Month: September 2007

Spreadsheet for Tracking Roommate Expenses

The scenario: You live with roommates and share some expenses. For example, one person is in charge of writing the rent check, another person pays utilities, another person pays for internet access. You share occasional grocery and household items. Let’s make this hypothetical scenario more complicated: Three of you share milk, but the other person doesn’t. How do you keep track of it all without writing 800 checks to each other at a time?

When I lived with four other roommates in college, I developed a roommate expense tracking spreadsheet. The spreadsheet was complicated enough so that it not only tracked items we all shared, but also allowed for tracking items that some people shared but not others. This allowed us to visibly see what we were spending money on, equitably divide expenses, and consolidate paybacks. Instead of writing a check for each item someone purchased, we settled our accounts monthly.

Now that we live with housemates again, I’ve resurrected the spreadsheet with the power of shared Google documents. In the old days, my roommates had to save, mark, and initial receipts, which I would enter into the spreadsheet and then print out each month. With a shared Google spreadsheet, each of us can go to Google docs and update the spreadsheet ourselves with receipts.

The rest of this post describes how to use the spreadsheet and includes links to view my open Google spreadsheet example and to download an Excel version.

View and Download

Hopefully my server doesn’t crash again with the Excel download. If you’re willing to mirror the download, please let me know!

  • Roommate Expense Tracker – published Google spreadsheet
    This spreadsheet includes a template and four example spreadsheets that go along with the diagrams above.
  • Roommate Expense Tracker Excel spreadsheet download – shared-expenses.xls

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Step by step through the spreadsheet

Click on screenshots to open a larger version in a new window.

Setup

If you’re using a Google spreadsheet, you can share the spreadsheet by going to the Share tab and adding your roommates’ email addresses as collaborators. This allows them to access the spreadsheet and edit it with their expense line items.

If you’re going to be using an Excel spreadsheet on a single workstation, then your roommates will have to be diligent about giving you their receipts. For easier entry, they should write their name at the top of the receipt, circle the shared items, and note if any items are shared between specific individuals (but not everyone).

My sample spreadsheet is set up for four roommates. If you have more or less people, you’ll want to adjust the spreadsheet by inserting/deleting columns and copying the formulas. You’ll also want to change the column names to more accurately reflect the names of your roommates (unless you happen to be named Bob, Joe, John, and Larry)!

You should make a copy of the template worksheet each time you are settling expenses (monthly, biweekly, etc.). The worksheet is meant as for “one time use,” not as an ongoing thing. You can date it at the top.

1. Enter receipts.

Shared expenses diagram 1

For each item:

  1. Enter the item description (“milk” or “utilities”).
  2. Enter the amount paid. Don’t forget to include sales tax if applicable.
  3. Enter in /# how many people are splitting this expense. In most of the line items, the item is being shared by everyone, so the dividing number is 4. In this example, milk is only shared by three people, and printer cartridges are shared by two. (The screenshot shows the notes I’ve added to those specific rows.) Note: If something is divided unevenly, such as “rent,” then you can leave this blank.
  4. The each column automatically calculates how much each person would owe (amount/#).
  5. Enter the name of the person who paid for this item in paid by.
  6. Now, manually type the each amount under the appropriate name. For example, Bob, Joe, and Larry split milk (but not John). The milk amount ($4.99), divided by 3, is approximately $1.66. So, $1.66 is entered under Bob, Joe, and Larry. John remains blank. Note: For uneven amounts such as “rent,” you can just type the amount under each name. In this example, Bob has a bigger room and pays more rent than the others.

Since I haven’t figured out if it’s possible to sort selected rows in a Google spreadsheet, you may find it easier to group items together that were paid by the same person.

Also — don’t worry about the “approximate” amount. The rounding issues will be dealt with in the next step!

2. Make adjustments for rounding.

Shared expenses diagram 2

As noted above, there may be some small rounding problems, resulting in some very slight differences (on the order of pennies) between what was actually paid and what people owe collectively.

The bottom of the spreadsheet accounts for these differences. The blue total shows the actual amount that was paid. The people totals in italics show how much each person owes, and that sum allocated is in italics under the blue total. The difference takes the difference. In this case, the allocated amount is 3 cents less than what was actually paid.

