February’s Fast Forward Fridays: My Plan


I will admit, there is little that derails me faster than physical clutter. Too much stuff (even if it’s organized) is still too much. I need white space, even though it took me a long time to realize that.

At the same time, when I take on too much (my biggest weakness), the “too-much” stuff seems to take on a life of its own. I get behind on putting things away, and the problem grows and grows until I’m in the situation in which I currently find myself. Hard to start anything because I feel like I’m being buried alive.

So for me, the 28 days of February are going to give me a running start at sorting, decluttering, and getting only necessary things organized. The rest are going bye-bye. This is an important step on my way to our return to the US in July. Going from our lovely apartment to 4-6 suitcases is going to be a challenge. Time to at least sort through my personal mess stuff so that I regain some white space AND have less to do when it comes time to pack.

Remember, the trick isn’t to be perfect in your list-making, but to just plan something for the next 28 days (even if you plan a few break days in, based on your personal preference).

Without further ado, here is my list for February.

  • 1 – Top shelf of closet
  • 2 – Middle shelf
  • 3 – Lower Shelf
  • 4 – First Metal Drawer
  • 5 – Second Metal Drawer
  • 6 – Three wood drawers (Fast Forward Friday – Check IN)
  • 7 – Hanging Clothes
  • 8 – Printer Cabinet (2 shelves)
  • 9 – Printer Cabinet (other 2 shelves)
  • 10 – 2 bookshelves
  • 11 – 2 bookshelves
  • 12 – 2 bookshelves
  • 13 – 2 bookshelves (FRIDAY)
  • 14 – Fabric ❤
  • 15 – Other quilting and craft supplies
  • 16 – black ottoman
  • 17 – sewing table
  • 18 – kitchen table
  • 19 – files
  • 20 – files (FRIDAY)
  • 21 – music shelves
  • 22 – bedside table
  • 23 – ironing board
  • 24 – living room surfaces
  • 25 – catch-up; maintenance
  • 26 – catch-up; maintenance
  • 27 – FRIDAY

See you on Friday for our first check-in!  Hope you can join us!




A Free-Form February Challenge: Fast-Forward Fridays

The Challenge That Almost Wasn’t

Two Cats

Two Cats

OK, it’s late! It’s already January 31, and I’m going to issue a challenge that begins tomorrow, February 1. Most people will think I’m crazy (and they may be correct), but I have decided I can’t wait anymore to start something that needs doing in my life. And since misery loves company I want some accountability for myself, while also helping others take care of things they need to do in their lives, I thought I’d just go ahead and do it.

Not too much thinking. Not too much planning. Just jump in and see what happens. Are you worried? Don’t be! I didn’t even have time to consider an appropriate banner for the challenge, so why not a picture of “Two Cats.” After all, cats make almost everything better for some people. And while you’re smiling at the cats, you can forget that this is a challenge. Instead, just take a deep breath and chart your course for February!

Before We Start

Have you ever been overwhelmed? By things to do? By things that invade your environment? By your own reaction to such things?

Yeah, I thought I might be the only one.

OK, I’m going to put myself out there. I’ve been on and off with my blog — not because I don’t want to do it, but because I haven’t been disciplined enough to get away from the things that are taking up my time. I’m not making excuses. And I’m not asking anyone to argue the point. (Besides, you would lose.) This is definitely something I’ve done to myself by my inability (read unwillingness) to limit the commitments I make.

janfricoffeeSo I have three and a half weeks before my normal teaching schedule starts up. My days are packed with things to catch-up on because of said over-commitment. The cool thing is I get a lot done. The uncool thing is, it never ends, and it seems like I can never catch up. Then I give in to the feeling of being overwhelmed by the mountain of deadlines and projects. And the spiral gets rather frustrating. Sure, there are factors  beyond my control, but I really do create a no-win situation for myself.

This is not news, at least not to me or anyone else who has known me for more than ten minutes. But I’m not going to bore you with the sad story. Ask about it in the comments if you really want to know.  😉

So in the aforementioned 21 days, I have more to do than most people would schedule for 21 weeks. (Again–I take total responsibility  for this state of affairs.) However, in the midst of goal setting and intention making for the rest of the year, I can no longer continue to be overwhelmed. I need to take some action.

Fast-Forward Friday Challenge

That’s where my personal challenge comes in. I figured if I could take something that really was bothering me and just commit to doing a little piece of it each day for the 28 days of February, I would accomplish more than the sum of the tasks.  What I mean is, if I can get over the feeling of being overwhelmed in one area — especially one I find especially troublesome, I will end up moving forward on other ones, mainly because of my improved frame of mind and a bit of happy momentum.

