Friday, July 10, 2015

One Writer's Guide to Getting Stuff Done

As my friend, you'll be happy, I'm sure, to know that I am completely up to date on my e-mail. (And my paper mail, since you're interested.) I've also scrolled back several days in my Facebook feed, so if your kid(s) did anything cute since Independence Day, I have liked,  grinned, "awww-ed" and/ or chortled appropriately. Did you post a picture of yourself at the shore-- any shore? Or up in the cool, pine-topped mountains? I have jealously regarded your happy circumstances, hit the like button, hiked the speed on the ceiling fan, and cursed this time that I am consigned to wander in the Phoenix desert metro area. 

I've also binge-read every blog I was ever vaguely interested in, applied for two jobs, cleaned the kitchen, swept the floor, and made a master shopping list for a future week's worth of meals planned to cook on some future Sunday, probably when I am also supposed to be writing.

Because this is the key to high productivity folks:  you can do everything and anything you've never gotten around to doing, if only you have a project that you are supposed to finish. Today. 

Just to avoid writing, an activity I am ostensibly supposed to enjoy enough to consider it a "passion," I have gone so far as to page back through several weeks of to-do lists to see if there was anything that "fell between the cracks." Believe me, I found plenty. 

Though it's usually writing that is the catalyst for a whirlwind of unnecessary activities, I've also successfully put off lots of other creative projects until the very last minute, simply by doing a bunch of other things instead. I am a pro at this, after all these years, so I've also been able to avoid other unpleasant tasks, like balancing my checking account (it's been so long, do people even do that any more?), filling out required forms, doing my taxes... You name it, if it had to be completed by a certain time, I've avoided it.

Today, I was seconds away from cleaning the bathrooms, already clean by our household standards, when I realized that, dammit,  I needed to stop procrastinating and sit down at the computer.  Then I promptly re-checked my e-mail, my bank balance, and Facebook and, just for good measure,  played eight rip-roaring games of computer solitaire, followed by countless rounds of that weirdly addictive gem smashing game in which my fantasy coin count now measures in the mid seven figures.

I finally opened the document files that held my writing. Then rechecked e-mail. Scrolled through what I wrote the last time I could glue my ass to the chair and my attention to my work at the same time. Then someone needed a snack. One of my children, actually, not just me, but some fuel wouldn't hurt, right? 

Back in the chair. Back to the file. E-mail. Word document. Here we go.  I typed two whole sentences, but suddenly needed to check a fact on the internet-- and you know what a rabbit hole that is. Somehow, I found myself on decorating sites-- how to stunningly upgrade your smallish rental apartment has, like, a million possible links. For some reason I found myself thinking I should clean the bathrooms again. 

But I remained steadfast. You are supposed to be writing, I told myself. Pretty sternly, but not so as to lower my self-esteem or anything. Geez.  Then I'd never sit down and write again.

Then I decided to write this post.  The question before me now: is this writing, or procrastinating?  Or some odd fusion: "procrasti-writing?" 

I think I need to get myself a snack while I think about that. I should get the kids something to munch on too. My real job is being a mom, after all.

And then I might clean the bathrooms, but I will definitely check my e-mail again first. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Hey Guys... I'm Getting the Blog Back Together!

Phineas and Ferb image from here

You may have forgotten I had a blog. 
I may have forgotten I had a blog.  
The last post was back in November of 2014, when I was smack  in the middle of a blog-a-day run. Who remembers now what stopped me? I think it was sudden family illness, but that certainly doesn't account for the last six months when nary a word has been written.

At first, I didn't miss it. Didn't have that nagging need to sit down and write. Then, by the time I did, work was busy, and then it was holiday time and then, New Year and Spring and... well, you get the picture. Lots of busy, but no valid reason for not writing.  

I think I was kind of worn out. 
Quote from this site

I still am, and there is still lots of stuff that legitimately claims my attention. For instance, we moved two weeks ago-- just from one apartment in our complex to another, but still, everything went into boxes and bags, and much of it still has to be unboxed and unbagged.  I'm not even sure I still want some of the stuff, so it's time to declutter too, and pare down by asking myself if each object around me brings me joy. ("Goodbye scale!" is all I can say...)  Man, that all sounds like a lot of work. Who knew it was so hard to be a minimalist?

Meanwhile, there has been work, and more family medical stuff and worries about money and time and getting older. At my husband's request, I've stopped coloring my hair to cover gray, and at the girls' request, I'm letting it grow. It's feeling a bit out of control.  I'm beginning to think that I need my short, dark pixie cut to feel sharper again. 

