christmas gifts through craigslist last year and filled the space beneath the tree for a total of $30.
  3. How long am I willing to pay for Christmas? Your loved ones would rather spend quality time with you during the holidays than have you run up your credit card balance and pay for it all year long. Give the gift of time instead.
  4. Can I trade something for it? Swap with a friend, neighbor or family member. Ask a seller if she wants something you have in exchange for the item or service you desire. We’ve traded plumbing repairs for health club dues, computer work and pizzas. Create a toy exchange with other parents. We’ve traded “new-to-you” toys for our kids.
  5. Can I borrow it from someone? Borrow books, music and movies from the library. Ask your neighbor if you can use her seldom-used yard tools or specialty cooking appliances. Just make sure you are willing and able to repair or replace damaged or lost items.
  6. Can I share the expense with someone? Co-op with your neighborhood to buy one set of yard maintenance equipment. Consider car-sharing. Ask your babysitter for a reduced hourly rate for watching your child along with another.
  7. Can I cut back on another budget item instead? If what you want to buy doesn’t fit into your budget, choose to spend less on something else for awhile. Use the money you’re saving on that budget category towards what you want to buy instead. I often cut back on dining out the month before a vacation because I’d rather use the savings generated to enjoy special meals at our travel destination.
  8. Can I sell something to come up with the extra money? Sell an item you no longer use, then use the money to purchase the item you want. Try a sales listing on craigslist, ebay, community bulletin boards or your local classified ads. Here’s an idea for toy-hungry kids (or adults!): declutter, hold a garage sale, then buy something new with the proceeds. Better yet, make “found” money go further by using tip #2 above.
  9. Can I make a green choice? Look for products that make less impact on our environment. Choose a less toxic alternative, one with less packaging and more recycled content, or something that can be reused for something else when you’re done with it.

So don’t be a turkey… Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Read More:

How To Revolutionize Your Spending Habits

Giving holiday gift cards? Give someone the power to change lives!

5 Things The Marshmallow Test Can Teach You About Money Management

How to Make Money Management a Family Affair

Debt Is Slavery

photo credit: Zellaby

Five Ways To Reduce How Much You Need To Retire By $300,000

This is a guest post written by Todd Tresidder.

If the idea of accumulating a million dollars (or even half of a million) for retirement is daunting then consider this: for every $1,000 reduction in monthly retirement spending you will similarly reduce how much money is needed to retire by $300,000. That is a big deal because most people will find it much easier to retire with bliss and happiness on $1,000 per month lower income than to figure out how to put away an additional $300,000 in retirement savings.

Enjoying Retirement

If this all sounds a little confusing rest assured it is just basic math. You can use an online retirement calculator or visit your favorite financial advisor and odds are very high that you will be told you can spend somewhere between 3% and 5% (depending on assumptions) of your savings each year during retirement and remain financially secure. To keep things simple we will assume a very middle-of-the-road 4% of retirement savings spent each year. What that means is you need roughly 25 times your annual spending in savings – otherwise known as the “Rule of 25” – to support this 4% spending habit. You may find this math mundane, but the implications can be very exciting to your retirement plan.

This same rule also tells you how much less you need to save for retirement if you are good at finding happiness and bliss in life while spending less. For example, if you can figure out how to reduce your retirement budget by just $1,000 per month ($12,000 per year) the rule of 25 says you just reduced how much money you need to retire by a whopping $300,000 ($12,000 * 25 = $300,000).

Spending a little less certainly sounds a lot easier than coughing up another $300,000, especially if retirement is just around the corner and your nest egg is not as robust as you might like. By learning to live more simply, you can enjoy financial freedom during your golden years. The key to retiring successfully on less is to find an appropriate level of spending that suits your needs and lifestyle without sacrificing happiness. The only limit here is your own creativity. If you can stay focused on your core values and determine the things that are really important you could completely transform your vision of retirement.

To help get you started, here are five easy ways to save $1,000 a month during retirement without sacrificing happiness:

1) Downsize

Since the kids are grown and out of the house, you don’t need five bedrooms anymore. A smaller house means a smaller property tax bill, lower maintenance costs, lower insurance premiums, and less hassle. Take it a step farther and downsize to a condo or townhouse close to the urban core and you can eliminate the cost of owning one or both of your cars while eliminating all yard and exterior maintenance work. Renting a car for occasional trips out of town is far less expensive than auto repairs and insurance. Following the rule of “less is more,” less stuff to care for means you have more free time to enjoy your retirement, and a combination of downsizing strategies should be able to save you at least $1,000 per month.

