Friday, November 27, 2020

Friday Feature: Slow Work

One Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, too tired to read one more paper, I declared myself in need of a break. 

What did I do? I'll let my tweet do the talking: 

You know you love organizing when you decide you need a break because the task you're working on is making you cranky... and the break you choose is sorting through a box of files. #organizing

Little did I know that I was slow working. I couldn't have known, because I'd never heard of it.

Then, last week, I was trying to gain some traction on cleaning out my work inbox, and I found an article in Fast Company on -- you guessed it -- slow working. 

Slow working acknowledges our need for breaks not just for self-care, but also for the productivity we crave. But, it focuses on truly breaking away from the task we're spending time on in order to do something hands-on that engages us in a different way.

It only makes sense that when we take a break, we should do something different, but how many times do we step away from the computer only to pick up our phones? It could be argued that we've switched from work to leisure, but is doing more of the same really a break just because we label it differently?

Recently, I realized that I love to organize because I love to problem-solve but, until I read the article, I hadn't really considered how it contributes to my ability to solve other kinds of problems as well. I've long recognized that my sketch noting and silly non-verbal games on my iPad are good for my creative process, but looking at it through a slow working lens adds a whole new dimension to it.

At my house, we're making Christmas lists and finding that none of us really needs a whole lot of anything. Maybe this is the Christmas to put arts and crafts and puzzles on our list and reconnect with our non-digital side.

If nothing else, our eyes will probably thank us.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Facing Facebook


Last week, I read a post by a friend who's had enough of Facebook. She's not the first and, quite frankly, I can't blame her. But, by the same token, I wonder if now is a time we need Facebook more than ever.

It's not news that social media, in general, has the potential for both advantages and disadvantages. Whatever your preferred platform, it's easy to scroll endlessly, growing more disillusioned and angry as we do so. But, as one of my students astutely pointed out in a class discussion, it depends on whom you follow.

When I first joined Facebook, it was to connect with friends I hadn't seen in years, and that's still my favorite part. Recently, I've re-connected by phone with friends from high school and college -- reconnections made possible by Facebook posts and friendships. Such conversations would be a bright spot under any circumstances, but they were a special source of joy in our current circumstances.

I have to admit that this last election cycle -- or perhaps the last four years -- showed me things I can't unsee and, in the last several months, I've found myself reconsidering which online friends might not be friends at all. And, like my friend who's taking a hiatus, I've considered taking one, too.

But I like being on Facebook for business reasons. I like sharing my latest posts and news about my writing projects, and I like keeping those posts separate from my personal posts. And I like seeing what my real-world friends are up to now that the real world is keeping us at a distance.

I'm not sure it's a bad thing to reconsider the connections we're making and where we're making them. Just as friendships grow and change or fail to stand the test of time in the real world, so, too, does that happen online. When something -- or someone -- is toxic, it doesn't much matter if the toxicity if real or virtual.

So, I think I'll be sticking around, but I want to be mindful about it. As in the real world, I won't walk away from a friendship over a simple difference of opinion or one disagreement but, in reality or online, I want to surround myself with people who make me laugh, make me think, or simply make me happy to be around them.

And, as long as that's the case, I plan to keep social media a part of my days.

How about you? As we socially distance in the real world, are you stepping into social media, or stepping back from it?

Monday, November 23, 2020

A Few (More) of My Favorite Things

IO Images via Pixabay

Last week, I began sharing a few of my favorite things and the places you can find them. Although I'm not ready for Christmas music or Christmas decorations just yet, I've already begun my Christmas shopping. This year, I'm making a concerted effort to think before I spend and to actually choose my vendors, buying from individuals and small businesses whenever I can. In some cases, this means allowing extra time for shipping, especially with COVID restrictions in place. Alternatively, I can staying local.

This week, I'm featuring another bookstore (of course) that's local to me, and two websites where I've gotten fun, unusual gifts in the past. 

My daughter found Winding Way Books when she and a friend were wandering around downtown Lancaster (PA). When I told her I was featuring small and local businesses on my blog, she immediately went in search of their flyer to share with me. Located at 118 W. Chestnut Street, one flight up from its previous location, Winding Way Books sells both new and used books, fiction and non-fiction. I haven't been there but, as I said, my young adult daughter was impressed enough to make sure she got their information into my hands.

While scrolling on Facebook last night, I came across a post (from a group I trust) about gifts for college students at Uncommon Goods. I've purchased, well, uncommon goods from them before and I ended up doing a little online shopping again late last night. Want to make sure you're shopping small? Check out the Small Business section of the site.

I've also found some really cool stuff on The Grommet, another online small business cooperative. Sometimes, it's just fun to browse and see how creative people are! 

I want to close this week with something a bit self-serving. A friend and writing colleague of mine had the idea to do a holiday bazaar on Facebook. I'm posting my books there (so far, only Know Thyself is listed, but I'm working on it), but you'll find more than books to browse. We've just gotten started, so check back from time to time to see what's new.

How about you? How's your Christmas shopping coming? I've made a strong start, but I still have a ways to go.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Friday Feature: The Alexander Technique

Several years ago, when I was having trouble with my voice, a friend who's a music teacher suggested I look for someone trained in the Alexander Technique. Although the voice teacher I found (and love) discussed posture, we didn't work on the Alexander Technique per se. In fact, I hadn't thought about it at all until a newsletter from Next Avenue popped into my inbox with the Alexander Technique in its subject line.