Quote from here
Actually, I'm beginning to worry that I may never feel sharper again... So it's time to start writing. I'm going to try to go back to finding the good fortune, or at least the humor, in every day life. Here on the blog and, with any luck, on other projects and in other circumstances as well. 

So I'm getting the blog back together...who's with me? 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

And Now, A Break for Some Inspiration

More like random thoughts, actually.  I've been pinning thoughts to a board since I heard of Pinterest. Here's a sampling.  Didn't realize how much I like simple black and white.  Have a good day.

Add caption
Real Simple emails these gems every day.

This site has several great ideas.
This image from here
This image from here 
Found this on Brain Pickings, a site I read every day.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Veteran's Day Eve At the Post Office

Busy day at the post office, partly because tomorrow is Veteran's Day.  Some people actually knew the post office would be closed tomorrow, and were mailing early.  Many of these people (at least twenty) still asked if we would be open tomorrow, Veteran's Day, notwithstanding.  I gleefully told them we would be closed.

Some people (at least six) had come to the post office expecting it to be closed.  I know this because they said things like, "I thought you would be closed today," as they handed me items to mail.  After the first two, I stopped replying, "but here you are anyway..." Of course these people thought today was Veteran's Day, because all of our holidays have been converted to Mondays and Fridays to give us three day weekends. Several people, all apparently under thirty, expressed indignation at the notion of a non-Monday holiday when places like the post office would be closed, because really, what good is that?  

The onslaught of cool weather in the rest of the country has brought back many of our "snow-birds" who are still adjusting to life  in the desert.  They still seem a little bewildered-- maybe because they only need a light sweater when they go out in the morning and they are already hot by noon, when the temperatures are in the low eighties.  Year-round residents comment about how beautiful and "crisp" the weather is, how we've been waiting for it.  Snowbirds ask when it will cool off.  

It is the bewildered snow birds who were out in force today, asking about why the mail cost so much, and misinterpreting the meaning of "flat rate box."  The advertising wizards working for the US Postal Service have definitely scored with their message that there is a cheaper way to send mail anywhere in the U.S., but they have somehow failed to convey that "cheaper" isn't actually cheap-- cheap, meaning free.  "What about those ifitfitsitships boxes?  What about those?  I thought they were free."  Yeah. The boxes are free.  I'll give you the box... but they still cost something to mail when you pack them full of stuff and want to send them across the country.  

These are the same people who say things like, "No wonder the Post Office is losing money.  These prices are crazy."  This was from a woman buying a stamp.  Forty-nine cents, Oy!  She remembers last year, when they were thirty-nine... (They were forty six cents until this January.)

It was a stamp purchaser who won the prize today too. After asking for a book of stamps, and being asked which book of stamps she wanted, she said "The forever ones."  

"All of those are the forever ones, we have about twenty different kinds,"  I said, I thought I was being  helpful.  

"I want Liberty Bells."  I explained that those have not been available for a couple of years.  

"I need forty of them," she added. 

"No liberty bells, how about forty flags, or birds, or Santas?"

Heavy sigh.  "I really liked those liberty bells.  Just give me forty of anything." I pulled out two books of the flags.

"No, not those," she said.  I switched the flags for birds.  "Okay, but I need forty of them."

"This is forty, twenty on each sheet, eight on the front and twelve on the back." I pointed to each stamp to make it clear. 
This image is from here.
  It shows how the stamps in question appear on the sheet.

She took them reluctantly and proceeded to count them. "I need forty." She counted the first sheet. Twenty. Okay.
Then she counted the second, identical, sheet.  Twenty, she reluctantly conceded.

The line had built up behind her, but I couldn't help asking, "You didn't believe me, did you?" as she handed me her debit card.  
"It never hurts to check," she said sharply.  

To all the Veterans from all of us who owe them so much, a big thank you!  And not just for the chance to spend a day away from work...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sunday Lament

I may have written before about my ambivalence toward Sundays.  

It's really more of a Sunday afternoon problem.  Sunday mornings are great. Even if you sleep in, there's usually a nice fat Sunday paper to look at and coupons to cut and crosswords to work on while you eat a late breakfast. It's still the weekend.  What could be wrong? 