2) Move to Mexico

Retire to MexicoIf you’re willing to leave the country then Mexico is a logical choice since it is close (you can drive there, after all). Not only is the cost of living much lower but the climate is appealing, the infrastructure is more modern and advanced than in much of Latin America, fresh fruit is in abundance, and you can surround yourself with other expatriates if you choose. Numerous websites offer logistical advice on relocating to Mexico and other inexpensive retirement havens outside the United States.

If Mexico isn’t your cup of tea then consider relocating to any number of places, foreign or domestic, that are less expensive than your current hometown. Money Magazine lists Sequim in Washington, Dunedin in Florida, Durango in Colorado, Fort Smith in Arkansas, and Janesville in Wisconsin as some of the most affordable places to retire in the United States. If you plan to travel a lot, where you call home may be of minimal importance and the savings could make a huge difference in how much money is needed to fund your retirement. Just do plenty of research before packing your bag: there are many valuable resources on the web to help you find just the right place for your retirement needs and budget – any one of which could save you at least $1,000 per month.

3) Trade Your Home For a RV

Retire as RV FulltimerIf your retirement plans involve extensive travel, consider selling your home and living in an RV. Unburdened by the labor and costs of home ownership, you’ll be free to travel as much as you like or stay put for months on end. Getting rid of your home means no more property taxes, homeowners insurance, maintenance costs or monthly payments, and the home equity is freed to produce investment income. With an RV your home and mode of travel are one and the same. Many retirees even find seasonal employment in national parks and campgrounds that provide a bit of income and social life. The rest of the year they’re free to follow the weather or the grandkids. An RV is easy to store while you travel abroad and you won’t have to worry about home security or frozen pipes. This lifestyle change can easily lower your costs by $1,000 per month and possibly raise your investment income by the same – two for the price of one.

4) Live Healthy

Eat Healthy Save MoneyHealth care costs eat up an increasing proportion of spending as you age. Although some medical issues are unavoidable, you can significantly reduce your health care spending by staying fit and living a healthy, active lifestyle. Eating low on the food chain is good for your body as well as your budget; prepackaged and processed foods often come at high prices with lower nutritional value. Similarly, regular exercise and a low-stress lifestyle can mean fewer trips to the doctor and fewer prescription medications that can quickly break your budget.

5) Make The Little Things Add Up

A thrifty shopper can easily save $1,000 a month on things like groceries, gifts, and recreation. As a retiree your time is flexible thus allowing you to take advantage of midweek savings on green fees, matinee discounts on movie and theater tickets, and early bird discounts in restaurants. Travel off-season and you will not only save money but you’ll encounter fewer crowds.

Develop the habit of asking for discounts and never paying full price. Don’t wait until December to do all your Christmas shopping—pick up items throughout the year at sale prices and give them at the appropriate time. Buy your wrapping paper and seasonal trinkets at the after holiday sales when prices are usually less than half. Or cut out gift expenses altogether and donate a fixed amount to charities or provide a charitable service personally in honor of your loved ones.

Become a grocery store “perimeter shopper,” avoiding the center aisles that are full of sugar, processed foods, and unhealthy snacks. Almost everything you need is around the perimeter of most grocery stores—produce, bread, milk, and meat. Buying certain items in bulk also saves cash. If you pick and choose from these and many other money saving strategies you could easily figure out how to live happily on $1,000 less per month.

Reduce How Much You Need To Retire By $600,000… or more!

Now that you see how easy it is to reduce your spending during retirement by $1,000 per month without sacrificing your happiness, try combining several of these cost saving strategies to double-down or triple-down and really make a big difference in how much money is needed to retire. It’s not hard to imagine a happy lifestyle living out of a motorhome, eating healthy, and enjoying off-season travel and recreation discounts.

Or if an exotic location is more to your liking then a low-cost lifestyle somewhere down in South America might just do the trick. Similarly, if you find it hard to shave expenses by $2,000 per month you may find it easy to pick up the equivalent in part time or temporary income. The math is the same. You might enjoy being a campground host in a beautiful national park, or maybe you are good at taxes and wouldn’t mind working for a few months each year during high tax season when the winter storms are raging.

The point is to get creative and figure out ways to simplify your life so that you spend less, reduce stress, and slash the amount you need to save so that you can retire now with financial security. Once you get past the notion that you have to keep up with the Joneses, you just might discover that you can enjoy retirement a whole lot more by spending a whole lot less.