In reading the article, I was fascinated to learn just how many things this approach is helpful for. A semester and a half of teaching from a desk chair has given me a whole new interest in this technique, only now I wan to know how it can help alleviate the aches and pains from too much sitting.

The older I get, the more I believe I am where I'm supposed to be and that things cross my radar for a reason. I miss my voice lessons (not recommended due to too much exhaled air in too small a space), but I miss my voice teacher even more. The article was an interesting read but, maybe it's something more as well. I think maybe I'll reach out and share the article, and see if Sarah would like to Zoom. Luckily COVID puts no restrictions on friendship.

Breathe easy, friends. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

It's the last full week of a very unusual semester. I had a blog post topic all picked out and ready to go but it is now after midnight. I tried to write it, but my brain refused to cooperate.

So, instead, I thought I'd share with you what I did today instead of writing a blog post.

  • I taught two split classes, with half of my students on Zoom and half in the room.
  • I graded some assignments and returned a few student emails. 
  • I did a CVS run to pick up a gift card, a prescription and spend my Extra-Care bucks.
  • I unpacked the new dishes I ordered (well, I took the small boxes out of the big box, anyway. The actual unpacking and rearranging of cupboards will have to wait until next week).
  • I did a little sorting in my office to keep the paper piles from multiplying.
  • I read a manuscript for tonight's critique group meeting and a chapter in one of the NBIC books I got in the mail yesterday. 
  • I made dinner and ate with my family. 
  • I attended a virtual writer's group meeting and a virtual critique group meeting.
  • I placed two online orders.
  • I had some down time with my daughter.

In other words, I did what any number of moms do on any given Wednesday.

So why am I sharing it here?

Because this has been a very unusual semester and, for the first time in close to seven years, this blog has taken a hit. And I want you to know I'm neither lazily eating bon bons nor ignoring you.

Next week, everything shifts again. Classes end and it's all over but the grading (and final presentations). 

And I will have time to do more than think up post topics. If all goes according to plan, I'll have time to write them too, and get that third Marita/Angel/Charli book out. 

I can't wait.

Monday, November 16, 2020

A Few of my Favorite Things

Alexas Fotos via Pixabay
Christmas shopping this year promises to be different. After all that we've been through, the thought of celebrating sounds wonderful. And, for me, so does the thought of keeping some small and/or local businesses in the black.

In keeping with that idea, for the next few weeks, I'll be sharing a few of my favorite things and the places you can find them. Today, I've got one online item, one bookstore and a store I love at the beach.

Nika's Home soy candle. I bought one of their vanilla bean candles two years ago, and I haven't bought a candle from anyone else since. After reading about the benefits of soy candles over paraffin (including the fact that they just smell better), I went in search of soy and I have not been the least bit disappointed in these. (Also available through Amazon).

The Caffeinated Bookworm. This little bookstore, previously tucked away in a shopping center in Centerville, PA, hosted me for a signing last year, before COVID. Tonight, when I went to double-check their info for this post, I discovered that they took a hit with all that's been going on. Luckily, they simply changed locations, and still have both books (new and used) and the drawing materials and fun stuff Lisa includes in her inventory. Nowhere near the new store in Lancaster, PA? Order online.

Blue Room Gallery & Gift Shop. This fun little shop is one of my favorite browsing spots at the beach. Can't get to Bethany Beach to browse in person? Shop online and they'll ship your order to you. 

I love shopping for gifts, and I'm especially excited to shop for a good cause this year so my favorite businesses will still be around in 2021 when we can, I hope, celebrate the holidays the way we used to.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Friday Feature: First Professor

My husband and daughter are the history buffs at my house. As for me, I like my history with a side of personality. When we were in Boston several summers ago, I was the one who insisted that we take the guided tour -- the one with the tour guide dressed in colonial garb -- and I enjoyed every minute of it. The tour guide's personality and storytelling won me over, along with the way he breathed life into people I'd only read about in the pages of high school textbooks.

Lately, my daughter and I have been watching CNN's series, First Ladies. I was drawn in by the first episode (about Michelle Obama), but have watched every one since and look forward to new episodes. Until I read Michelle Obama's book, Becoming, I never gave much thought to the role of First Lady. Now, I'm fascinated by it.

I'm particularly fascinated by our incoming First Lady in the perhaps same "like me" way that women and girls (particularly women and girls of color) are fascinated -- and encouraged -- by Kamala Harris's ascent to the role of Vice President Elect. Like me, Jill Biden is an educator, a role she plans to continue even after her husband is inaugurated. I can identify with the stories of her grading papers in this office or that corner of Air Force Two and, after four years of Betsy DeVos, am thrilled that an informed public education advocate will have at the ear of the President.

We are living in unprecedented times and, in some ways, that's a bad thing. But, as I sit back and prepare to watch a female Vice President and a new First Lady shape their new roles, I'm optimistic about what this reshaping can mean not only to the nation, but to the women and young girls who are watching. It won't be the first time a First Lady has left her mark on the office, but it will be the first time a First Professor (to use Politico's title moniker) has brought issues so near to my heart to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.