Friday, October 24, 2014

Found Time - Days & Hours #Productive

My calendar is absolutely blank for the next three days. Nothing scribbled in pencil, nothing typed in. Three blank squares.  I think I've figured out how to clear out days of nothingness, time to catch up on all the stuff you still have to catch up on.  How to find that extra day we all need.  Cancel all your plans!

We planned to go away and then had to cancel that trip.  So while we were planning on not being here, I didn't put anything on my calendar.  Ta-da!  It's like a snow day, but without all the slush and cold.  The possibilities are endless!

I could clean my house. When you get busy, it seems like the house suffers.  All the shoes pile up, everyone running in and out, changing for the next activity. And laundry, sheesh!  And, yes, embarrassed to admit there might be a cobweb or two I could knock down.

I could bake some cookies. That's always a good idea.

I could write. I'm in the process of writing book number 2 and finding time each day is crucial to staying on schedule.  I could catch up on a few hours.

I could catch up on Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder.  Note - Do NOT tell me anything that has happened, I don't even want to know which white coat Olivia Pope is wearing.  As previously noted, such spoilers could get a friend de-friended.

I could go out to eat, grab lunch all by myself somewhere with nice table cloths.  I know some people don't like to eat out by themselves, but I do. A book, a drink, a good meal.  And movies, too - I love have the popcorn ally o myself.

I could work-out.  You know when your kinda fit a bit big jeans start to feel snug? You can deny a lot of weight-related signs, but the jean fit is a clear indicator.

I could wander around the neighborhood and walk the dog.

Hmmm... the possibilities.

But since I don't actually want to cancel too many vacations, perhaps, I will use the concept of blocking off days to do nothing. Here's a couple other ways I've found useful in finding a few extra hours.

Use waiting time.  Almost every weekday, I'm picking up/dropping off my kids to some practice or activity. I used to sit and watch them do whatever, waiting until they were done. Sometimes, I still do when I really don't have anything else to do - I can read or crochet, enjoy a quiet, non-moving few minutes. But when I do have stuff to do, I try to squeeze it in then. Someone asked me the other day if I'd have some time to meet with them. Sure, for this hour and half within a 15-minute radius from this practice location - I'm there.  It's also a good time for grocery shopping and other short errands.

Schedule outings, meetings on the same day. If I had several meetings that would take me out of my house, I used to schedule them on different days, thinking that would minimize the hours/day that I've got to be out. But what I found is that it makes my time at home less productive because I'm getting ready for and driving to those events each day. Now, I try to schedule outings as much on the same day as possible. Recently, I had some meetings at our school central office; instead of going over three days in a row, I scheduled them all on the same day. Started in the morning, went down the hall, grabbed lunch, had another - and I was done for the week.

Schedule email and online time. I read this tip in a post about getting to a zero-email inbox (only 600 more to go) - have a set time and time limit when you are going to check your email. Read it, act upon it, then move on with your life. Good point. I do check my email when I'm bored. Or trying to procrastinate. And it probably is a big time waster, so I'm working on that.

There's three quick tips. Share any others you have in the comments.  I'm off to go enjoy my found hours!

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Throw The Kids to the Wolves - Independence & Parenting

This is what comes through my ears when other parents go on about the wide latitude they allow their children and the relatively narrow one that I give mine. Sleepovers? Riding public transportation? Staying out until late late past midnight? Going to parties where no-one’s sure the host’s parents are home?  Might as well just set them free in the wild lands and roaming plains with the coyotes and rattlesnakes.

As parents, we all have our limits of what we think is age appropriate for our children and what we want them to experience and be exposed to. That’s one of the fundamental rights of being a parent – you get to make choices for another person. For eighteen years, you are the legislative, judicial, and executive decision maker.

But, I guess it’s human nature to try to change other people’s mind to the way you’re thinking. I mean, there’s how many college majors and professions based primarily on the ability to do this successfully?

If you want your kid to spend the night at other people’s houses from the time they can find their way to the bathroom, go right on ahead.  Your choice. It’s just not mine.  They need to what – learn how to sleep somewhere else? Brush their teeth without being told? Be independent? What other reasons are stuffed into sleeping bags each weekend? In the grand scheme of life, I figure they’ll get this when it’s time. For now, they sleep in the bed in this house. For variety, they can even camp out in their sibling’s room if they want.

Since my oldest entered high school, folks have been trying to get me to put her on the public bus. Admittedly, this would be more convenient for me, as I make my daily trek to get her from sports practice. But, for right now, its not so bad and its part of my duty as a parent – make sure my kid gets home safely.  We’ve talked about figuring out the bus route for that day when I just can’t make it and we’ve run out of plan B and C, so I’m not against the bus thing. It just hasn’t become a necessity, yet.

