Sticky Note Productivity

Truth:  I love office supplies.

It goes back to when I was a kid.  It was just a simpler time.  Growing up in the country in the 80s with a couple of old-school parents, we didn’t splurge on a lot of things, largely because we couldn’t afford it (we lived on a non-working horse ranch and there were three kids)- but also because there wasn’t a lot to buy.  Especially once we got to be 10 or 11- because we were really too old for most of the toys that were out there.  Computers and cellphones weren’t really widely used, bought, or sold.

But the weeks before we went back to school were a different story.  We tended to get every single item on our supply lists- and not the cheap versions.  We got the good crayons and colored pencils.  A box of bics?  GTFO with that nonsense!!  Please.

Both of our parents are stationery junkies.  My dad likes his index cards and legal pads, and mom her pens and steno pads.

So, my love of office supplies goes back far.  Luckily for me, office supplies are a thing now.  You can get just about any kind of pen you want.  Ball-point pens, gel pens, fountain pens, fine-liners, colored pens.  Same for notebooks.

But the thing that is truly a modern marvel is the post-it/sticky note.

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We had popcorn textured walls in our house, so I had no use for post-its/sticky notes as a kid.  But, man, I love them now.  With a planner?  FORGET ABOUT IT.

NoteShel has a post the highlights four uses of post-its for productivity:

1. Handwriting on such a small space forces you to choose smart, realistic goals.  

img_7616Because a post-it can only accommodate three or four items, you are forced to think about realistically about what you can get done.  The major benefit to this, is that by choosing only a few items for a to-do list, you generate momentum- the kind of momentum that comes from feeling like you’re kicking ass and taking names.  A day that you get all the things done feels like a win.  Even better are the days that you can get all the things done, without grinding yourself down to the bone.  I don’t know about you, but the days when my back is against the wall and I am trying to do all the things, just take it out of me.  And that isn’t even mentioning what happens when my to-do list looks too big (I have been known to shut it down at 10am because I can’t even with my list).

2.  Handwritten to-do list are more effective by allowing more effective prioritization.  

Research has shown that hand-writing items forces you to prioritize and plan.   I personally think that I handwriting also “makes it real”.  Also, something about the writing it down with my hand and a pen solidifies the connection in my brain.

3. Post-its Notes make a great wall planner.  

If you have a marker board, post-its are really nice.  Different colored post-its could allow you to track multiple projects.  This is perfect for people who have to track progress- where you might have multiple moving parts.  This is also a really great way to go if your system has a “process” component to it.  The “moveability” of post-its around the board from this section to that, can be really handy.

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Of post-it notes, I am a huge-huge-huge fan of the full stick post-it.  These things are awesome, particularly for including in a planner or moving around.  I like putting longer-term goals on them, so that I can move the note across weekly pages.   These items tend to be personal goals or big-picture items, the things I can’t work on every day.  Brightly colored, I am always reminded of what these longer term goals.  In the midst of crazy weeks and months, it is nice to be reminded of the of these things, which is nice.

Taking Stock-Volume 1

Both Pip and Maggie are taking stock this month.  I thought I would get in on the action.

Taking Stock Volume 1

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Making : I made bread for the first time in the bread maker this month.  I used an old bread mix, which had old yeast.  Because I had some new yeast, I just subbed that in for the old.  Of course, Genius McDumbass here didn’t bother to check if it was the right amount.  Guess what happened to my dough?  Overproofed itself out of the bread bin and burned on the bottom of the maker.

Also, it would be great if we could get a GBBO episode that had a challenge using bread makers.

Drinking : Strawberry Limeade from Sonic.  One of my favorite drinks.  Of all time.

Reading : OffShore by Penelope Fitzgerald.  It is slow.  It is a short book, but damn, it is slow.  I am hoping that all the Booker prize books are not this slow.  I hope that I didn’t make a bad decision to read them all.

Trawling : Next month we are going to drive to Texas for my family’s winter holiday trip.  I have been trying surprise Dave by having a couple of good books to listen to in the car. We might even have enough time for two.  After listening to NPR segments on it last year, we seemed to agree that The Emperor of All Maladies  might be a good place to start.  But then, I see that Audible has The Boys in the Boat and The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945both of which look like his speed.

Wanting : This planner/workbook: Your Best Year 2017: Productivity Workbook and Creative Business Planner by Lisa Jacobs.  Normally, the imposed structure of a workbook grates me the wrong way- like, don’t tell me how much space I need to write my goals and dreams!!  But then I started thinking about getting the digital file and basically just using it as prompts to write into a fancy notebook, which would allow me to practice hand lettering and penmanship.  Also, this would give me permission to buy a new fancy notebook.

