This project is seriously eating into my language learning time. Before I started this project, I was routinely getting $2 and $3 easily. Now it’s like pulling teeth to get more than my average daily amount (currently $1.32) so that I don’t lose ground. And I’m definitely not going to make it for today — it’s 11:51 pm and I’m only at $1.30.

On the other hand, doing this project is going to give me 20-something new blog posts, so that will advance this part of my future as a self-employed something-or-other.

Speaking of which, I had something of a setback recently. I know that if I want to reach my goal, I’ll need to start investing in the stock market. So, to that end, I finally saved up the money and then the stock market dropped. I watched my stock for a couple of days and once it started going back up again, I figured I’d better get in while it was still low. And then it dropped farther. And farther. Fortunately, I’m investing and not speculating, so I’m just going to wait this out and figure that it’ll turn around someday. And if it drops another $50 or so I might go ahead and buy my second share now and then work to pay myself back for it.

Notice the words “20-something” up there. The 9:56 to 10:55:59 hour was spent in Union Station. The dancers really didn’t explore around the station much, so I’m probably going to lump that hour in with either the 8:56 to 9:55:59 hour or with the 10:56 to 11:55:59 hour, which means that I will have, at most, 23 posts.

I started my next post on our trip to California and was suddenly all, “Crap. Should I do this chronologically or leave the latest update on our quest to reach the Griffith Observatory for the end of the post?” And I stopped there.

So instead of doing that, I’ll do this.*

My 16-year-old dog and 17-year-old cat are perking along, more or less. It’s expensive to keep animals this age going and that’s really eaten into my travel budget because my travel budget comes out of my allowance. I pay myself an allowance, and any money I have left in that budget at the end of the month used to go towards travel. Now half goes to vet bills and half goes to travel, which is nearly $1,000 that I’m short for my 2018 trip.

We’re going to end up doing the trip I outlined back in August driving into New Mexico for a couple of days, except even more scaled-back. We go to at least one branch of the National Park Service every year, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park is only about seven hours away by car. So that’s our first day in New Mexico. Our second day, we’ll visit White Sands National Monument and spend the night in Las Cruces. Then we’ll drive north up towards Taos. One of my friends has a hotel that she recommends up by Santa Fe, so we’ll probably stop there for the night. The Wild Earth Llama Adventures people recommend staying in Taos for a couple of days to get acclimated to the elevation before the camping trip. We don’t have the money for that, plus the camping trip would be $800+ for the two of us. I’m going to call the Wild Earth people and ask about their llama day trips. If they’re less strenuous and we could do it in a one-day Taos stop, I’ll shell out the $250 for us to do that. If not, we’ll just knock around Santa Fe and Taos for a day. Then our final day in New Mexico, I would like to drive into Colorado just to do it, because at this point, Colorado will be a lone unvisited island in the center of Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. In other words, I’ll’ve been to all of the states that surround Colorado, but never actually to Colorado itself. If not, well, we’ll do a Colorado trip some other time.  Our final stop will be Capulin Volcano National Monument (which will take care of our every-even-numbered-year volcano), and then we’ll head for home, stopping for the night in, probably, Lubbock.

I’ve passed the $500 mark on paying myself for my language studies, and with the final $200-ish, I’ve purchased my first share of stock. I was ready just as the bottom dropped out of the market this last couple of weeks, but it looked like that stock was about to rebound, so I bought. And then the price dropped farther. It doesn’t matter, though. I’m an investor, not a speculator, so just so long as I hold my current position, I should come out plenty of money ahead in the long run.

I want to go back to tutoring foreign languages this year (I was my junior college’s Spanish and German tutor back in the day) and get more experience so that I can get closer to my goal, which is to be able to work translating children’s books out of any of my assorted target languages into English. The money from that will be put in with the money I’m paying myself to study and all of that will go towards what I guess I’d call my “stretch goal,” which is to get a graduate degree in a modern language. By my calculations I only have $15,500 to go.