Some roommates won’t care about the leftover pennies. However, my roommates happened to be very detail-oriented, so we had an additional adjustment row. Taking the small difference, divvy it up amongst the roommates in a sort-of-fair way. In this case, since Bob (oops, this should have been applied to Joe!) took the brunt of the expenses by paying the rent, he’s exempt from the additional 1-cent adjustment applied to everyone else (reference the yellow highlighted cells in the diagram).

3. Indicate how much each person contributed.

Shared expenses diagram 3

Now, sum up the amount each person paid in the Paid row (highlighted yellow in the diagram). You can do this by typing “=” to start a formula in the cell, then highlighting the specific amount cells relevant to each person. This is where grouping people’s expenses comes in handy, as you can just highlight an entire block instead of individual cells.

In this example, you can see that since Bob (oops, that should be Joe) paid rent, he paid the most out of everyone.

After doing this, check your totals. The grey boxes on the right side of the spreadsheet guide you through making sure the numbers all work out. Breaking it down:

  • $1230.52 Check totals – This row takes the sum of the actual amount paid — same formula as the blue total.
  • $0.03 Does this equal difference? – This is the sum of the Adjust row. It should equal the green “difference” amount.
  • $1230.52 Does this equal total? – This is the sum of the Owed row. It should equal the blue total amount.
  • $0.00 Is this 0? – This sums up the Pay row. It should theoretically be zero, as the positive (people who owe money) numbers should equal the negative (people who are owed money) numbers.

4. Add helpful notes for payment.

Shared expenses diagram 4

The final step is to add helpful notes for payment. The negative pay amount means that this person paid the most, and other people owe them money. You can add a note in the bottom row for who the check should be made out to. If there is more than one person with a negative amount, then you can add a note for how to split the check between each person who is owed money.

That’s all!

And there you have it — a very fair way to track and consolidate shared household expenses! This spreadsheet certainly isn’t for everyone (such as those of the “who cares” variety), but for some, having a expense tracking worksheet can be a great way to avoid financial roommate conflict.

Reading: More L’Engle and Bourne

Finished reading:

An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L’Engle – This “young adult science fiction novel” follows Polly O’Keefe (the daugher of Meg from A Wrinkle In Time) who is being home-schooled by her grandparents for a season (after the events of A House Like a Lotus). She enjoys being an only child for a while, but then strange events start to happen: Polly meets some people who lived in the area over 3000 years ago. The opening of the time gate has drawn others in, as well; ultimately, Polly’s love and courage are necessary to help her survive some dangerous situations.

Zachary Gray (from A House Like a Lotus, and formerly from two of the Austin books, The Moon By Night and A Ring of Endless Light) reappears in Polly’s life and plays a major role in the plot. Zach’s past has been marred with relational failure and selfishness; will he get one more chance to turn things around?

While it may be helpful to read the previous books that involve these characters, it’s not necessary.

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum – I thought that reading the Bourne books would help refresh my memory before watching The Bourne Ultimatum. I didn’t realize that the movies were almost completely different from the books! Some details were similar (“man with amnesia,” “pretty woman named Marie”) but the bulk of the plot was completely different, involving a dangerous assassin that is after Bourne — and he can’t remember why.

The book was an interesting read (another thriller) although I found the author’s style a little hard to follow. Just don’t read it thinking that you’ll get a synopsis of the movie — go to Wikipedia for that!

Meet the Austins by Madeleine L’Engle – A short young adult book, and one of my favorites. Vicky (12 years old) is the narrator, the second child in a family of four. Their happy, noisy lives are turned upside down when an orphan named Maggie comes to stay with them.

One of my favorite parts in the book is the description of her grandfather’s house, which is a converted stable. Quotes painted on the wall, stalls and stalls filled with books, right by the ocean… sounds like a dream house to me!

The Moon By Night by Madeleine L’Engle – This book takes place about three years after the events of Meet the Austins. Vicky’s father is taking on a temporary research position in New York City, so the family is leaving their small country town and going on a cross-country camping road trip and back as a fun transition between their two lives. Vicky, now “almost fifteen,” is starting to get a little “broody” and also discovering boys — or, rather, boys are discovering her. In between encounters with a dashing Zachary Grey who pursues her across the country and trying to find her place with her own family, Vicky also begins to struggle with the concept of a loving God compared to the pain and suffering that Zachary opens her eyes to. Vicky tries to find and establish her identity as she learns how big and diverse the world is compared to the small town she grew up in.