But again – the parental reasons why – she needs to be street-smart, she need to be independent, she needs to know the bus system.  Isn’t that a parent’s choice of what they want for their kid?  As a teen-ager, I learned to catch the bus because that’s how I got to and from my job, when my parents weren’t home. And my kids have ridden the Metro, subways, buses, trains, cabs, and ferries in a bunch of different cities. I get it, I’m not anti-public transportation.  I just don’t think this means I need to throw my 9-year old on the Metro and say “find your way home” to get her ready for the world, even if there are kids younger doing the same in cities all across the country.  I do draw the line at putting my kid in a cab by herself, though. Nope, not gonna happen. You can give me a list of reasons why, stats about safe driving, etc. etc. Nope.

And parties without parents in the house? Whatever.

All this chit-chat about all the freedoms kids should enjoy? It’s like letting a little rabbit free to roam across the plains. I can see the wolf hiding behind the cactus.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

#Organized Calendar To-Do System

Ah- the  ever-present, never-ending to-do list.  Whether scribbled on designed, organizing sheets or typed into a smartphone app – but do we ever ever check everything off?  And then there’s the pile of papers to go along with it. If you’re a parent, this may be dominated by permission forms, tests, progress reports and volunteer forms to sign and return, presumably before the deadline. Then there's the sale you missed, the coupon that expired.  Every now and then, I wonder if there’s a better way to go about this necessity of life, other than the scribbled long lists on my calendar pages or the clipped stack of index cards, I’ve been employing.  But I like that system, so I’m not trying to abandon it, just improve upon it.

There’s a lot of options and how-to’s out there, but none of them are really effective  unless it’s do-able for you – your personality, your lifestyle. This do-able part is important because any organization system has to be one that you can keep up with and manage, regardless of what the experts say.

Recently, I came across this idea of “43 folders.” Although new to me, this tickler system seems to have been around for a while.  With the 43 folders plan, you have- yeah, you guessed it – 43 manila folders, each labeled 1-31, for the days of the month, and for each month.  All the stuff that you have – primarily all those papers that you have to do something with – you stick in the folders for the day (of the current month) or the month that you need to do it. Each day, you pick up your folder and do whatever’s in it.  At the beginning of each month, you move all the stuff from the folder and distribute them to the appropriate day folder.

I like this idea, and I like folders, but 43 folders sitting on my desk seems like a whole lot of folders. Plus, I generally plan out my to do list and meal plan along with my schedule.  Doesn’t make sense to make a long to-do list on the day I have to be running around to meetings or with the kids, that’s just a set-up for disappointment of not checking anything off. So I’ve modified this idea and am trying out a new plan.

How-To: Calendar To-Do
  1. I printed my weekly calendar from Google Calendar.  Yes, I still have the paper date book, but also keep an electronic version so my family can input and access our schedule, too. And I do like the reminder feature – a text or email to remind you of where you’re supposed to be.
  2. All those papers that have some kind of due date - permission slips, bills, library books due slip, invitations – I sorted by week.  I could also add coupons, restaurant discounts, sales ads, and other random things that have an expiration date.
  3. Clip the sorted papers behind the calendar page when they should be done.
  4. Each week, I have that packet of papers that are due, my calendar, and I can jot additional reminders on the calendar page.
I’m in week 2 of this new system. We’ll see how it goes.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Dress shopping - Nature or Nurture?

I’m going to a formal tomorrow evening. This, on paper, is a simple thing – get dressed, go to the location, eat and chat with friends.  And if I was a dude, my husband for instance, it would be that easy.  But we know, as women, going to a formal event is not at all that simple.

Of course, there’s the constant girl question – what am I going to wear? Because I do not have a ready-to-go gown in my closet. Really. Okay, I do have a couple long dresses, however, they were purchased a couple years and a few more pounds ago.  And if its one thing you can’t hide too well in a formal gown – those extra bags of M&Ms and cupcakes.

My girlfriend (who is also going, and also without a dress) and I spent an evening dress shopping. (Also, a difference between males and females, as I’ve never not once known my husband to require a friend to go with him to find a suit.) We headed out, with all the parameters in mind for a new formal dress, because there’s a lot.  Like, color.  Red is pretty, but is it too bright, too sexy? Black is classic, but does it get boring. I love green, but going into fall, its got to be the right shade. Too old for a pink gown and too tall for yellow.  And fit, of course. And consideration of what types of Spanx are going to be required to actually wear the dress outside of a fitting room.  And price for this one occasion, because I don’t have another formal on my calendar in the foreseeable future.  We took all of that – and one mall, four department stores, and a bunch of specialty dress shops, later – we were still without dresses, with one maybe.  We had to finish that missions solo, due to our schedules, but we did each manage to find something pretty.

Now, the last minute girly part.  What jewelry will look good with the dress? What shoes will we wear? By some miracle, or perhaps a schedule to busy to allow for shoe shopping, I have a pair in my closet that will work with the dress.  Letting my nails dry while I type this blogpost.

What makes us this way? Is it genetic, that we girls have to be so – well, girly?  Or is it nurture? I’ve repeated this same dress shopping thing in the past few days with my daughter, because the homecoming dance is coming up (yeah, my daughter going to a homecoming dance, another anxiety attack, another blogpost.)  We did the thing – multiple stores, which color, blah blah blah.  My son, picking out clothes for anything, is like “give me the blue one.” Done.  So is it in her chromosomes that she felt like she needed a new dress, is it the way I’ve raised her, or some greater societal influence? 