I also knew that I would trip myself up and say, “Oh geez, I just got the idea, and it’s late on the 30th of January, and February is just a day away, and I haven’t given this much thought, and I certainly should get more organized about it before inviting other people to tag along.” But as some of those same people who know about my overcommitment could tell you, I have a tendency to sometimes think and plan to the point, where I never move to the next step.

Spontaneity is good. After all, what I’m proposing for myself isn’t much of a risk. Carrying out this challenge without worrying about planning and organizing first isn’t going to make it any less effective. But much like my journey with weight loss, it begins by moving — not just thinking about it.

Details & Imaginary Rules (such as they are):

  1. You can sign up at any time during the month of February with any project that you want to make into your own personal 28-day challenge. It helps to choose something that you really want to change, but that has eluded you for whatever reason. (You can see mine when I post it in a little while and link it to this post. I’ll give you a clue. I have as much trouble with physical space sometimes as I do with my schedule.)
  2. Joining this challenge doesn’t need to displace any of the other organizational challenges you’re doing, like ROW 80 or Building Rome. The way I see it, those are ongoing. And we’re not making a long-term commitment here. It’s 28 days. I can do it. You can, too.
  3. Make a list of 1-28 for the days in February. Take your large task, and break it down into doable segments that can be accomplished in an hour or less. Don’t worry about doing it in a necessarily logical order, just make the list without worrying too much about it. Just put the tasks that will help you feel like you’re making regular progress. Make day 28 a celebration day!
  4. Post your February Free-Form Challenge plan and schedule. Feel free to link to the this post, so we can cheer each other on.

THAT is the free-form portion.

Now, the fast-forward Friday part:

  1. Each Friday in February, I’ll post my update of how I’ve done to that point in the week. You can join in as well by updating and then linking up to share your progress. You can also visit other participants and encourage their efforts.
  2. If you like the idea of a challenge within a challenge, you can make it a game, and see if you can work a day or two ahead here and there. (OK, I admit in a situation like this, I get caught up in seeing how far ahead I can get.) If you are ahead of the “game” on Friday, you can take the day off or use the day to get even further ahead. This kind of  “fast-forwarding” can pay off in one of two ways:

A) You finish all your tasks early and can take the rest of the month off from the challenge.

B) You can take the remaining days in the month and make yourself a new challenge with tasks for remaining days, and go at it again.


Our last reporting day would be on February 27, and hopefully, we will all have great progress to celebrate on Saturday.

During the month, I will post some ideas, tips, and links that can help with goal-setting, intentions, follow-through, and perseverance. Let me know if you’re after any specific information.


I’m interested in seeing who wants to join in. If you’re interested, check out my post with my plan for the month, and then jump in.

Send questions in the comments below.

Happy February!


107 days to 60



If We Were Having Coffee: Semester Break Ahead

If we were having coffee, . .

enggment_photoI’d tell you that I got a lovely gift from my son, Doug, and my future daughter-in-law, Jessica. A photo album with a collection of their engagement photos. The photos are lovely, and I just keep smiling as I look at them. Their wedding will be in Florida in October of this year. And I’m so happy that I will be in the US not only to attend their wedding, but to be more connected with their lives (as with the lives of my other three children, their spouses, and my grandson, Mr. Logan). Thanks, Doug and Jessica, for the lovely gift, and for sharing your joy with us. Best wishes for continued love and joy throughout your marriage.

I’m also eager to spend time with my parents. While our Skype time is great, it will be wonderful to be in the same room again with all of them. I haven’t even been in the same country now in over 17 months.

7Speaking of Mr. Logan, I’d tell you that he will turn 4 years old on Friday. At the right, you can see him (with his father, Gabe) on the day he was born. The cliche is true: I can’t believe how fast it’s gone, but I think that it feels even faster because of  the limited time I’ve spent with him over the years. Taiwan is a long way away, and I’m happy that I will have the opportunity to live closer to him and to be more involved in his life once summer comes.

 I’d tell you that I’m in the process of grading mid-term exams as my last formal responsibility for the semester. The other project I need to complete this week is for the beginning of next semester. I need to finish reviewing and revising the teaching materials that I will use for the Japanese students who will visit from Tottori University in March.

japanese students 1Even though this is the third year that I’ve taught all of the writing classes for this program, I adjust my teaching materials each year depending on student response.I’d tell you that I had a new idea about how to present the writing process in a more visual way. So even though this is my third year of teaching the writing component of this intensive English program, I’m redesigning some of my teaching materials for the 28 hours of classes for this year’s visit from the Japanese students from Tottori University. Teaching 28 additional hours over a three week period is a bit overwhelming, but it goes so fast that I don’t have much time to think about it. I’m sure I’ll be giving you updates in future coffee gatherings.