Although the book is marketed towards teens as a “girl meets boy” story with a cover that shows a couple cuddling, the book has deeper messages about self, identity, and suffering vs. free will.

The Bourne Supremacy by Robert Ludlum – If you keep in mind that the movies at this point have nothing to do with the book other than sharing a title, this book is another thrilling read. This time, Bourne — or, known by his real name, Daniel Webb — is married to Marie and enjoying a quiet existence when everything falls apart again. This time, his own government kidnaps Marie in order to spur Bourne on to take on a critical mission in Asia — but Bourne thinks that someone else is behind the kidnapping. Lies within lies are spun and unraveled… unfortunately, Bourne’s sanity begins to unravel as well…

How was that for a suspenseful synopsis? 🙂

With a bookmark:

(Books I just started reading, or books I’ve been “reading” for ages. Most recent first.)

  • The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
  • A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

Cat photos

Nutmeg on the couch. Series of four.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg on couch

Nutmeg on the couch

Nutmeg on the couch

Nutmeg is very photogenic.

Nutmeg

One of the many locations that Nutmeg has been “trying out”:

Nutmeg in a basket.

Nutmeg sat directly in front of the fan for several minutes.

Nutmeg sitting in front of the fan.

Remember Kittens vs. Nutmeg by volume? There are only four kittens now, but they’re definitely starting to overwhelm her:

Kittens nursing

We moved the Ghetto Cat Pen outside.

Outdoor ghetto cat pen

The kittens love to crowd inside the carrier for their morning nap.

Kittens sleeping.

Nutmeg jumped over the Ghetto Cat Pen wall, grabbed a toy, jumped back out, came around to the front door, and howled until I let her in. I took a picture first, then let her in after confirming it was not a dead animal!

Nutmeg with her prey

This next series of photos is hilarious. I let Nutmeg out into the Ghetto Cat Pen because she was meowing at the door, but once she was out there, she wasn’t really sure why she wanted to be there and paced around. Three of the kittens were arching their backs and rubbing up against her, then started crawling under her belly to try to nurse. Nutmeg was not very accommodating but kept trying (awkwardly) to walk around; meanwhile, the kittens scurried after her. The funniest thing is that the kittens would lift their paws to try to knead, then lose their balance and fall over. Meanwhile, Tofu was completely disinterested in the whole thing, playing with the remnants of a catnip mouse. You can see her in the background of some of the photos.

Kittens rubbing against Nutmeg

Kittens trying to nurse.

(Notice Tofu in the back corner in the photo below.)

Kittens trying to nurse.

Kittens trying to nurse.

Kittens trying to nurse.

Kittens trying to nurse.

Kittens trying to nurse.

Weekly Update: On the up and up!

I’m feeling very optimistic because I had my first REALLY productive work-day yesterday since before we moved. I’m also slowly but steadily getting back into my routines and taking care of myself. It also helped that Groundhog Resolution Review Day was at the beginning of the week — it’s always a good jump start!

  • Fitness: We started going to the gym again this week. However, I’ve slacked off on exercising on the other days that we don’t go to the gym.
  • Routines: Slowly getting back into the swing of things! Filling out my bubble form is helpful and motivating.
  • Custom Shadow Box and Branding: No forward progress, but I scheduled some workdays for this next month.
  • Work: I felt overwhelmed the first half of the week (and also felt very tired), but yesterday was a great productive day and I think today will be, as well!
  • Personal: After reading Thanks!, I restarted my gratitude journal and (in addition to getting enough sleep) have been noticing a significant difference in my attitude and optimism level!

Two week’s worth of comments — thanks to: Angela Yee, Kristine, Gilda, Catherine, Penny, ddrdancer, Shoeb Ahmed, Shannon, Doodah, Ayesha97, Troy Worman, Mike Rohde, and Brian!

House photos: Our room and the kitchen

I finally got around to taking pictures of two of the rooms in the house we’re renting — the kitchen and our bedroom.

The kitchen is roomy with a U-shaped work area. The other side of the “u” has upper and lower cabinets but is open to the family/fireplace room.

We painted the kitchen a sunny yellow color and used Liz and Rich’s red Kitchenaid, toaster, and potholders/linens for red accent colors. I happened to have a ceramic tomato, as well, which rests peacefully on the stove. We tried to keep out mostly red, white, and chrome gear.