While we think on that, I’ve got to go figure out what I’m going to do with my hair.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What's in Your Bag?

We carry everything in our purses / tote bags / backpacks / diaper bags, don't we?  I don't even know how my husband makes it through the day with only a wallet. Perhaps, that explains the periodic surge in "man-purses" being fashionable. But, I digress.

Although I've shared what to pack in many of our day-to-day bags - suitcases, swim bags, gym bags, lunch boxes, etc. - in my "Pack Your Bags" posts, I don't know that I've dumped out my purse.  For the fun of it, let me tell you what I've got in there.  And of course the fun part - I'll show you mine, if you show me yours.

I should probably be clear here that this is "what's in my bag today, right now, in this bag." I change my purse with the weather and the agenda of the day. I'm not alone in that, right?  If you've got more than usual to carry, or hanging out at the park with the kids rather than having lunch with the girls or going to work, or trying to look cute with a teeny purse that holds just a lipstick, your phone, and your driver's license.  That's why we need so many purses.

What's in my purse (today):
  • my calendar/date book (the green thing with the black rings) - yes, a paper-based schedule which I write in with a pen or pencil and is stuffed with random business cards, receipts, and post-it notes. I know, I'm a dying breed, but its a search I go through every year - my next calendar.  This is the flexible, ring-binder - so far, I like it.
  • knitting - I'm mid-scarf right now.  I like small projects that fit neatly in my purse, you never know when you're going to get stuck somewhere with nothing to do and I can only read my friends' Facebook posts so many times.
  • 1 pair of glasses - I have three. I'm somewhere between denial that I really do need glasses all the time and the time to go get a new pair that will combine reading and distance glasses.
  • nourishment - because I'm a snacker, I try to carry healthy options so I have less excuses to stop for french fries or donuts (note - this does not always work.)
  • pink notebook - because I need somewhere more permanent than my calendar to write notes.
  • business cards - I'm an indie-writer and a blogger. I'm my own boss, employee, marketer, and agent. I've always got to be ready to promote my blog and my book, Life in Spades, and make connections.
  • book of prayers - my sister-in-law gave me this for a birthday gift. I did not realize I would turn to it so often.
  • lipstick - why would anyone ever leave home without it?

What's in your purse? What's your "never leave home without it" item?

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Currently...Back in School

I'm back in Spanish class. For the third time today, I'm catching a few words as a test to what I recall from high school classes so many years ago.  I had PE this morning.  No math, no English, no Science. I go to lunch next. Why are my kids complaining that school is so hard?

Its class visit day. On Columbus Day each year, our school system has county-wide open house when parents are welcome to come sit in on their kids' classes. (I think because we have a significant number of parents who are government employees so they have the day off, but schools are open.) Its a good option to actually see what the teachers said would happen when they did their presentation at back-to-school night. But for me, I have so imperfectly timed my visits so that I've gone from my youngest's PE class, went to my sons and daughter's school, where they were both in Spanish, left there for the high school where my oldest was in Spanish and then making up a quiz.

And somehow -I have forgotten my knitting. I thought to bring it this morning, then though "nah, when would I knit?"

I'll next go through round 2 -back for a parent meeting at the middle school, coaching Girls on the Run at elementary, and post-sports pick up at the high school.

And folks ask stay-at-home moms what do we do all day. For one thing, its not staying at home.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Book I'm Carrying Around: You Should Have Known

You Should Have KnownYou Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Should've known what?"

I was waiting in the library check-out line, when I saw this book sitting on the shelf and immediately, the obvious question came to mind.

Ah-ha. Rich parents and a snooty private school. Someone ends up dead.  A spouse had planned to come to the big shindig on that same evening, but then had to work late. Yeah, she should've known.  But, wait, what would've been a motive? Nah, maybe she shouldn't have known.

There is some intrigue - more so because WE can figure out what Grace should've known, why didn't she? How many times have you looked at a friend, sister, colleague's situation and shook your head and thought, "hmm.. yeah, I could've told you he was no good." But we totally miss the mess in our own lives.  That's precisely, ironically, the topic of her psych self-help book for women who don't recognize all the signs when they first start dating that guy, then marry him.

You can figure out the "who" once you get into the story, but the "why" is a little more elusive.  And the "what comes next" was, for me, not enough.  [I've made a few more comments below regarding the ending, which may be a SPOILER for some, so watch for the warning]

If you're married or plan to be, like, Gone Girl - I think this will make you review some of the instances in your relationship and think, "hmmm..... should I have known?"  I was definitely looking at my husband kinda side-eyed whenever he had to work late or missed his flight.

I wanted the "who" to be punished more than he was. It seemed like he skipped away and got off too easy.  And she was no way as near mad as hell as I would've been with my life turned upside down. Then it all wrapped up too tidy with a kinda almost happy ending.  That, I did not expect at all.

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