*I will get back to California eventually. Hopefully in the next day or two. Probably.

So, I didn’t take that new job after all. The only reason I felt able to take it is that I would stay on in my current job part time. But I had too many questions. It was only a 95% chance that they’d keep me on permanently. Another listing for a similar job said that a raise was possible, when it was basically promised to me, and the recruiter said that I would only be temp for three months until my boss pointed out that my prospective employer is known to keep people temp for six months or even more. When I asked the recruiter, he admitted that sometimes it does end up being more than three months. But, he added just a little too quickly, sometimes it’s less.

The entire thing made me feel sick, and if it didn’t work out, or wasn’t what I was expecting (like there was no raise, or the raise wasn’t what I was hoping), I would end up part time. Again. I’d been part time for five years before I finally became full time and, well, I turned down the job.

I’m still working on my foreign language skills. I finished my first year on the 15th (meaning that I’m starting on my second year as of today). I haven’t missed a day of study and have paid myself over $400 in that time. I’m hoping to start investing the money on the stock market sometime in 2018, which should bring me closer to my goal a bit faster.

I don’t know if I’ve posted this here or not, but I really should have majored in modern languages rather than elementary education.* Things would be so much easier now if I had. I could have been working as a translator back when I was first working and could have kept my hand in while raising my son. When I found myself single in 2008, I would have been employed all the way through and could have gotten work right away. So, I’m going to fix that oversight. I’m saving up to get a graduate degree (because there’s no point in getting another undergraduate degree) in modern languages. Which language? I’m not sure. I’m going to study all of my languages and see (a) which ones I’m more comfortable with, (b) which ones I can get the most work in**, and (c) which are available at whatever public university they have in whatever city I’m living in at that time. Hopefully, the same language will be in all three columns and that will make my decision there.

I’m almost done with Rosetta Stone Vietnamese and am going to apply for Rosetta Stone Italian and see if I can build on the Italian I learned before our 2014 trip.

*Why didn’t I major in modern languages? Thomas and I were in a long-distance relationship. We only saw each other every three weeks and phone conversations were sporadic at best. To get that degree, or even just to be competitive once I graduated, I would have to have studied overseas at some point. I didn’t want to be in a completely different country from him for 16 whole weeks, so I chose to major in something that basically everyone else in my family has done. Turns out that was a bad fit, so I ended up becoming a paralegal.

**I’m not just going to study to make this money. My plan is to see if I can get an actual part-time job as a foreign language tutor at one or more of the local colleges or universities for mornings or weekends or whatever I can work out around my day job. I was my junior college’s Spanish and German tutor back in the day, so I have experience and that was part time as well, so there’s that. And once I’ve been doing that for a while, I may venture out as an independent contractor and see if I can make a bit more that way. Eventually I want to hang my shingle up as a translator. If all goes well, I’ll be able to do that for enough money to make a living wage even if I do stay as a retail pharmacy technician for the long haul. Half of my part-time job income and one-quarter of my independent-contractor income will also go into my graduate school fund. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to get that degree before I reach retirement age.

I hit my third hundred dollars the other day and I’m thinking of putting this one on the stock market. I’ve considered buying a share of Disney stock, maybe, or perhaps putting the money into some kind of mutual fund (most of the money I’ve invested in the stock market is in electronically traded funds and they’re doing pretty good). Maybe I’ll just put this one into a CD as well and buy myself another three or so months before I have to make any decisions.

At any rate, getting that degree in modern languages that I want will cost me about $16,000 and so I only have $15,700 to go. And by that time I may not actually need the degree. I’ll still get it, though, because I’m into collecting pieces of paper with my name on it issued by colleges and universities (I’ve got four already).

Next up is a bit on my history with going to California — how I went there for the first time, my impressions both before and after that trip, etc. I’ve got a bit of a headcold, though, so I may need some time to recover from that before tackling this.