Eventually we’d like to paint the cabinets white and replace the hardware.

Kitchen

Opposite the U-kitchen area is a small eating area. To the left of the microwave cart is the opening that leads to the family room; you can just see the doorframe that connects with the entryway.

Liz is on the lookout for red chair cushions or fabric that she can use to replace the blue ones.

Dining area.

On the right wall (same wall as the fridge and stove) is a pantry closet and the door to the garage. Liz’s mom gave us a cool retro clock/timer which goes perfectly with white and chrome.

Pantry and garage door

Here is the pantry with shelves installed by Steve and I after many attempts at finding studs. We purposefully kept the top shelf one plank deep so that we could access the things easier and have a space for extra-tall items on the shelf below. We will eventually reinstall the pantry door (we took it off when painting) and get some kind of organizer on the inside of the door to hold brooms and other supplies.

We used plastic bins to hold cans instead of just stacking the cans on the shelves. This way you can pull the bin out like a drawer and see what’s in the back, so canned goods are less likely to get lost. This was useful for some of the sticky/liquid-y baking-related items as well; not only can we pull them out easily in the bin, but they don’t get the shelf all sticky and gross in case there’s a leak or spill.

Pantry

That’s the kitchen.

I’m very happy with our bedroom! It’s small and cozy so we were forced to simplify and be minimalistic. This is the first room that we’ve been able to paint ourselves, as well. We used a sandy beige color.
On one wall, we have our bed, a cheap rectangular storage box on-end that acts as a nightstand, and my favorite wing-back chair and ottoman.

You can see our stuffed monkey collection hanging by their necks behind our headboard. The painting is one I got from Cost Plus on sale and perfectly matches our thick, plush winter bedspread (not shown).

Our room - the bed.

Under the bed is enough storage for a flat bin that holds my exercise gear, our winter blanket (in a vinyl case), a case with an extra set of sheets, and a brand new extra pillow. There’s enough room for Steve’s bin of exercise gear, but we haven’t dug it out from the garage yet.

Here is the other wall (opposite the window) with my wingback chair (with stuffed mama and baby sea otter) and ottoman/storage cube which holds my Bible and devotional books (and lots of other random stuff). The wall was a nice place to showcase the anniversary pictures that I make for each year of our marriage.

Our room - wall of pictures.

I wasn’t joking when I talked about simplifying. Not only did I pack away our out-of-season clothing (winter), but I also packed away from 1/2 to 2/3 of our in-season clothes! Our closet is now quite bare. I sort of like it.

Our room - the closet.

The top shelf holds bins with random gear, extra flannel sheets that didn’t fit in the linen closet, and a basket with hats and gloves. I love Sterilite brand plastic bins — we have tons of them all over the house, some with lids for stacking, and others open. (You can see several of them in use in the pantry.)

Below, we have my shoe organizer and a laundry basket with Steve’s “everyday” shoes, with space for Steve’s backpack. The rest of his shoes are in a bin in the garage.

Unfortunately this picture turned out blurry, but here’s what that wall looks like with the curtains drawn. The closet had ugly brown doors that the previous tenants had taken off and put in the garage. We stuck to their plan but added a spring-loaded shower curtain rod just inside the closet door and hung some curtains from them.

Our room - closet and dresser.

Our dresser was purchased used so it doesn’t quite match our bed, but I still love the excellent rolling drawers. At our old place, we had about 6 picture frames, candles, and a glass catchall bowl. Most of our picture frames are packed away; instead, I have a picture of us, a vase with my FlyLady duster, another vase with my silk-rose wedding bouquet, three asian jewelry/hairband boxes, and a picture for the wall. We’ve managed to keep the dresser fairly pristine so far.

Our room - dresser.

In the corner of the wall next to our dresser was a perfect place for our standing hamper.

So… those are the presentable areas of the house for now. 🙂 Hopefully we can get more done this weekend!

Reader question: Tips for making forms

Email received last week via my contact form:

Corrie,

Love all the forms you’ve designed. Any practical advice or resources for a beginning form maker?

You rock,

Bob

First, thanks for the kind words, Bob!

In no particular order, here are all my thoughts about making forms.

