Year of No. I have a slight (?!) tendency to overcommit and, while I think it's pretty deeply ingrained and not entirely undesirable, as I moved from 2017 into 2018, I felt a need to be more strategic in the commitments I made.
Though those around me would disagree, I think I'm making progress. I still say "yes" to too many things, but I do so thoughtfully and, as a result, I've reduced my knee-jerk yeses dramatically. If I take something on these days, I do so only after careful consideration -- most of the time, anyway.
Last week, I came across an article I wish I'd seen earlier in the year, one that, like my own resolution, took some of its inspiration from Shonda Rhimes' book, The Year of Yes. In "Ask Yourself These Questions Before You say 'Yes' or 'No' to Anything," Lisa Evans examines good reasons to say no and good reasons to say yes. While I wasn't nearly that methodical in my approach, I absolutely identified with one of her points, which was at the heart of my personal Year of No: "Yes" people need to beware of losing sight of their goals.
Are you a "yes" person or a "no" person? Either way, Evans' article is worth a read.
Friday, September 21, 2018
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
|One possible version of Bets|
This whole concept got me to thinking about my characters. If each of them had to choose one outfit as a signature look, what would it be?
Charli was the easiest -- jeans and a white tee shirt. The jeans would be comfy and faded and, in keeping with both comfort and fashion, would probably be ripped as well. Depending on her destination, the tee shirt could be slouchy or fitted, the look finished off with sneakers, flats or sandals.
Dark-haired Marita would go with something black -- black pants or black jeans -- and would top it off with something animal print, much as we first saw her in Casting the First Stone. Just as in that first scene, the animal print would be her pop of color, and she'd layer a black silky jacket or cardigan over the top, finishing the look with black boots, strappy black sandals or black stilettos, depending on the season and her destination.
Angel would, of course, be Marita's polar opposite fashion-wise. She'd go with something soft and feminine -- a casual dress in a pastel like pink or lilac, or maybe with flowers -- with a pair of flats or maybe a wedge if she wanted to be more dressed up.
And Bets? She'd refuse to be tied to just one outfit. Her signature? Drama. And the prerogative to change both her mind and her outfit.
Come to think of it, it's been a while since I visited my Casting the First Stone Pinterest board. I think it might be time to add some new outfits to it.
Monday, September 17, 2018
|Did I mention my house key is in a flip flop print?|
(Photo: Home Depot)
Possessions can be revealing, too, both in novels and in real life. This afternoon, as I was waiting in my car for a family member to return, I took a good look at this item I pick up at least twice a day. Some of its contents aren't mysterious at all. Keys to the important places in my world -- my house, my car, my shared office at work. A "Leah" charm with a pigtailed little girl on it, and another imprinted with Bucknell University, both of which have been on my key ring for so long I forgot they were there.
Others go beyond face value. The bright pink "Jersey Girl" ribbon that comes in so handy for plucking my keys out of the depths of whatever bag I'm using isn't just about being able to take the girl out of Jersey, but not taking the Jersey out of the girl. I bought it on one of our first trips to take my daughter to college in Connecticut, and every time I see it, it reminds me of that trip and, by extension, my daughter.
The pale, nubby starfish hanging from my key ring brings back memories of another trip -- the one and only cruise we took. I no longer remember which Del Sol, or even which Caribbean island, for that matter, I bought it in, but every time the sunlight hits it and it turns purple, I remember not only the trip, but also the tough days in which that magically purple piece of plastic made me smile and, for just a moment, picture being back on a Caribbean island.
Finally, there's the Miraculous Medal that I added to my key ring when my mom was sick. I was driving back and forth between Pennsylvania and New Jersey pretty often, and I got in the habit of tucking a Miraculous Medal into my pocket when I traveled. For a while, my mom wore one around her neck as well and, when this one showed up in the mail, I wasted no time adding it to my key ring collection. It brought me hope and comfort in a time where both were in short supply; perhaps that's why it has lingered on my key ring.
One thing's for sure: my key ring would be lighter and less bulky without all these extras. Then again, it would have a lot less character.
Which of your possessions tells a little too much about you?
Friday, September 14, 2018
Given the amount of information available to us, either by choice or seemingly floating freely, it's almost inevitable that we become overloaded from time to time, if not on a daily basis. More and more, research tells us that multitasking is not the answer; in fact, rather than helping us get more done, multitasking makes our brains work harder because we toggle between tasks.
In her article in Fast Company, Lisa Evans offers four low-tech, common-sense solutions to managing information overload. (Spoiler alert: one is to avoid multitasking). In addition to keeping the flow flowing, these strategies have other, broader payoffs as well.
How do you manage the constant, insistent flow of information?
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
When I retired, I took my show on the road, and discovered that adults enjoyed the silly names and styles-based approach as much as the kids did. It injected a sense of humor into a process that could be fraught with self-recrimination as we struggled to do something that seemed to come so easily to everyone else.
