Saturday, October 3, 2015

Saturday Special: Letting it Go, One Category at a Time

Photo: Godserv via Morguefile
Do you have too much stuff? I know I do. Even when we get inspired to downsize, it's sometimes hard to know just where to start.

Family Circle to the rescue! Diana Reese's fabulously visual 18 Things You Can Get Rid of Right Now offers starting points gentle enough to appeal to even those with an I love stuff style. Items are listed by category, and the article is almost completely devoid of the "throw it away!" mentality so painful to many of us who long to de-clutter. Instead, Reese focuses on gentler ways to let go, such as passing your castaways along to someone who'll love and appreciate them. Some of the tips even come with videos to give you organization tips.

If the posts from the past few weeks have you in a project mindset, this article can help you keep up the momentum. If you've been looking for a starting point, you might find that here, too. Every time I scroll through the pictures, I think, "I can do that!"

So go ahead -- take a peek. You've got nothing to lose except a little bit of clutter.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Feature: Is it What we Eat or When we Eat?

Photo: MaxStraeten via Morguefile
Some of my fondest college memories are of late night Bison (snack bar) runs with friends after rehearsing for a show. Back then, I could drink a Diet Coke and go to bed (and to sleep) immediately thereafter. I could also eat at 11pm or later without my body seeking revenge.

Although I knew even back then that those habits weren't good ones, I was young enough to be protected by the magical workings of a twenty-something digestive tract. Now, a bad choice at dinner or simply a dinner that's a little too late in the day reminds me I'm not twenty-something any more. Although I'm not yet ready for a steady diet of early bird specials, late night eating is not my friend.

As it turns out, I'm not alone, and it's not just my age talking. Studies are showing that late-night eating may contribute to the weight issues that plague many Americans. This article from Smithsonian Magazine left me seriously considering the eight to eleven hours idea, and assessing my own eating hours.

Though I know my late night snack bar runs are behind me, I can't help but be intrigued by the idea that something so simple could make a difference.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

3 Things You'll Find in My Car...But Not My Husband's

Photo: Cohdra via Morguefile
The other night, my husband and I went to Sam's Club as part of a series of errands we were running. I'm not a big fan of Sam's Club, so I begged off and stayed in the car (something he does at other stores, in case you're feeling sorry for him). Within five minutes, my phone battery died, leaving me entertainment-less.

Admittedly, this was a situation of my own making -- I was the one who didn't charge her phone and I was the one who chose to stay in the car -- so please understand I'm not looking for sympathy. There were, however, other things I was looking for -- things I'd find in my car on any given day -- things that were nowhere to be found in my husband's car.

  • Paper and a writing implement. In my car, there are several notepads of various sizes, along with a choice of writing implements, including a highlighter. Then again, I'm a writer.
  • Tissues or napkins (I have both). In my car, napkins and tissues take up approximately one third of the glove compartment. Then again, I have allergies year-round.
  • A blanket. A small, fleece blanket is a staple in the back seat of my car. Then again, right now it's in the wash because we used it to sit on when we had lunch at the food trucks....and couldn't find anything to sit on in his car.
  • An umbrella. Okay, this I'm pretty sure he does have. Then again, I think it's because I gave him a hard time about not having one the last time we got soaked.
Okay, maybe I really only needed the first one. And maybe his car's a lot neater than mine because his doesn't have all this stuff in it. But not being able to find the first one led me to...well, this blog. I ended up writing (notes for this blog) on an outdated coupon flyer (I had a pen in my wallet).

It's a good thing one of us believes in being prepared.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Good Intentions, Poor Execution
Last week, my daughter's school sent out a mass email informing parents that we'd reached the midpoint of the marking period. I'll be the first to admit that this sort of reminder is one I both need and appreciate, as time seems to be flying by this fall.

What I appreciated less, however, was the tone of the rest of the email. Essentially, I was informed that I should be checking on my child's grades and initiating a conversation with her about her "current levels of performance...and to consider how to maintain and/or strengthen all grades." Once again, this was a mass email, sent to every parent with a child in the high school.

My child will be eighteen in less than two months. In less than a year, she'll be a college freshman, where I can promise you that any and all efforts on my part to be a helicopter parent will be, shall we say, discouraged. If I've been doing my job correctly, I should be discussing her school life with her on a regular basis, not stalking her electronically in an effort " consider how to maintain and/or strengthen all grades."

I can think of very few things my independent (and honor-roll) daughter would like less than the very things her school is telling me I should be doing as a "conscientious" parent. And as a parent whose goal has been to raise an independent child who is intrinsically motivated and doesn't need her parents nagging her about her grades, I resent the implication that I'm not a conscientious parent if I don't stalk my daughter's GPA just because I can.

I know that their intentions are good; but we all know what's paved with good intentions. I know that I'm incredibly blessed to have a child who's intrinsically motivated and doesn't need me to avail myself of the ubiquitous electronic means provided by her school to check up on her. I also know I'm not doing a very good job as a parent if that's the only way I can find out what's going on in my daughter's life -- academic or otherwise.