  • Forms for me: I make forms that address a need for me. That means that it’s something I will actually use, test, and revise. This also generally means that the form might be useful for someone else. I haven’t made forms on request for someone else yet, so I’m not sure what that process would look like. Making a form that someone might find theoretically useful seems hard to me — it seems easier to make a truly useful form when you have actual users who can provide feedback. In my personal situation, I’m the main feedback-provider. 🙂
  • Sketch the form first: I usually make a hand-sketched prototype before firing up the computer. This involves cutting a piece of paper to the desired size, then using pen or pencil to sketch out whatever fields I want. I might make a few different versions as I experiment with form element placement. This gives me a good idea of how many form elements can fit on the piece of paper and is a relatively quick way to design the form without spending too much computer-detail time.
  • Illustrator rocks: All my forms are made in Illustrator (with the exception of my Excel grocery shopping list). If, like me, you already have Illustrator, then it’s easy to get started. If you don’t, it could be a rather pricey investment just to make cool forms, so maybe you’ll want to try something you already have available — Word or Publisher, for example. Generally I find that Illustrator has the best fine-tune control, you can make custom vector graphics and make easy rounded-corner rectangles, plus it has awesome features like the Transform and Distort command that make duplicating elements super-easy. A few more Illustrator tips follow…
  • Easy copy in Illustrator: You can easily copy and place an object in Illustrator by selecting it with the black arrow tool (aka selection tool, keyboard shortcut “v”), holding the Ctrl or Command key, and dragging it to your new location. Hold Shift down as well to constrain the movement to a straight horizontal, vertical, or 45-degree angle. Actually, by holding the Ctrl key, you can copy an object while doing almost any kind of transformation — rotating, reflecting, etc.
  • Duplicate your last transformation: Let’s say you used my previous tip to move and copy a rounded rectangle to the right, so you now have two rectangles next to each other. You’d like to copy the rectangle again by the same distance. Instead of trying to drag another copy over just the right amount, type Ctrl/Command-D and your last copy/transform move will duplicate itself! Hit the keyboard combo as many times as you want to keep on duplicating.
  • Transform and Distort: If you have a group of objects that you want to duplicate (example – each row on my weight training workout sheet), use the Transform and Distort command. This allows you to edit the “base” group if you want to make changes instead of having to go through each and every row to make changes later! You can apply the Transform and Distort effect several times, too, so you can have groups within groups. Awesome!
  • Pretty forms: For nice-looking forms, make sure your elements align neatly. Use guides if you have to, or zoom in to check that the edges of boxes line up with each other. I think rounded rectangles make the form look friendlier, as do bright colors. But that’s just me.
  • Print, test, print: Once I have the form designed in Illustrator, I do a test print onto scratch paper, cut, punch, etc., and try out the form. I may make some tweaks immediately and do another test print, or it may take a few days of actually using my new form to figure out what I can improve.

Hope this is helpful, Bob! You might want to solicit advice from other form gurus. Dave Seah and Lori Linstruth come to mind, but I’m sure there are many more out there!

L’Engle, Sahara, and highly-recommended Thanks!

Finished reading:

The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L’Engle – After finding out about L’Engle’s death, I wanted to read some of her books that I either hadn’t read yet or hadn’t read for a long time. This short, illustrated children’s book (more story than pictures) is one that features the Austin family, with a ten-year-old Vicky as the usual protagonist. Vicky has been chosen to be the angel in the Christmas pageant but is miserably aware that she is awkward and un-angel like. Meanwhile, she worries that her mother won’t be home for Christmas because the baby is due in early January. Vicky wrestles with these issues with the help of her family, while celebrating the 24 days before Christmas, when the Austin family does a Christmas “surprise” every day — whether it’s cutting down a Christmas tree, making a special Christmas decoration, or using fun Santa mugs during dinner. I loved the idea of the 24-day tradition and the picture of a loving family that this book presented.

Sahara by Clive Cussler – This is my first DIRK PITT® Clive Cussler novel (pulled from our housemates’ library), and I’m honestly not sure what to make of it. I haven’t read anything in the action genre for a while and was a bit shocked by the cavalier attitude towards killing and death that the main characters had. The book was definitely very action-packed and thrilling — after preventing the assassination of a conveniently-beautiful scientist who is looking into strange cannibalistic behavior that has come up in Africa, Dirk Pitt is sent to investigate an environmental crisis threatens to overwhelm the world’s oceans. This puts him up against evil dictators, lots of firepower, and the dangerous Sahara desert. It’s up to his quick wits and iron determination to get out of this one alive. Warning: Lots of people die.