Looking : At dress patterns.  I think I have decided to make a dress or two during winter break.  See, I appreciate and understand the usefulness of dresses (only one piece of clothing to concern oneself with for work), but my body is just too weird.  My arms are too long, by boobs are too big, my tummy isn’t all that flat, which wouldn’t be a problem, except I got that powerlifter booty (#teamsquatsfordays!).  So all clothing is hard to fit.  I had a really nice dark navy LL Bean shirtdress that I loved, but it faded under the arms (I guess from my super powerful and potent sweat?)  I am just nervous that I am going to spend a lot of time making a dress that I am going to hate because I am just a baby ninja sewer.

Deciding : A couple of weeks ago, the temperature gauge in my car spiked and the engine started steaming.  I thought I might need some new coolant, but didn’t fix the problem.  I know it sounds ridiculous to be thinking about junking an 11 year old vehicle.  But it is a beat to shit Kia.  It has been really good to me.  I have had,virtually no problems with it.  At 150K+ miles, it still has its original transmission.  Can you even believe that?  It is just that it feels unnecessary for Dave and me to both have cars, when we live across the street from a CTA station serviced by a train that drops me off next to my work.  So I have to decide what to do with my car.  Let it go to the junk yard in the sky or try to keep it going?

Waiting :  I am waiting (so patiently) for the notebook that I ordered from Cognitive Surplus to get here.  My current planner, an XL hardcover with gridded pages from Moleskine is almost full- which is a massive accomplishment.  Normally, I stick with a planner and a system for 4-5 months, tops, before flipping the script and going with a new planner/system.  In any case, we are headed to Miami to see my in-laws later this month, and I wanted to have my new planner to work on, because it is apparently frowned upon to sleep for 14 hours a night when you are not a toddler.

I am so nervous about this new notebook.  The pages are blank, which makes me skittish.  I have a hard time writing in a straight line.  But I am hoping that the freedom of not having lines will be enough for me to not worry about lines.

Liking : Since my trip to Paris in September, I have been slightly obsessed with Chocolate Croissants.  I have had several from Whole Foods, Starbucks, and Le Pain Quotidien.  The ones from Starbucks are the worst of the bunch, which is surprising, because generally, I like most of their food.  I wish I knew more about baking so I could put my finger on what it is that is different.  Maybe theirs are not made with real butter?

Wondering : If I can watch previous seasons of GBBO on the PBS Passport thing they have going on now.  Dave and I tried to watch an episode of Finding Your Routes a couple of weeks ago, but needed access to the Passport in order to do so.  I signed us up, but haven’t had a chance to see if back episodes of GBBO are on it.

Pondering : Watching the Great Gatsby.  I just finished listening to the audiobook (narrated by Jake Gyllenhal).  It was okay.  I can kinda see how the literary tools in the story made it stand apart from much of what had come before.  There was some elegance to the story- how a lie caused the death of a person who had built his life on a set of lies and misconceptions.  And the ironic sadness in amassing a fortune for one’s self, but dying alone, without the one thing that you wanted.  Like, yeah, I get it.  I just am not sure I would put it up there with the greatest books/stories I’ve ever experienced.

Regardless, the version that is on Netflix has Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.  Or I go to Amazon and watch the Leo DiCaprio one.  I don’t see me watching this movie twice, so I am going to have to pick one.  I am not saying that I think DiCaprio is a bad actor, but I feel about him like I feel about The Great Gatsby.  Like, it works, sometimes.  But he’s not my favorite.  But compared to a young Robert Redford?

Listening : I took off a couple of days in the middle of this week.  I wanted to use the days to recharge and refuel.  I know it’s awful to say this because, its not like I work in a factory on a line or in a mine or something.  I go to my office and sit on my ass for 7+ hours a day.  So it’s not hard work-but this is the second quarter since January that I have taught two classes on top of my usual work obligations, so I have been feeling run down.

Anyhoo, being “off” at home has meant that I am doing work stuff, but I am doing it in my pjs and listening to music I own on my laptop (rather than pandora at work).  Right now, I am listening to old Counting Crows (August and Everything After).

Considering : Voting early.  Basically if I am going to vote early, it has to happen today.  Tomorrow, Monday or Tuesday isn’t going to work as well.  But it would mean I might not get a nap today.

Buying : All the Christmas presents!!  I think I pretty much narrowed down for gifts for my nieces and nephews.  It’s tough, because with four kids, they have, at some point, had ALL THE TOYS.   It’s ridic.  I have settled on gifts for three of the 4. But damn, I don’t have the mental bandwidth.  Could I just do Cubs shirts?  Doesn’t EVERYONE want a Cubs shirt?

Marvelling : Grace Bonney of Design Sponge recently published a lovely looking new book called “In the Company of Women“.  All reports point to be it being beautiful.