Photo: Clarita via Morguefile
Once I got over my initial vexation (the aftereffects of which I'm clearly still working through), I realized that what's at work here is the evil duo of paperlessness and standardized testing, whose offspring is none other than helicopter parenting. In the old days, we got notes and phone calls from teachers when our kids needed help; no news was good news. Kids' grades belonged to the kids and teacher salaries and school district reputations didn't rise and fall on parental involvement in said grades. And parents raised kids to step out on their own and face the world equipped to do so. Sure, they hovered in the wings, where kids knew they were if they needed them, but most self-respecting young adults didn't want their parents fighting their battles for them.

And my goal from the very beginning has been to raise exactly that kind of young adult. Through a combination of persistence, blood, sweat, tears and miracles, we've managed to do something resembling exactly that. And that is what conscientious parents do.

So the next time the high school sends me an email like the one I got last week, I'm hoping it comes with an unsubscribe option. If it doesn't, I'll need to conscientiously utilize my delete key.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturday Special: Tackling Fall

Photo: NovemberRaindrop via Morguefile
How'd you do with last week's projects? Tackle anything interesting?

Now that it's officially fall -- my favorite season -- I thought I'd follow up on last week's post with a similar list suited to fall. Like last week's projects, these 10 Simple Tips for Fall Home Organization also come from the folks at Organized Living. and they're a way to get on top of things before the cooler weather really kicks in (if you live in my neck of the woods, anyway, where I'm still wearing sandals).

And if you're really lucky, maybe you can check a few of these off before the Christmas decorations pop up in your favorite retail establishment.

But you may be cutting it close.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Feature: FOCUS

Photo: clconroy via Morguefile
Are you one of those amazing people who sits down to begin a task and keeps at it until it's finished? Do you manage to get from start to finish without any interruptions or distractions?

Then this week's article isn't for you.

But if you, like the rest of us, find that your path from Point A to Point B is more often jagged than linear, you might want to check out Next Avenue's 8 Ways to Beat Work Distractions and Be More Productive. A compilation of ideas from a workshop by Sam Horn and Danielle Faust, the piece offers tips on conquering work woes from persistence to procrastination.

I have only one complaint: I wish the article wasn't so prominently peppered with links to other relevant articles. Good for the web site and bad for the distractible reader -- which is actually kind of ironic.

I had to read the Jerry Seinfeld link. How about you?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

3 Kinds of Perfectionism

When I retired, one of the things I set out to do was to take this blog more seriously. My first step in that direction was to establish a regular posting schedule, something I accomplished with a reasonable degree of success.

Until this fall.

This fall, I'm on campus every day, and teaching more classes than ever before, which is a good thing. I think.

One of the classes is brand new, and I'm building it from scratch as I go. I have a blueprint, but I also want the content to be responsive to my students' needs, and fortunately, it's the kind of class that lends itself to that sort of thing. I'm having fun, but my discretionary time is disappearing fast.

Oh, and I'm trying to finish the final edits on a novel that I want to get out next month.

For some reason, I deluded myself into thinking this would not affect my posting schedule.

So far, in typical perfectionistic style, my strategy has been to run myself ragged, become horribly grouchy and beat myself up for posting later in the day. As you can probably imagine, that hasn't been terribly productive.

It wasn't until I set out to write today's post about perfectionism that I realized how ridiculous I was being. As it turns out, I was engaging in two of the three kinds of perfectionism described by Dr. Gordon Flett, who's done quite a bit of research on these things.

See for yourself:
  • Self-oriented perfectionists are hard on themselves, expecting not only maximum effort from themselves, but also to hit the target every time. Down time and unreached goals are not an option.
  • Other-oriented perfectionists impose unrealistic standards on other people. 
  • Socially prescribed perfectionists feel the pressure to be perfect, but it's not self-imposed. Instead, they think that others expect them to be perfect, and they behave accordingly.
Just two weeks ago, I shared these with my students, encouraging them to focus not on perfectionism, but instead on conscientiousness. Once again, I'm lousy at taking my own advice, something I commiserated over with a barista-friend at Starbucks earlier this week.

But I digress. Which, in this case, is actually the point.

It's time to digress. To get off this path. To recognize that posting on Wednesday is posting on Wednesday, whether it's midnight or 11:59 PM. To realize that most of you don't care when I post, and to let those of you who do care know that life happens and I'm doing my best.

To admit...that I'm...not...perfect.

Yeah, I knew that already, and you probably did, too. So it's time to walk the walk.

Photo: Taliesin via Morguefile
So, here's the deal. I'm giving up both A and C above (the self-oriented and socially prescribed versions of this poison), and I have no intention of taking on B. I plan to show up here every Wednesday, though I can make no promises about what time that might be. I hope you'll still stop by and see what I have to say, perhaps a little later in the day than before, or maybe even later in the week. I'm not ready to give up my posts, and I hope you're not either. 

In any event, thanks for reading. And if you, like me, are plagued with A, B and/or C, maybe think about digressing a little yourself.

I hear it's good for your health.