Thanks! by Robert Emmons – Robert Emmons is a professor of psychology at UC Davis whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and listening to and is known as the “world’s leading authority on gratitude.” His new book, subtitled How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, is one that I’ve been looking forward to reading as I’ve heard him lecture about his research in the area of gratitude and its effect on people’s lives. It was from his talk that I was inspired to start keeping a “gratitude journal” — a simple daily listing (3-5 things) of things that I am truly grateful for — a habit that I’ve mostly kept (with occasional breaks) for the past ten years.

If you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep.

In Thanks, Emmons shares some of the findings of his research. Some of the results contradict the current psychological theory that each person has a “set point” of happiness determined by genetics — that no matter what happens to you, you always return to the same level of happiness. Emmons found that people who kept a consistent gratitude journal were actually able to raise their level of happiness over time. Interestingly, he also found that in contrast to people who wrote down five things they felt hassled by, the people who wrote down blessings they were thankful for slept better, had more energy, suffered less illness, exercised more, were more optimistic about their future, and felt better about their lives. In another study that examined the autobiographies of nun novitiates, it was found that the nuns whose autobiographies expressed more positive emotions outlived the least happy nuns by seven years!

Emmons ties together scientific research and the writings of philosophers and theologians throughout history to present a very compelling case that gratitude may be one of the biggest keys to living a happier and fulfilling life. He also addresses hard questions and topics, such as “how can you be grateful when bad things happen to you?” and “does being grateful lead to complacency because you’re content with the way things are?” The last chapter of the book presents ten exercises and habits that you can develop to encourage a grateful attitude.

Thanks! is an easy read while providing a lot of information that you won’t want to just skim over. Emmons has a dry sense of humor which can’t be suppressed by “science” and “research.” I found this a personally uplifting challenge to continue to try to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. This is a book I would recommend for any personal library — and as an added bonus, the book has a nice cover. 🙂

With a bookmark:

(Books I just started reading, or books I’ve been “reading” for ages. Most recent first.)

  • The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
  • A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

Library book box:

  • An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A Cat Story

Saturday night when we went to bed, Nutmeg was still outside and wouldn’t come in, so we left her outside and went to bed.

At about 1:30 am, I woke up because I was cold and could hear her meowing frantically, begging to come in.

Because of the placement of the Ghetto Cat Pen, we can’t easily open the back door. So I opened the front door and hoped Nutmeg would figure out how to come around the house to the front to come in.

“Nutmeg! Nutmeg!” I called.

I could hear her collar jingling as she ran back and forth. Her meows were loud through the open back window. “Mow! Mow! Mow! [jingle jingle jingle.] Mow! Mow! Mow! [jingle jingle jingle.]” I thought I could even hear her pounding on the sliding glass door and jumping against the windows.

I stood there for maybe five or ten minutes, waiting for the cat, calling her name every now and then, as she continued to frantically run around, jingling and meowing. I was sooo tired. The lights were off, but the outside front light was on, and I waited for Nutmeg to figure it out (she had come around once before during the day, so I knew it was possible, it just might take a while).

All of a sudden it seemed like the meows were louder. A furry shape brushed against my feet. I was really surprised because I swore I had kept my eyes open and hadn’t seen her come in through the front door. But as I said, I was really sleepy, and thought that maybe Steve had let her in earlier, and she was just running around the house crazily while I thought she was outside. I was very confused, but way too tired to try to figure it out. At least the cat was inside the house, so I went back to bed.

Well, Nutmeg continued to meow loudly. “MOWWWWW. MOWWWWWWW.”

Very annoyed, I got back out of bed and went out, turning on the living room light to see what she was doing. I saw that she had grabbed one of the tasseled cat toys out of the ghetto cat pen and had it in her mouth, meowing loudly in what I now call her “huntress meow.” She came over and dropped it, meowing at me. She had riled up the kittens and I could hear them pounding around inside the cat pen.

Annoyed, I decided to throw the toy back into the cat pen and go back to bed as nothing seemed to be wrong. I bent down and picked up the toy.

Except it wasn’t a toy. It was a small brown DEAD BIRD.