Well, ultimately, Corpus Christi got off easy. Houston, Port Arthur, and Beaumont, on the other hand, not so much. A lot of charities are collecting stuff for refugees and my pharmacy has filled a bunch of emergency prescriptions for patients who left their medications behind (in a lot of cases, the scripts were ready in the now-flooded area of Texas but hadn’t been picked up yet). We have a “floater” pharmacist on many Thursdays and every Friday and our floater today was amazed at how many emergency prescriptions we’d filled.

Today’s panic was about gasoline supplies. Apparently the trucks with the gasoline for San Antonio are delayed by the flooding. We’ve been assured that there is gas available, it just will take about a week to get here. So now everyone needs gas right now and so the stores that had gas are sold out. Personally, I have about a month’s supply in my tank right now (I don’t drive much — in fact, I mostly end up needing new tires because the rubber degrades from lack of use), and if it takes much longer than a week, I can always take the bus to work on days when I start or end early enough (it’ll add about an hour to my commute time total on a daily basis, but it’ll save gasoline).

I’ve got Alex working on finding old clothes of his that we can donate to the cause. One of my coworkers was collecting clothing and things, but we couldn’t find the clothing in time. I hope that he’ll find it tomorrow and I can take it out on Saturday. Maybe I’ll ask my coworker where to drop them off in her name. . . .

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted about my project where I’m paying myself to study foreign languages. My goal is to get good enough at one of them (I’m really pulling for that to be Chinese) that I can go right to graduate school in the language once I’ve paid myself the thousands of dollars that I would need to pay the tuition and fees. By then I’ll probably be a retiree, but it’s something to shoot for. For reference, so far, including interest (which will go up tomorrow), I’ve paid myself $289.57 in 289 days. So we’re looking at just a titch over $1 per day. The, oh, $16,000 or so it’ll take me to pay for an MA in Chinese will take me about 43 years. I may have to step it up a bit.

Of course, by the time I can afford the degree I may not actually need the degree, except as a piece of paper to prove that I really do know how to do what I’ll probably have been able to do for 20-some years by then. Or maybe even longer if, you know, I step it up a bit.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got Chinese to study.

So here’s a short post, just to keep my hand in.

I think that my next language is going to be Russian. I have two friends who speak Russian and one might be forgiven for thinking, “She has built-in conversation partners if she goes with Russian,” but that’s not the actual reason.

Also, Russian is the eighth-most-spoken language in the world, so Russian would give me the ability to converse with, or read books written by, another 160 million people (on top of the 1.9 billion that I already have covered with my first five languages). But that’s not the reason, either, really.

I really would love to go to St. Petersburg someday. The chocolate Lenins are supposedly really good. But that’s not it, either.

My maternal great-grandmother spoke five languages, one of which was Russian. And having that in common with her would be kind of cool, but I already speak two of her five languages — English and German.

Nope. I want to learn to speak Russian because I have only two official languages of the United Nations to go, and I really don’t feel up to tackling Arabic yet. I know there’s technically one more, but  I’m putting French off for my very, very last language; the first two times I attempted it, tragedy followed, so I figure I’ll leave it for a point where I’ve achieved everything else I want in my life.

I really don’t know if I’m getting any better at all at this, but I’m putting a pretty decent amount of money aside this way.

So far, I’m up to Duolingo levels: 15 in Spanish, 13 in Italian, and 11 in German. And in 16 more points, I’ll be at level 12 in German (so tomorrow night, probably).

In Rosetta Stone Vietnamese, I’m just a little more than halfway done with the whole course. Halfway is the end of Unit 2 of Level 2 and I’m about halfway done with Unit 3 of Level 2. It took me six months to make it this far, but I haven’t hit the wall yet, which surprises the heck out of me.