Needing : This lovely cake slicer.  I need it.  So much.  I have always wanted to make a layer cake.  I have never done it because I felt like it wouldn’t be very stable.  I like my odds with this guy.

Questioning : Why people are theorizing and questioning everything about Westworld.   Dudes, I am part of the GOT and TWD fandom.  I ugly-cried when Opie died in Sons of Anarchy.  I know only one thing when it comes to dramatic television: DO NOT GET ATTACHED TO ANYONE.  It will end in heartbreak.

Wearing : Wearing sweatpants.  It’s sweatpants weather and I am so glad its back.  Don’t judge me.

Noticing : Fall is happening.  The leaves are turning and falling.  It is my favorite time of the year.  My absolute favorite.img_9790

Admiring : Nate Silver.  I don’t know how he does what he does.  I kinda feel like the man deserves a vacation.

Bookmarking : StumbleUpon.  I am learning more about it.  Decided that until I can start blogging more the way I want to (when I have more time over Christmas and in the Spring), that I can at least figure out how promotion and influencing works on StumbleUpon.  This works out well for someone like me, how has a hard time staying focused on the task at hand.  I definitely needed another distraction in my life.  🙂

Disliking : Trump.  Always Trump.  Gotta say it now.  If he wins, I will get tossed in an internment camp for my hippie, liberal, socialist, pinko ways.

Feeling : Excited about going to Miami later this month for Thanksgiving.  I am hoping (desperately) to see a good friend from grad school who lives down there.  Aside from that, looking forward to slowing down a bit and doing some reading.

Helping : My son’s AYSO soccer season just wrapped up the fall session.  I volunteered by refereeing.  I hate it.  I absolutely hate refereeing.  There is so much to hate about it.  But it is one of those things that needs to be done.  Was thinking about whether or not I want to do it next year.  The organization always needs coaches and referees.  I am wondering, given my experience as a coach, if it would be better to coach.  Like, how much fun would it be to coach a bunch of little girls?

Hearing : Fireworks last night after the Cubs won.  Dave and I were super irresponsible and woke our seven year old up when they won.  The fireworks being set off across the street from our place definitely did not help us go to sleep.  

Celebrating : The Cubs won last night.  I cannot even. It is rare that things in real life work out the way they would if it was a movie.  Last night was an exception.  That was a movie ending for the Cubs, for David Ross.  It was just lovely.

Embracing : An awful haircut I got.  I probably shouldn’t be too pissed about it, because my original plan in being there was for her to fix my color (I may or may not have used a different dye that made me look more like Ryan Lochte than I would have preferred).  She did a brilliant job on my color.  But the cut has layers on top, instead of under.  The result is that my haircut is dangerously reminiscent of Michelle Akers’ from the early 90s.  Which would be okay if I were as badass as she was.  But I am not.

Five on Friday – Oct. 21, 2016

WOW.  This week.  I feel like I am sliding to home, running on fumes.  Oh wait.  That is just that feeling of the year- like 2016 is spinning out from under me faster and faster.  Yikes.

Some things that are taking up my bandwidth:

  1.  I don’t mind Facebook ads when they are relevant.  In fact, I probably click on more sponsored posts in my Facebook feed than anywhere else.  BTW- if you are trying to figure out what the inputs into that algorithm are, they are as follows:  anything fitness  related, anything bags related, anything planner related, anything productivity related, anything blog related, and anything craft/maker related.  That is how you get me to click on your post on Facebook.Anyhoo.  I came across Stitch People in Facebook.  I WANT IT.  I WANT IT ALL.  Seriously, how cute are they????

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They are so cute I wanna die!!!

2.  Am I the only person on the planet that is real annoyed with students in 2016?  Seriously, it isn’t enough that they have access to the internet, chat, spell-check, and zotero, but now they have bullet journals and study-themed Tumblr?

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What the dick, people?

I remember cheap vinyl binders with looseleaf paper.  The nicest my notes ever looked was when I was in grad-school and I came across some cheap fountain pens.  Before that tho: not pretty.  Not pretty at all.

I am half-considering going back to school so that I can get in on the pretty study notes action.  I appreciate how ridic this is for someone with a PhD.  Even more so as I type it.

3.  I was full-on 100% distracted today by Amazon Music Unlimited.  I signed in to buy some stuff with some birfday money my mum sent me.  Amazon showed me that they had Garth Brooks’ Ultimate Hits.  Don’t mind if I do.  If you have a Prime membership, you can get Music Unlimited for $7.99 a month- which is sweet.  I already pay $10 a month for itunes- so the catalogue would have to be fire in order to get me to switch.  Still looking around.  But am very happy to be listening to old Garth Brooks.  Honestly, you can take the girl out of the south, but you can’t take the south out of the girl.

For kids that grew up in the south in the 1990s- Garth Brooks was part of your childhood soundtrack.  It was inevitable.