I dropped it and immediately washed my hands with soap and water. As I was washing my hands, waking up more and more, the thought occurred to me that the dead bird certainly didn’t come from inside the house, which meant that Nutmeg was outside when she was meowing frantically, which meant she had come inside the house somehow, but not through the front door where I was. How had she gotten in? I wondered if we had accidentally left the sliding glass door open, because the kittens have been able to open the screen door and get out if we do so.

I looked at the sliding glass door. Closed. Then I noticed that one of the living room windows was missing its screen. I looked out the window — the screen had been torn down and was laying on the ground! Our crazy cat had managed to dislodge the screen and had jumped in through the window with the bird!

I closed the window, then I went into the bedroom, unsure of what to do, and sighed so loudly that Steve woke up. “What’s wrong?”

“Nutmeg brought in a dead bird,” I said.

Steve grunted in annoyance and said, “Okay, okay. I’ll take care of it.”

We went out to the living room to find Nutmeg happily batting the bird around the living room, pouncing on it and scattering feathers everywhere.

Steve got a paper towel, picked it up, and threw it away. We praised Nutmeg for being a good hunter and went to bed, leaving her stretched out on the floor, purring loudly.

Back in bed, I said, “I can’t believe Nutmeg got a bird! Even with a jingly collar!”

Steve said, “Hey, she’s a hunter.”

I said, “She’s a FREAKING MANIAC! She tore off the window screen to get inside the house!!”

Somehow, despite his grumpiness at having to dispose of a bird in the middle of a night, Steve was very tickled by my using the phrase “freaking maniac” and started laughing punchily.

It took a little while for us to calm down and go back to sleep.

Reprinted from my private friends-and-family blog.

September Review for Groundhog Day Resolutions

Water or gatorade?We’re just over halfway through the Groundhog Day Resolution year, and I’m feeling the tiring effects of a hot and long summer combined with moving and a general unproductive malaise. But just like at any good 5K, 10K, or marathon, Mr. Groundhog is standing at the sidelines with a smile and paper cups filled with chilled liquid goodness. This September review is a great chance to take a break, look back, and surge forward with renewed energy and purpose!

This past month, I kept my goals purposefully minimal as I knew a lot of my energy would be sapped with moving. I tried to keep a focus only on health/body goals and getting a new site and blog design up while maintaining my other routines. Although I stopped tracking routines and goals in the midst of moving madness, I feel very pleased overall with how this past month went!

  • Health/body goals – 🙂
    • How I did: Until we moved, we were very consistent with going to the gym three times a week, and I’m excited to start back again this week.
    • Next month: Get back into my exercise routine and start tracking food again. I realized this weekend that I haven’t had any green leafy veggies since moving (haven’t really been cooking, eating out a lot) and immediately made a menu for the rest of the month to rectify that situation!
  • Work-related goals
    • Branding goal – 8)
      • How I did: As planned, I took a day off and worked on implementing a new design to corriehaffly.com and this blog!
      • Next month: I’ve scheduled two hours into my calendar to work on tweaking the sites.
    • Small business goal – 🙂
      • How I did: I got business cards printed, but didn’t design a brochure.
      • Next month: I have three things planned: Follow-up with people who emailed initially but didn’t get back to me, design a brochure, and develop a local marketing plan.
  • Routines – 😦
    • How I did: I didn’t really keep up my routines during or after the move, partly because I ran out of daily tracking sheets and didn’t have the printer hooked up to print new ones. I also didn’t put together a housecleaning routine for myself.
    • Next month: We have to have a house meeting with our housemates and hopefully will go over chore ideas then. I’ve printed out more daily tracking sheets and have started using them again, so my goal this next month is to use them!
  • Character/social – 😐
    • How I did: I didn’t set any new goals for this area.
    • Next month: I’m restarting my daily “gratitude journal,” listing five things that I’m thankful for.

Author Madeleine L’Engle dies at age 88

So sad. One of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle, passed away Thursday (msnbc, nytimes). She was best known for her Wrinkle in Time series, although I also enjoyed re-reading the Austin family related books (Meet the Austins, The Moon By Night, A Ring of Endless Light, Troubling a Star; they also show up in The Young Unicorns), her poetry (which is all published in a recent collection, The Ordering of Love), and some of her non-fiction.