In Rosetta Stone Mandarin, I’m at the Milestone for Level 1 Unit 3. I’m trying to keep Mandarin quite a ways behind my progress in Vietnamese because I’m afraid of getting the two languages confused. I’m pretty sure that I won’t, because I’ve been working on my Mandarin for nearly 10 years now, but the languages have some commonalities. Both languages have “measure words,” for example, which go before countable nouns. Like in Mandarin, “a dog” is “yī zhǐ gǒu.” The “zhǐ” is the measure word. In Vietnamese, “a dog” is “một con chó” and the “con” is the measure word. As a result, the structure of the courses are pretty similar.

Finishing both Rosetta Stone courses should bring me somewhere in the Bs of the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). I’ve heard that a three-level Rosetta Stone course takes you to the end of B1 and that it takes you to the end of B2. One thing said that it only takes you to the beginning of B1, but whichever way you slice it, I should have made or at least be ready to make the leap from Basic to Independent User stage.

I bought El Leon, la Bruja y el Ropero (the Spanish-language translation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) as an ebook from, and while on a road trip yesterday, I made it through 22% of the book.  Since that’s a 200-page book (give or take), that 22% was 44 pages, so I paid myself 44 cents. I also found a translation error. The room that contains the wardrobe is empty except for the wardrobe and a dead bluebottle on the windowsill. The translator made bluebottle into “botella azul,” which is a blue bottle. A bluebottle is a kind of fly.

And I spoke Mandarin to a patient today. I only gave her the amount of her change in Mandarin, and it took her a few moments to assimilate the fact that the pharmacy technician had just spoken Mandarin to her, but I did it. And someday, I might actually be comfortable with this. I’ve already made that leap in Spanish at work. Now, will I ever get my courage up enough to speak Vietnamese to my Vietnamese patients?

I’ve tried a new-to-me site called Language Zen, and it has me pulling my hair out. Almost literally. You can only study for 15 minutes then you have to stop for three hours unless you want to pay money, and every time I go to the site, I have hundreds and hundreds of words to work on (right now, I have “less (sic) than 580”) and I get the same damn questions every time. I fully accept that las noticias apenas duran unos segundos. I really do. Stop asking me. Part of why I have so many words and keep getting the same questions may be because I don’t spend much time there. But I don’t find it particularly rewarding. I’ve been doing the questions in another tab while writing this, and I now have “less than 575 words” to practice. I need to give myself a whole lot more than 30 cents (which is my current top payment, for a Rosetta Stone core lesson) to make me come back to that site more often than I have to.

So far, I’ve saved up more than $180 from this project and been paid a whole $0.64 in interest. I’m not going to make my fortune at this this way, but just maybe the profit motive will be enough to keep me going until I can turn this into a skill that I can get paid a decent amount for and I’ll make my fortune that way.

Sorry about the delay in posting. I’ve been opening that post on Stone Mountain and staring at it on a fairly regular basis, but I’m still not quite sure what to say. I think I’ll probably end up winging it.

In other news, my mouth finally doesn’t hurt (I had a little discomfort on the other side the other night and was all, “Oh, no. Not again!” but I have felt fine since then). I’m still waiting to see what, if anything, my insurance will pay for.

It looks like the Witte Museum is finally done. Alex and I went there today and I took lots of pictures. Expect an updated post on that soon-ish.

And I’ve passed the $100 mark on paying myself to study my foreign languages. I’ve actually passed the $125 mark and am heading for $130. It’s not enough to consider myself rich, yet, but I’ll get there. Eventually. Maybe.

Well, back to staring at that post some more . . . .

I was about a hundred words into my next My Travel Memories post (on Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta) when I, well, let’s start at the beginning.

In July of 2016, I had pain in one of my molars (#19, for those who care about such things). I had just gotten dental insurance for the first time since 2009 but I didn’t have a relationship with a dentist yet. After this, I got a dentist. She x-rayed the tooth and didn’t see any kind of infection or anything like that, so she decided that it was probably referred pain from tension in the masseter.  She recommended that I take 800 mg of ibuprofen and see if that helped. It did.