My top ten Garth Brooks tracks (of all time):

  1. Two Pina Coladas
  2. Calling Baton Rouge
  3. To make You Feel My Love
  4. That Summer
  5. Unanswered Prayers
  6. Standing Outside the Fire
  7. The Beaches of Cheyenne
  8. Friends in Low Places
  9. The Thunder Rolls
  10. The Dance

Game over.  Seriously, when I hear of the zombie apocalypse starting, the very first thing I am going to do (obviously after securing the safety of my family) is get all of my music and e-book situation sorted out.  Can you even imagine how awful it would be, to suddenly have nothing but time on your hands (because it is the zombie apocalypse and der- no work) and not have access to decent books?  Or worse, to have to do all the chores associated with a zombie apocalypse without any music?  AWFUL.  JUST AWFUL.   So much so that I’d say that when evaluating potential safe zones, access to a library and/or internet is a characteristic I am looking for.

I can sense you laughing at me.  It’s okay.

4.  I caught my reflection in the window of the laundry room last night and couldn’t help but check myself out.  As always, my body is responding in its usual ways to my current strength cycle, which is to say, that my traps and shoulders are legit.

I like to imagine the conversation between my brain and my various muscle groups like this:

JBR Brain: Yo, guys!!!  Muscles!!  What’s up?  Hey, just wanted to let you know that we’re up for that meet in Feb- so we’re going to be hitting that starting strength cycle pretty good.  Hamstrings, you in?

Hamstrings: I got you fam!!!

JBR Brain:  That is great to hear- I’m looking to add maybe 20 lbs to our deadlift numbers.  We’re counting on you.  What about quads and glutes?  You guys down?

Quads and Glutes:  We’re on this, B!  Knees is a little janky, but  you know us!!  We about that life!!!

JBR Brain:  I knew I could count on you guys!  You’re wonderful.  What about The Core?  Core?  Are you ready for this?

Core: Yeah, don’t sign us up for that!

JBR Brain: See, Core, that is disappointing.  You know, if you just chipped in a little, it would make all of the rest of our-

Core: Like we said- bugger off.

JBR Brain: Well, that is insulting.  You’re worthless core.  Go.  Go on- we’ll do this the hard way.  Without you.  Again.  Thanks for being useless.  What about Traps and Shoulders?  What are your feelings on this?

Traps and Shoulders: YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!  WE GOING HAM, BITCHEZ!!!!!!!!!! LIFT ALL THE THINGS!!!!  LOOK AT US!!  SOMEONE GET US A BANDAID- CUZ WE ARE CUT!!!!

JBR Brain: Jesus, Traps and Shoulders… can you take it down a notch?  I mean, it is about to be winter and its already difficult getting you into jackets and-

Traps and Shoulders:  TOO LATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  WE’RE BRO’ED TO THE MAX BRO!  LET’S LIFT, BITCHES!!!

JBR Brain: I am not your bro.  Can you not?

Traps and Shoulders: TOO LATE- WE’RE AT THE MUSCLE PARTY!!  AND WE GOT ZERO CHILL!!

5.  I am with HER- buuuuuuuut I think we need to talk about a Jon Lester-David Ross campaign ticket.  Honestly, the Cubs were ridiculous last night.  Ridiculous.  I cannot even with them.

It’s funny, because I think I am starting to get a hang of the personalities of the players- since we’ve watched them so much this season.  For example, if I ever saw John Lackey in real life, I am going to pretend like I didn’t.  His intensity on the mound makes me think that he would not have time for my nonsense.  Javier Baez  though?  I bet I could get Javy to play a game of 4-square or Kick the Can in a parking lot.  He is cheeky and fun- but that is part of this thing.

However, I don’t really ever worry when Lester and Ross are starting.  I don’t want to say that I think it’s a done deal- but its reassuring when they’re up.  Like, there aren’t going to be ridiculous mistakes here- when they are up, things are going to be okay.  Lester and Ross are a great team.  Both seem to have a really great understanding of each other’s weaknesses and complement each other well.  For example- because he is a lefty, Lester can see when base runners are leading off far from first base. Do you know how much discipline it takes to be looking at a guy pretending he is going to steal and be like, “Nah- I got a game plan to execute.”  I wanna throw these guys out at first and I can’t throw for shit.  But, they have a game plan and it does not include Lester throwing out guys at first.  He can do that, because he has Ross- who routinely throws out guys trying to steal bases.

I love the elegance of that.  But I also love that THEY’RE ALL BUSINESS. I think that is what America needs right now.  Just a couple of guys who are going to do their absolute best and not make stupid mistakes.  And, I think that is all we can ask for.  Lester and Ross in the White House would Make America Great Again, most definitely.