About the Author

Financial expert Todd R. Tresidder retired securely when he was just 35 years young. His ebook, How Much is Enough to Retire?, shows you the next step beyond simple retirement calculators and traditional retirement planning. Check out his web site for more free retirement planning information and resources.

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Photo Credits: goingslo, VideoVik, Koocheekoo, Aylanah

Talent And Desire Are NOT Enough: What We Must Learn To Achieve Our Goals

The traditional view of achievement assumes that results come from a combination of talent and desire. Therefore, when you fail, it must be because you are not talented enough or that you don’t want it bad enough. However, failure also occurs when talent and desire are abundantly present — but optimism is missing!

Why is optimism an important ingredient for success? What makes some people view the glass as half full while others see it half empty? How are depression and pessimism related? Are optimists born or made? Can we unlearn pessimism? What can parents do to help their children grow optimistically?

My family, at least three generations deep, suffers from a genetic predisposition towards clinical, chronic depression. It would be fair to say that I didn’t always have the happiest of role models when I was growing up. I’ve never been diagnosed with depression (other than PMS-related symptoms). Why did I escape depression while many of my family members did not?

A therapist, who my entire family visited when I was a teenager, suggested that I had learned to cope by taking on the role of “hero child” in our dysfunctional family. The hero child is the one who fantasizes that if she accomplishes enough, then the whole family will be OK. The hero child is overly conscientious, over achieving, and constantly seeks approval. As the hero child of my family, it was my “job” to help everyone see the light and function well. I became our family’s cheerleader of optimism.

Then as a young adult, my experiences as an animal trainer and behaviorist taught me some useful cognitive skills. (Apparently rats, cats, dogs and humans tend to learn in similar ways!) I discovered how to avoid learned helplessness (giving up because you feel unable to change things) and how to reinforce my sense of personal control. In turn, personal control leads to optimism; and optimism can protect against depression, better your physical and mental well-being, and increase your level of achievement.

I’m reading a fascinating book: Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin Seligman, Ph.D. Using evidence gleaned from scientific research done with dogs and people, Seligman demonstrates how optimism enhances the quality of life, explains how to break an “I give up” habit, and offers advice for parents who want to help their child(ren) become empowered by optimism.

What is a pessimist? Pessimists tend to:

  • believe bad events are enduring (will last a long time)
  • believe misfortunes are their own fault
  • undermine everything they do
  • get physically sick more often
  • get depressed more often
  • give up more easily

Optimists, who are dealt the same hard knocks, tend to:

  • believe defeat is just a temporary setback
  • believe defeat is confined to this one case
  • believe defeat is not their fault: circumstances, bad luck or other people brought it about
  • perceive bad situations as a challenge and try harder
  • do better in school and college
  • do better at work
  • do better in sports
  • exceed the predictions of aptitude tests
  • be more apt to be elected into public office
  • enjoy unusually good health
  • age well
  • live longer

How can I help my child learn optimism?

My daughter’s life didn’t start out well: she was abandoned at birth by a mother who could not/would not raise her; placed in a neglectful foster care situation for nine months; then uprooted from her native country to live in a place where very few look like her. In addition to these early traumatic events, maybe her birthmother suffered from depression during her pregnancy (aware that she’d have to give up her baby), which could have affected her developing fetus. When we adopted our daughter, she was emotionally withdrawn and shutdown.

What affects a child’s level of optimism? According to Martin Seligman, Ph.D., director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Learned Optimism, there is evidence for three kinds of influences:

  1. How parents analyze and explain everyday occurrences: If my child hears me explain things optimistically, she will too. Optimism is learned. It is important that parents serve as positive role models.
  2. The form of criticisms a child hears when she fails: If they are permanent (“You always make such a big mess”) and pervasive (“You are a slob”), her view of herself will turn toward pessimism. If the criticisms she hears have a temporary and specific message (“Your room tends to be messy after you have friends over to play“), she will be hopeful, empowered and optimistic.
  3. The reality of her early losses and traumas: If her losses and trauma are permanent and pervasive, the seeds of hopelessness will be deeply planted. If they remit, she will develop the theory that bad events can be changed and conquered.

I am incredibly proud of my daughter’s strong spirit. She inspires me to see the glass as half full every day. Together, we practice optimism… and we blossom.

Considering the far-reaching and long-lasting effects that optimism has in all of our lives, I wholeheartedly recommend reading Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. It’s a national bestseller for good reason.

Lose The Extra Weight and You Are Likely To Increase Your Wealth

In my last post, I shared the bummer news that being in debt doubles your risk of being overweight. Since the poll I included with my last post shows that roughly 45% of the readers who responded are overweight, I thought I’d share the encouraging news I dug up today:

Overweight Americans who lose a lot of weight also tend to build more wealth as they drop the pounds, according to new research.