But Sunday morning always turns into Sunday afternoon. Whether you are out after brunch or finishing up those nagging weekend chores or watching a game, the realization that the weekend is slipping away always intrudes.  Monday looms like the shadow of a dark tower over the sunny Sunday afternoon. (Can you hear the dramatic music?  Dum Dum DUM)

For me, it often hits around three o'clock, when I start to quiz the girls about whether they've done their homework.  Every little piece of clutter I see begins to irritate me because I know that it all has to be picked up and put away so that the week can start again.  The week will start again anyway, of course, but starting a Monday morning with the disarray of half-finished puzzles and not-quite-dry art projects and dishes from Sunday dinner congealing in the sink is somehow more Monday than I can handle.  

I walked around the apartment in circles for about forty five minutes, picking up here and putting away there, cleaning tables and wiping counters, barking directions at the girls and generally ruining everyone's relaxed Sunday mood.  Just so I wouldn't hate Monday so much. It's great when things are all about me and my need to control the world. 

The backpacks are ready. Showers are done and clothes are put away. The arena is clear. 

Was it worth it?  I'm kicking myself now, because I hate ruining Sunday, but if we get out on time tomorrow morning, maybe I won't feel so bad.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Yep, It's A Bunch of New Yorker Cartoons (About Philosophy)

Still trying to work that post a day thing... but I used up all of my energy doing laundry this morning.  Then I had to lie down.  Energy crisis or existential crisis?  

When I felt better, I went looking for philosophy cartoons.  Full credit goes to the New Yorker... because really, where else are they running philosophy cartoons?

See you tomorrow.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Indispensable at Work Isn't All it's Cracked up to Be.

It did turn out to be food poisoning yesterday, so I am better today, but the idea of food is still not too attractive.  But now you know, if you live nearby or hugged me recently, you won't be coming down with a stomach bug-- at least not because of me.

I had to leave work early because-- well really, because I shouldn't have gone to work in the first place-- I was sick and dizzy and utterly misguided about why it was important to go and stand behind the post office counter even though I was barely able to stand at all.  

I had promised to be there.  I was on the schedule.  People were counting on me... Yada yada yada.  

Somehow though, when I left, the postal world didn't stop spinning.  They managed without me. 

In real life, I don't think I'm indispensable, but in work situations, I somehow build up an idea that I HAD TO BE THERE.  But no.  Especially sick, where I really just caused more difficulty for everyone, including one poor customer who will bear the psychological scars of seeing me sink to the floor, ready to yiff, just as she launched into an explanation of her cell phone problem and why she had to send it back.  

Everyone wants to feel needed, I think.  Appreciated, at least, for contributions valuable to a team effort.  In our work lives, this often becomes the highest compliment-- "We couldn't do this without you." And since our economic stability is tied to our continued usefulness on the job, comments like these give us a little security. Worthiness and security are pretty important to most of us, but in a way, these values are constantly used to get more and more out of employees.  This happens especially often in a job market where employers feel more than comfortable letting employees know that there is someone waiting to take their job if they can't manage to meet expectations. Can anyone remember when we had a job market that wasn't like this? Yeah, me neither. 

But really... unless you are the world's leading brain surgeon, or the person in your region  who is most adept at defusing hostage situations, you are probably not indispensable at work.  Does everyone else's day go more smoothly when you show up?  Well, yeah, of course. Do you add a certain something and excel at your job?  That's awesome, but think about the pressure this adds to your work life.  I know, for sure, that someone else could do my job.  I just trained someone, and someone trained me.  Do I do my job well? fast? courteously?  Yes, but that doesn't mean someone else can't do it.  I work for a low wage, doing simple tasks. I like the location and the hours, and the fact that sometimes, like now, I can work on my own things while I'm here.  Sometimes I'm rushed and stressed and extremely busy-- Tax Day, Holiday Season, I'm thinking of you-- but let's face it, if I couldn't work here any more, someone else could do my job.

And I'm glad, really. I'd rather be an indispensable wife, or mom, or daughter.  These are tasks I don't always excel at, either, so it's good to remember that this is where I should be putting my effort, this is where I should be worried about being replaceable.  

I was down for the count by the time Mike and the girls came home last night-- 5 pm was as far as I could get yesterday.  Even though daddy was on duty and the evening went smoothly without me, the girls seemed pretty relieved that I was up this morning, doing my usual school day/work day prep.  It's too bad I had to feel so awful yesterday to be reminded about real indispensability today.  

Clever cartoon from here.  Wish I was as clever.