 

2016 Reading Challenge

One thing that I try to do as much as possible with my life list items, is to bundle them into larger goals or tasks.  Like killing two birds with one stone.  For example, I really want to put together annual family scrapbooks/photo books, not only because it would be cool to be able to look back through them (and because the older I get, the more I question my memory :), but also, it would allow me to get rid of the ton of scrapbooking papers, punches, stickers, and washi tapes that I have collected over the last 10 years.  Honestly, i have no emotional connection to that stuff- yet I move it from place to place because it would seem seriously wasteful to trash it.  Marie Kondo would have a field day with me.

One of the bigger items on my Fortyby40 list is to read all the Man Booker prize books.   In case, you are not familiar, the Man Booker prize for fiction is awarded for the best original novel, written in the English language.  It was originally awarded in 1968 (we’re coming up on 50 books on the list!)  In the literature world, it is a VERY big deal.  This life list item came about after I read Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

My mum disagrees with me, but it is one of the best books I have ever read.  My thoughts were, “Holy shit- if this one rocked my face off, maybe the other Mann Booker prize books will rock my face off too!”  It hasn’t actually worked out that way.  A couple of months ago, I started The Luminaries.  It hasn’t hooked me yet, which is to say that it is super slow.  Of course, I appreciate that I have plebeian taste, and that maybe, like John Snow, I know nothing.  But that is neither here nor there.

So, for me, when the Modern Ms. Darcy published her 2016 reading challenge, I jumped on board, because I thought it would be a great opportunity to make tackle some Man Booker books.  Also, because it gave me the excuse to read Deathly Hallows again. Duh.

A book published this year:  When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)

A book you can finish in a day: Night (Elie Wiesel)

A book you’ve been meaning to read: The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookshelf: The Third Coast (Thomas Dyja)

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A book you should have read in school: The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Thornton Wilder)

A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF: Proud Breed (Celeste De Blasis)

A book published before you were born: Offshore (Penelope Fitzgerald)offshore

A book that was banned at some point: Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut)

A book you previously abandoned: Clash of Kings (George RR Martin)

A book that you own but have never read: Women who run with Wolves (Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

A book that intimidates you: The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)

A book you’ve already read at least once: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling)

Right now, I am working on Off Shore by Penelope Fitzgerald.  It was the Man Booker prize the year that I was born (1979).  Since I was born so late in the year, technically, the book was published by the year I was born.  Its about a little community of people who live on houseboats in the Thames.  As I have learned more and more about the Man Booker prize, it seems that a lot of the criticism about the prize seems to be about it being very British- that is, not interested in America-centric books.  Authors have been “blacklisted” because they speak out on topics that judges find problematic.  Finally, it also seems like a lot of the controversy has to do with relative popularity of books; like the judges aren’t necessarily interested in books that do well commercially or that seem very “readable”.  Like being a commercial success was some type of indicator of the “access” a book has with the general reader.  And that if a book was accessible, it was not deemed “high end”.

I don’t really care.  I should be unimpressed- much like my mum is.  But, it’s a list, and we all know how I like lists.

I am about a fifth of the way into the book- and progress is slow.  It is slow because I got a new course prep for winter quarter and feel like I really should be reading those books.  You would think that I could get my act together to read, since I have been spending so much time on public transit lately.  But its proving difficult- mostly because I have just been zoning out on Instagram when I get on the train to go home.

One of the things I like about Audible is that sometimes, famous people/celebrities will narrate books.  Imagine my surprise when I got “The Things They Carried” last year and it was narrated by Bryan Cranston.  Yeah- that Bryan Cranston.  This week, I was perusing Audible and found a couple of the books that I am planning to “read”/”experience” for this challenge are narrated by familiar voices.  James Franco will be in my ears reading Slaughterhouse Five and Jake Gyllenhaal will be narrating the Great Gatsby.  Is that not the coolest?

Also, before you judge me for going after these old snooze-fest books, keep in mind that I have stayed away from the classics for years on purpose.  I mean, honestly, how can the Great Gatsby even attempt to keep up with the Hunger Games, Harry Potter, or the Game of Thrones series?  In any case, I am glad for the challenge, because it does seem unseemly, that the only thing I know about Slaughterhouse Five is from the movie Footloose.

Mr. Gurntz: He was trying to teach *that* book down at the school.
Mrs. Allyson: Slaughterhouse-Five, isn’t that an awful name?
Ren: Yeah it’s a great book… Slaughterhouse-Five, it’s a classic.
Mr. Gurntz: Do you read much?
Mrs. Allyson: Maybe in another town, it’s a classic.
Ren: In *any* town.
Mr. Gurntz: Tom Sawyer is a classic!

Literally, that is the only thing I knew about it.  *shrugs*

 

Five on Friday – Oct. 14, 2016

Friday Friday Getting Down on Friday!