Japanese students 2

I’d tell you that Dave and I had such an amazing breakfast date on Friday. When we got to our usual (not very often, but consistently chosen), the only available tables were on the “patio” in front. Normally, at this time of year, this would not be a prime spot. However, it was unseasonably warm that day. We initially took the outdoor table, hoping that maybe an indoor one would clear by the time our food was ready. But amazingly, besides being sunny, it was also warm enough to be very comfortable. Here is my yummy coffee.


A lot of these family-owned eateries are like this: closed in on three sides, with the fourth side open to the outside. Getting take-out food is common (as evidenced by the number of my students who arrive at early morning classes with their breakfasts). From where I’m sitting in front of my coffee, I can turn 90 degrees and get a picture of the kitchen area.

frijankitchAnd half-way between that angle and sitting directly in front of my cup, is this lovely scene. I should mention this is just around the other side of the block from our apartment.


 AND I would tell you that an article that I co-authored was published this week in the Journal of Studies in International Education. It came out at a perfect time, since it will look great on my CV while I apply for jobs in the US.


Finally, I’d tell you that it’s 120 days until 60 AND ~159 days until I land in the US!

THANKS to Diana for gathering everyone together this week.  🙂


If We Were Having Coffee: Happy 2015!

If we were having coffee,

coffeemeI’d tell you that it’s been four years since I had surgery to get my replacement knee. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. I remember that even on the day of surgery, I could feel the difference when I moved my leg. The only downside is that the surgery was done during my second year in Taiwan, before my husband had joined me, but there were so many wonderful friends and colleagues who helped get me through the hospitalization and recovery. So happy anniversary to my wonderful knee! Wishing you many more, dear knee! 🙂

I’d tell you I have set several intentions for the new year based on my vision for the new year.

I’d tell you that this is my first post of the new year. In fact, it’s the first post since November 21. But I’m making a comeback in a limited way. And one of those intentions is to reconnect with the blog world. But I’m going for regularity, not numbers. That means the plan is to write one blog post a week. If I do more than that, great, but I will do at least one post every week.  I’ll figure it out as I go, but no time like the present to start.

I’d also explain that here in Taiwan, our college semesters are significantly different than they are in the US. For starters, our weeks are 18 weeks long, instead of 15. And we start a bit later in September than most US colleges and universities. As a result, we’ve been teaching since September with only two holidays. Our semester break comes in time for the celebration of Chinese New Year. (There is talk that Christmas will be included in the holiday calendar next year.)

Now that you know that information, I’d tell you that final exams are this coming week. And then the grading, and then our semester break. Yeah, it sounds great to have a month off, but don’t forget I taught on Christmas Eve day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve. (We did get New Year’s Day.)  I have to admit though, that although I dislike an 18 week semester — everyone gets so worn out, I do like the break at this “unorthodox” time. I feel like it’s more of a break than just being off to engage in lots of holiday hoopla. The Chinese New Year still has a lot of newness to it for us.

I’d tell you that, barring anything unforeseen, the textbook project is over! The relief is amazing. It will be even more amazing when all the ink is dry, and the books are in the students’ hands. My stress level has gone done dramatically.

I’d tell you that I have a big list of loose ends I want to tie up over break, especially things that had to be put on the back burner as I finished the textbook. But it feels good to feel like I will have some time and space to make some real progress.

I’d tell you that I’ve started peeking at a few blogs, starting to read. Not a lot of comments yet, but I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the great people I’ve met here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’d tell you that it’s official. David and I (and our wonderful Puppy) will be heading back to the US in July of this year. This is my sixth year of teaching in Taiwan, and while I have loved almost everything about it, it’s time to go home.

I’d tell you that the next six months are going to be a bit of a whirlwind, as I complete things here in Taiwan and anticipate the move back. But it’s exciting, another phase in our lives. I will especially love being to grandparent at a closer range. Hey, Logan! Grandma’s coming!

I’d tell you that it feels good to write this post. I look forward to next week. 🙂

I’d tell you the days are moving by, and there are only 127 days to 60.

Thanks to Diana for gathering everyone together this week.  🙂  https://parttimemonster.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/if-we-were-having-coffee-the-inaugural-weekend-coffee-share/