Fast forward to his past Saturday (February 18). I was eating apples and almonds for lunch when the pain came back. This time, though, the ibuprofen didn’t help. Sunday night the pain interfered with my sleep.

So I called my dentist to see if she could fit me in for a quick exam. There still wasn’t any sign of an infection, so she concluded that I probably have a cracked tooth and gave me a prescription for painkillers and the phone number of an endodontist so that he can pull off the crown on that tooth and examine the tooth for cracks. She also gave me a prescription for antibiotics, because sometimes a crack can have bacteria in it and the bacteria can cause pain. I discussed it with one of my pharmacists because I didn’t want to take it if I didn’t need to.

The next appointment they had was a full week later. So I got more painkillers and, when on Wednesday night the pain spread up to my ear and was just excruciating. I decided that perhaps the time had come to fill that antibiotic prescription. I took my first antibiotic on Wednesday night and by Thursday morning I was feeling 500% better.

Then I noticed a small swollen area on my gum on that side. So apparently there were bacteria in there, but not enough to show up as an abscess on the x-ray.

I’m feeling much better now, so hopefully I can go back and finish that blog post.  I haven’t decided if I am going to leave those first hundred or so words, or if I’ll rewrite it. Let’s see what it looks like when I tackle it tomorrow.

As an aside, in my paying myself to study foreign languages project, I hit the $100 mark this week. I’m going to add that money to the next CD that I purchase, so that I can continue keeping track of my income from this project. If I were to put it on the stock market it wouldn’t increase at an easy-to-track pace.

No, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. But I’ve been really exhausted after work and have been using the energy that I do have on my language-learning project (maybe I’ll start a topic for that . . .), so I haven’t had the time or energy to spend on reading magazines. Except for Vanity Fair, because I am one of that magazine’s tens of thousands of new subscribers. I’m considering subscribing to Teen Vogue, as well, for their political reporting. There’s apparently also a project going where people are subscribing Republican politicians to Teen Vogue as well (a subscription is only $5 per year).

As for the language-learning project, as of yesterday I have hit the $90 mark, and as of today I’ve finished Level 1 of Rosetta Stone Vietnamese. As far as Spanish goes, I’m apparently somewhere in the midst of heading towards CEFR* Level B1. B1 is a high intermediate/low advanced level, so I can live with that, I think (for now, at least). The only thing stopping me from being at a higher level is vocabulary, so I’m considering adding vocabulary flash cards to my regimen. One of the things that bugs me about Duolingo is that the gold circles (indicating that you’ve completed that exercise) stop being gold after a while (as a prompt to make you practice more). I wish Duolingo would let me specify that I use Spanish nearly daily in my job, so that the circles take longer to stop being gold. Having to do the same lessons over and over because Duolingo assumes that I don’t use the language enough to keep the vocabulary fresh can be kind of frustrating.

I’ve also discovered a new tool, Language Zen, which I’m trying out. So far they only have Spanish for English speakers (and their second plan is for English for Spanish speakers), but if the site takes off, they’ll be adding more languages later. It’s a little translation-heavy (they give you sentences in English and you have to write the Spanish for them), which doesn’t do so much to prepare you to speak the language, but it’s hopefully going to broaden my vocabulary.  There’s an odd “less than (number) words need practice” thing in the corner that I haven’t quite been able to figure out yet. I had 60 words at one time, then worked my way down to ten, and now I’m at 255. I can’t wait to figure out what that means. As I worked on this post, I was working on that site and I’m down to 245. Still don’t know 245 words until what, exactly.

There’s also been a change in plans for our bigger 2017 trip. Alex has a friend in California that he wants to meet in person, so we’re going to be going to Southern California for the week. I have been there four times before (and Alex went once as a baby), but, again, the now-ex (who still doesn’t have a pseudonym) has most of our photos from those trips. So I’ll be taking new pictures of those places to replace the ones that I no longer have. I also hope to make it to a few new places (the Queen Mary and Catalina Island, specifically).

*Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.