I am starting a Five on Friday feature.  It is meant to be a random hodgepodge of things that are taking up my bandwidth.

Without further ado:

1).  In celebration of my birthday this weekend, I bought myself a new bag.  It deserves it’s own blog post, but at some point, I need to explain myself and exactly what my problem is when it comes to bags.  But this isn’t that kind of post.  The point is, I am kinda fussy when it comes to bags.  Right now, I have a Timbuk2 messenger bag that I have been carrying for about a year.  But, It’s not great for walking long distances.  I always put *way* too much stuff in it.  My water bottle doesn’t fit in the water bottle pocket on the outside of the bag.  And it is just a heavy bag.

I am trying to take public transit and walk a lot more- so I figured if I went back to a backpack, that might help. We should definitely NOT talk about the two other LL Bean backpacks that I have currently.  Let’s just say that they are not big enough for my lunch and my laptop.  Don’t judge me.

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I wandered into the Lincoln Park Title Nine last week and came across this guy, which I am currently in love with.  It is also Timbuk2.  Which is crazy.  I didn’t realize that that was a thing for me.

2). I discovered Katie Fleming’s blog last year, just after she took off on her thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.  Despite being a Florida Gator, I really like her.  Her blog is pretty sweet- giving a wonderful description of hiker life.  She just completed a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (which is walking from Mexico to Canada).

You know how there are those hiker types that seem so alien?  It’s like they were born outside, walking a trail?  They eschew most of modern conveniences and are just so alien to most of us?  These are often the same types of people who are like, “Hahahahaha!!  I forgot to eat lunch today!!  Isn’t that funny?”

I’m like, “Bitch, I plan my whole day around lunch, so what are you talking about?”

Katie’s blog is the kind of blog I would write if I ever get off my ass to hike over 5,000 miles.  She’s real- its not all rainbow barfing kittens.  Sometimes the weather sucks.  Sometimes you bust your ass on the trail.  Sometimes you just can’t even.  She posts just about every day or every other day, which is really quite a feat, if you think about it.  Her posts are also pic heavy- so in addition to it being a nice account of recent PCT and AT thru hikes, it also fulfills my need for shiny, pretty things.

3).  I just finished listening to The Bridge of San Luis Rey.  The audible version was read by Sam Waterson, whose voice is sooooo recognizable.  I think he has a really reasonable voice.  You know how in tv and movies, the angels that sit on our shoulders, who are theoretically representations of Selfishness/Evil and Altruism/Goodness?  If there was a similar angel, for reason and intellect that sat, maybe on our brain, it would have the voice of Sam Waterson.

I am reading/listening to TBSLR (can I do that?) as part of Modern Ms. Darcy’s 2016 reading challenge.  This is the book I should have read in high school.  See what happened is that we were supposed to read it second semester of my senior year and I was done with high school everything at the point, so I definitely didn’t read it.

I never even bought the book.  Which is a shame- because it has a brilliant line in it.

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4).  I don’t know who this guy is, but he is adorable.

Moreover, I could eat a chocolate croissant every day of the week. EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK. But who even has the time to make chocolate croissant every day of the week? Why is my life so hard? Why can’t I just have a cook/chef who comes to my house, makes our meals and restocks my chocolate croissant stock? Every day? Is it too hard to ask that I have this in my life?

Apparently, chocolate croissant (sorry, I am not calling it Pain au Chocolat- I am already insufferable enough) isn’t that hard.  It is just time consuming.  And a little fussy.  Honestly, if I were on GBBO, I would just get really good at this and just make this for bread week- no matter what the challenge was.  Mel and Sue would be like, “Paul and Mary would like you to make a savory focaccia” and I would still make chocolate croissant.  But, I would make it so well, that they couldn’t even be mad.  Like, “We’re not even upset that she didn’t make a savory focaccia, because these chocolate croissant are amazing!!!”  Then I would moon walk right out of the tent!!

5). My kid is fighting in his third judo tournament this weekend- actually on my birthday.

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I am nervous for him. I am also supposed to have a soccer game that day. But it is the last game of the season and it is a consolation game, because we went 0-6. 0-6. Can you believe that? What is my life even?  I wish I could say that my presence in goal will matter to this team.  But I am not sure it will.  It hasn’t mattered all season- seriously.  I can’t put my finger on what our issue is.  I concede it is probably me.  This old girl just aint what she used to be.

Regardless, I think Nico would like it if I was at his tournament.

After two tournaments, we have settled into a pretty good groove- Dave coaches and I record on my phone.  Then I upload and send links to the grandmas and grandpas. It is almost like they will be there.

I hope your weekend is amazing.  Whatcha got shaking?