The study found that the link between weight loss and wealth gains was particularly strong among white women. Black women and white men also gained wealth as they lost weight, but not as much as did white women. The wealth of black men was basically unaffected by their weight.

There’s no way to tell from the data whether losing weight was the reason for the gain in wealth, but the linkage was definitely there, said Jay Zagorsky, author of the study and a research scientist at Ohio State University’s Center for Human Resource Research.

“The typical person who loses or gains a few pounds had almost no change in wealth, but those who lost or gained large amounts of weight had a more dramatic change,” Zagorsky said.

For example, white women who dropped their body mass index score (BMI) – a standard measure of obesity – by 10 points saw a wealth increase of $11,880. White men saw an increase of $12,720 for a similar drop, while black women increased wealth by $4,480.

Overall, the results showed that a one unit increase in a young person’s BMI was associated with a $1,300 or 8 percent reduction in wealth. But the changes varied dramatically by ethnicity and gender.

The study appears online in the “Articles in Press” section of the journal Economics and Human Biology. Read more here: Dieting Linked To Increased Wealth, Study Finds

The data doesn’t indicate whether a person’s wealth affects obesity or whether obesity affects wealth. However, an analysis of those in the study who received inheritances showed no dramatic changes in their BMI scores in the following years. This suggests that wealth does not have a strong influence on weight; it is more likely that weight influences wealth.

If weight does affect wealth, how does it do so? Perhaps overweight people are discriminated against in the workforce and therefore don’t earn as much as thin people. Women are often held to higher beauty standards — this could explain why women gained more wealth compared to men when they lost weight.

For those of you who are overweight, is learning that you could be $4,480 to $12,720 richer by losing weight an encouraging incentive?

Being in Debt Doubles Your Risk of Being Overweight

The likelihood of being overweight or obese doubled with increasing indebtedness, an association that could not be explained by other socioeconomic or medical factors, according to an article published online in the journal BMC Public Health.

[poll id=”3″]

Adam Baker, mid-twenties, boldly exposes his dual battle with debt and weight by openly blogging all about it. I was first drawn to Baker’s blog because he and his family recently moved to New Zealand. (My husband and I spent about a month in New Zealand and considered moving there, too.) But now, I also read Baker’s blog because I want to understand what makes his generation tick, particularly when it comes to thoughts and choices made about money.

Today, Baker asked his readers, “would you rather be fat or in debt”?

I am puzzled by Baker’s question. Here’s the comment I left on his post:

I can’t pick one option over the other because I choose neither. I can’t comprehend why I’d want to pick one because “neither” is a realistic answer. I’m stumbling over WHY you feel you need to pick one to be more important over the other, Baker. I think it’s okay to want to be fit AND debt-free. Maybe I missed something between the lines of your post.

May I suggest that rather than waiting until after you lose weight to do the kick-ass things you want to do, do them now. Live your life as though you are thin, fit and healthy and your body will catch up. Don’t look at this as a weight-loss diet. Look at this as your forever lifestyle choice. Otherwise you will bounce back and forth between fat and not, fat and not. AND THE SAME GOES WITH YOUR DEBT ISSUES!

Sorry to shout that last sentence.

You are courageous, open and honest and this is a huge start to something great. Many sweep these issues under the rug… and they stay there, festering. Keep your eye on how you want to live your life and you will live it!

I am not being insensitive, just curious. I wonder why indebtedness increases one’s odds of being overweight. What is the common thread between the two?

My weight has always been within the ideal range for my height and frame size. I’ve been mulling this topic over today and I’ve realized that I maintain my healthy weight in much the same way that I maintain my finances.

  • I identify and visualize what I want. I think healthy and rich thoughts so I am more likely to behave accordingly. Thoughts affect actions, actions affect outcome.
  • I take inventory on a regular basis. I weigh my net worth, spending and eating choices, and body.
  • I am mindful of and replenish my limited daily supply of self-control.
  • I avoid temptation: I grocery shop after I’ve eaten with a list in hand, I don’t hang out at the mall, I don’t look through catalogs or surf ebay.
  • I am willing to trade short term instant gratification for long-lasting, kick-ass benefits.
  • I search for and enjoy substitutes: Think baked sweet potato wedges drizzled with olive oil, dusted with cinnamon, and broiled until edges are crispy– rather than greasy McDonald’s french fries. Or think world travel, month-long vacations, picnics and delicious organic foods instead of fancy new cars, expensive restaurants, and closets full of clothes I’ll never wear.