And I do mean we. From the very beginning, I was in on this process. My students knew what my desk looked like (the opposite of clean and clear, thankyouverymuch) and they knew I was in this with them. I wasn't preaching the same old-same old; I was in the trenches with them, turning my I need to see it/drop and run styles into a system that made it possible for me to find what I needed when I needed it.
As an educator, I knew instinctively that balancing strengths and needs was key, but it wasn't until I started teaching positive psychology and exploring character strengths that I realized there was a whole field devoted to coming at things from our strengths. Discovering there was research behind what I'd been doing all along was the final puzzle piece, one that legitimized this instinctive process for me, the psychology instructor.
It was pretty early in this process that I thought Organizing by STYLE might make a good book, but it wasn't until after I retired that I started blogging regularly about it. Even then, I couldn't quite find my way in -- a way that made sense beyond a succession of blog posts.
Then last spring, with the help of Sarah Reinhard at Our Sunday Visitor, I began shaping these ideas and lessons and blog posts into a book. I signed a contract and got down to the hard work of turning my dream into something tangible.
Last week, I got an email from my editor telling me that my not-quite-a-book-yet had a name. Know Thyself: The (Im)Perfectionist's Guide to Sorting Your Stuff is due out next spring.
Know Thyself will be my fifth book, tipping the non-fiction to fiction ratio back in favor of the non-fiction realm in which I started. I'm pretty sure Marita and Bets will have something to say about that, though, and will insist on tipping the scales back to even, if not in their favor (eventually).
Meanwhile, I'm left pondering a question that I'm surprised never occurred to me before. Which of the personal and organizational styles fits each of my characters?
If you've got an opinion on that subject, feel free to comment below. I promise I'll read them all as soon as I float back down to earth.
Friday, September 7, 2018
At least I hope that’s the message I sent.
Fast forward to last week when I came across this article in Quartz. I came away with the notion that nomenclature itself (work-life balance), it seems, is part of the problem. In a balancing act, we are sometimes perfectly balanced, but often a bit off-kilter, trying to align everything just so — perfectly, if you will.
And that is how life goes. Being off-balance doesn’t make us failed and miserable. It makes us human.
I came away from the article preferring the term “work-life blend,” a descriptor that leaves me feeling less pressured because it’s more reflective of the give and take of daily life. I blend my work and my life every single day and there’s a certain beauty to the blend — a wideness — that makes me feel as though I’m working within a spectrum instead of tottering on the tip of a fulcrum, trying to land on the right side, as opposed to the wrong one.
This simple shift in vocabulary isn’t a magic fix, but it gives me a wider margin of error, one where the margins aren’t error at all — just an extension of what is most important to me that day. It removes the stress inherent in aiming to achieve that perfect spot atop the fulcrum and gives me permission to totter a bit on the seesaw.
Balance vs. blend. Words matter.
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Then today, in my First Year Seminar, I did a planner check. Each year, I require my freshmen to have a planner. It can be plain or fancy, techie or old school, cheap or expensive. After walking up and down the aisles, checking out their various choices, I felt very motivated to write about planners. Even better, I got a few ideas for what my characters might use.
Angel is easy. As my friend and fellow Jersey girl Barb predicted, "Angel has the fancy planner with gold spirals and scripty font." She sure does. The cover is floral, and there might even be some flowers on the pages inside. It's a full-size planner -- 8 1/2 x 11 -- with a silky bookmark so she can leave it closed (so the pretty cover is showing) but still easily access the current week. She prefers the week-at-a-glance page.
Marita tossed a freebie month-by-month calendar from the bank into her purse, but she lives by the kitchen calendar. She used to use a white board, but she'd be a week into the new month before she changed the dates, so she went back to a paper calendar. All of her appointments as well as Charli's are on that calendar. That calendar in her purse? A way to jot down dates until she gets home and puts them on the kitchen calendar.
Bets has a sleek red leather calendar -- this year. She made a New Year's resolution to use a planner more regularly, so she thought that if she splurged on a really nice one, that might actually happen. It didn't. She sometimes uses the calendar on her phone, but usually emails herself appointment dates, which she then jots down on a notepad in the kitchen.
Charli has a school-issued calendar that she's actually pretty good about using. She wants to do well in school and so she keeps careful track of due dates for major assignments. Social events go on the kitchen calendar because she usually needs her mom for transportation. Her assignment due dates don't make it onto the kitchen calendar. As long as she keeps her grades up -- which she worries about more than her mom does -- her mom doesn't nag her about her school work.
Kelsey, a protagonist in an upcoming novel unrelated to Casting the First Stone and Chasing a Second Chance, is a professional organizer. She, like Bets, has a high end calendar, only hers is spiral-bound because she uses it a lot and she likes being able to open it up and fold the pages over, something she'd never do to an expensive leather planner. Her husband, Jake, tried to convince her to go electronic; his school swears by a shared online calendar and he thought they might do well to try that at home but, when it comes to time management, Kelsey is old school. She never buys a planner without built-in tabs for the months, and often creates tabs of her own as well.
What does your planner look like? And, if you know my characters, what do you think is the most interesting thing inside their planners?