Item Complete: #33 See Paris Bird and Flower Market

Way, way, way back, like all the way back in 2008, I stumbled upon an article (I think it was the Guardian piece I linked to here) about the Bird and Flower Market of Paris (Marché aux Fleurs et aux Oiseaux).  As a former southern belle and country girl at heart, I am always sorta intrigued by “markets.”  Like you go to one and get the thing.  Markets always make me think of “the good old days” (whenever that was), when people would get groceries from the butcher, and the grocer, and the baker.  I don’t know- it always seemed so quaint.

The Paris Bird and Flower Market was interesting to me, because, like most everything in Europe, I thought that it would be cool to stroll along the cobblestones where generations before me had shopped and socialized.  Marché aux Fleurs et aux Oiseaux has been around for over two centuries.  Plus, if we are being quite honest, I am quite fond of shiny, pretty things.

I was already interested in seeing the market when I heard an absolutely brilliant piece on Snap Judgement.  It is a cool story and features birds (with a cameo by the Marché aux Fleurs et aux Oiseaux).

When my dissertation advisor sent me a note about a demography conference in Paris earlier this year, I submitted to it.  Ultimately, it was accepted and away I went!!  I had hoped to figure out a way for my favorite boys to come with me- but it just wasn’t in the cards this time.

Forgive me for what I am about to say-I kinda want to kick my own ass for it.  So here it is:

The trip wasn’t great.

I know.

I can’t.

Anthony Bourdain has this to say about enjoying Paris:

“What does it take to enjoy Paris? A F%CKING plane ticket! That is what it takes! You get on a plane and come to Paris and you wander around freely. Even if you’re eating badly in Paris, its a good thing… Let’s put it this way: if you are lucky enough to have a passport and a few bucks in your pocket and you find yourself in Paris… if you can’t find your way to a good time somehow, then there is no light or joy in this world.  How could you not enjoy Paris?  Having a miserable time in Paris is the best time ever…”

Shame.  I bring shame to my family. I know.

Here is the thing: I am getting old, y’all.  Or maybe not old-old, but just too old for five day trips to other time zones. Because I could just not get the jet lag sorted out.  Of course, it didn’t help that I did not sleep well the two nights leading up to my trip.  And I had great ideas of sleeping on the flight.  I even bought a neck pillow.  A neck pillow!!

Maybe I was too excited about going.  Because I could not fall asleep on the plane.  Know when I got sleepy?  Just as we started our descent in Charles de Gaulle.  Like it was amateur hour.  By the time I got into Paris at 6 in the morning, I had gotten about 6 hours of sleep over the previous three nights.  It wasn’t great.

So I was wiped out.  And I just couldn’t get my Paris legs under me.  I was mis-informed by the internets about the availability of sim cards for my “unlocked” iPhone.  Why did this matter?  Well, when I got a smart phone, I purged the “map-reading” and “spatial awareness and navigational” files from my brain.  Because I didn’t need them anymore.  My brain needed the space- for remembering important things, like lines from movies.    Look, man!  Something had to go!  So it was map-reading.

Also, I hadn’t bothered to learn any additional french, beyond the french that I already knew:

Bonjour, madamazelle, I like your chapeau!” (Good day, m’am, I like your hat!)

Enchante” (Enchanted- and I only learned that because it sounded fancy).

Merci beucoup!” (Thank you).

Parle ingles?” (Do you speak English- duh! American!)

Allez putain!!” (Go Whore!!- This is in reference to when your team is doing badly- I wouldn’t have actually said this to a Parisian sex worker).

Why?  Why would I have not needed any french?

Two reasons my friend!

Exhibit A).  I think this one is obvious- but my french is quite terrible and on previous occasions, most French people would rather stoop to my useless American tourst level and speak English than listen to the likes of me butcher their beautiful language.

Exhibit B).  I was supposed to have a phone with access to the interwebs via a data plan purchased for use with said SIM card, which should have worked with my bullshit phone.

My plan (flawed as it was) did not require conversing all that much in French nor worrying too much about navigation because I would be able to navigate myself around.  And even if I did need to speak French, I would be able to access the internet, which would have provided me with useful customized phrases via apps.

How did that work out for me?

It was a shit show.

I drove the jetlag struggle bus the entire time I was there.  My first two days there required me being at a conference, so I didn’t do much then.  Friday night I went with a girl from the conference to a nearby area of the city that had a street full of side-walk bistros and cafes.  I had fish and chips, because it looked really good (which it was) and Creme Brulee, which I wasn’t sure I had ever had before (if we are being honest, I wasn’t that big a fan of it.  I thought the texture was a little weird).

But then I had what could have been a lovely Paris weekend to myself, to get lost and day drink and nap.  And I just couldn’t- mostly because 4 hour long naps really eat into the day and make it so you have a hard time falling asleep.  And waking up.  Also, “Work Travel” JBR showed up- to put the brakes on almost everything.