Why and how do you think weight and money management outcomes are correlated?

Self control. Willpower. I Need Me Some of That!

Every day, usually when I’m in the shower, my brain whirls with blog topics. I dry off, get dressed, dash towards my computer to type the post that burns to get out of my mind and onto paper.

Tweeeet! Oh, a Mention on TweetDeck? Check it out. “Thanks for the RT”, I quickly type back. Hmm, wait, what’s this tweet, the one that says click here for the very best article on the science of happiness? Maybe it’ll be a perfect reference for the post I’m writing today. I devour the article, knowing that I’m headed down the wrong path.

Two minutes later, I return to stare at my blank page. I enter the title and post category.

“Mom, I need you!” my daughter whines.

“Where’s your dad? I’m working right now, honey.” Ouch, momma guilt pangs. I remind myself, it’s okay, Dad has it covered. He can play “just pretend I’m the momma and you are the baby” games with Juniorette just as good as I can.

I return to my page. Crap. What was that brilliant idea? The one I just had to share with the world? Oh yeah, something about how creating automatic money systems helps….

Ring, ring, ring.

I peek at the caller ID. It’s my sister. I’m not answering. I can call her back when I’m done.

“Jen, your sis is on the phone,” my husband announces as he brings the secondary phone unit to me in my in-home office. He’s already connected the call.

“Hey sis, what’s up? Can it wait for about an hour? I’m writing.”

I take three deep breaths, mutter to myself, and return my rolling eyeballs back to the page. Where was I? I’ve forgotten. While mulling over what I forgot, I do a quick check of my email. Ten minutes later, I return to stare at my blank page. I peck out a couple of awkward paragraphs. This doesn’t sound nearly as brilliant as it did in my head, when I was lather-rinse-repeating in the shower. I can’t post this crap!

I call it a morning. Tomorrow, I’ll have another idea. Tomorrow, I’ll try to sneak out of the shower and into my office unnoticed. In the meantime, I try to forget my lack of self-control by distracting myself. I spend the next hour mindlessly surfing the web.

What happened to my willpower? I was incredibly motivated to write when I started, but I couldn’t power through the task. Why couldn’t I stick to it? I think I found my answer:

Studies indicate that self-control comes in limited quantities that must be replenished.

There are three main theories about how self-control operates, according to Baumeister. One theory suggests that self-control depends on an energy or strength like “willpower,” while a second theory considers self-control as a skill to be learned. Yet another theory views self-control as a thought process, where individuals process their different behavioral options and choose a course of action after analyzing their situation.

To test these theories, Baumeister and colleagues designed a series of studies to determine whether self-control could be depleted, which would indicate that it was more like willpower than a skill or thought process.

For one experiment, individuals were asked to stifle or exaggerate their emotions while watching a disturbing video. Afterward, their physical stamina was tested with a handgrip device. In another study, hungry participants were tempted with chocolate and freshly baked cookies before working on difficult geometric puzzles. In all cases, participants who exercised self-control were less able to complete the second task.

“Resisting temptation consumed an important resource, which was then less available to help the person persist in the face of failure,” Baumeister explains.

He suggests that sleep may be one way that individuals can replenish self-control.

“Most forms of self-regulation failure escalate over the course of the day, becoming more likely and more frequent the longer the person has been deprived of sleep,” according to Baumeister, who notes that positive emotional experience may also help replace expended self-control energy.

Roy Baumeister, Ph.D.

It’s 4:30PM as I write this post. The phones are unplugged. My web browser is closed. The house is completely still. Daddy and Juniorette are playing at the park together.

And I just woke from a blessed nap.

755 words so far and I’m having a blast! The words are flowing and I haven’t used the delete key or checked on my email. I am focused, powering through this post.

What do I hope you take away from my experience?

That success comes easier when you eliminate temptations and reduce the need for willpower!

Do you want to stop buying things you don’t need? Then stay out of the mall.

Do you want to build your savings or retirement account? Then keep the money out of your hands. Schedule an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to your savings account every payday.

Do you want to eat a healthier diet or lose weight? Then bag up your processed food and drop it off at your local food bank. When you grocery shop, avoid the boxed-food aisles. Don’t carry junk food through your door and put it into your pantry.

Do you have an important task to complete? Then tackle it first thing in the morning when you are rested and before you’ve used up your limited daily supply of self-control. Or take a nap like I did and start afresh.

I hear my family at the door and I am done. I will now celebrate this small victory! And I hit the Publish button…