I did manage a couple of really fantastic meals while I was there-including lots of baguette. Do you now how you could improve the taste of a salad?  Put it on a baguette.  Honestly!! I checked out Shakespeare and Co (a bookstore), which had a double bonus of selling booze- so you know that was my jam.  There was a little cafe near Place d’Italie (where my bnb was located), where I had dinner on Saturday night.  I had escargot cooked in basil and olive oil, that was wonderful.  You know what I did with that bread, right?  Used it to soak up basil and olive oil, like a boss.

My last full day there was a Sunday, which was the day I headed to Marché aux Fleurs et aux Oiseaux for the birds and the flowers!  img_9389

I don’t know what the usual turnout is for the market.  But it was a rainy early fall day- so there weren’t very many vendors, nor shoppers (which was fine by me).  So it’s hard for me to say much about the experience, other than most of the birds that were on display were small. Beautiful, but small, little guys, pink ones, grey ones, and light blue ones.  It’s a great thing that I would have had quite the time getting it through customs, because all of a sudden, I wanted to buy a bird.  Can you even imagine?  “M’am, do you have anything to declare?”

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The flowers were mostly garden center flowers (and supplies), meaning that most were in pots.  I sort of expected stalls on stalls of cool cut flowers- but that is okay. They were still gorgeous.  But again, same issue, with customs.  Plus, I was already going to have a tough time toting my stuff back on the plane, can you imagine having to carry a giant potted plant back on a plane? That would have been fairly annoying for everyone around me.

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So, while the Marché aux Fleurs et aux Oiseaux was slightly underwhelming, the experience did lead to a fantastic meal.  On the way back to the place I was staying, I grabbed a late lunch at a cafe nearish the Eiffel tower.  It was probably toursity- so don’t judge.  Also, it had fast free wifi, so who was winning?  My server spoke pretty good english (as did most of the French people I encountered).  She talked me into a lambshank special that was heavenly.  Plus french onion soup, baguette, and beer?  I died a little.  It was divine! img_9425

Altogether, the trip was okay. I am glad I went (and really glad I got to cross off Marché aux Fleurs et aux Oiseaux from the list.)  In the future, it would do a lot better to be well-rested in the days leading up to the trip.  This way, if some of my plans don’t work out, it is no big deal.  And have a better plan for telecommunications.  Or take Dave- Dave’s french is decent by most standards.  It would have really helped on this trip.

Why “Seeing the Cubs Win the World Series” is a Terrible Life List item

I remember writing my first list in 2002.  At the time, it was solace in a life that was not going according to plan.  Some events during my junior year of college ended up changing my career plans- and I really had no idea what I was going to do with my life.  Long story short: I had planned on a career in law enforcement.  But then, in college, I got into some trouble with law enforcement, which I thought would be a non-starter for someone wanting to go into law enforcement.  We could Monday morning quarterback the hell out of whether that was actually true.  But for me, a 21 year old kid who had never been in trouble, I thought my career was over before it started.

I was living in a shitty studio apartment on the edge of FSU’s campus in Tallahassee, Florida and working two jobs, struggling with what to do next.  All I knew was that all the things I wanted to do with my life- the non-career stuff, seemed so far away when I was struggling to pay rent.  I got really sick that year (in the fall-winter of 2002-2003) and ended a three year relationship with a guy who had a different idea about what we were than I did.

I remember being really frustrated, thinking that it sucked that things weren’t going the way they were supposed to because I had, for all intents and purposes, done things “the right way”.  Went to college, double-majored, graduated with honors, early, played by the rules-which included not being a “mess.”  The life list helped me, because in creating it, I was recognizing and recording the things that I wanted to do. It assuaged my stress at not being able to do these things, while getting me to think about what kind of career I would need to support checking items off this list.

Since then, the list has changed; I have added things and taken things off the list.  What I have come to realize is that there are three main things to consider when you add or subtract items to your bucket list.

Why do YOU WANT to do the things on your list?

There are lots of reasons that items get added to our life’s to-do list.  You’re listening to a radio story and think, “That sounds pretty cool, I’d like to see that.”  It could be that for you, there is some substantial meaning in accomplishing a task.  Doing that task will make you a college graduate or a published author.  Or maybe you inherit some item from a parent or a grandparent.  There is nothing wrong with that- doing something in someone’s honor, because they never got around to it.  Or sometimes you just want to do a thing because it would mean a lot to a loved one.

For example, one of the first things that Dave (my husband) and I did when we started dating was see the Cubs play in the National League Championship Series game at the old ProPlayer stadium in South Florida.  We were in those first heady days of a new relationship- where we couldn’t get enough of each other.  12118829_10106769551521333_4684805451227117528_n.jpg

We drove 8 hours to Miami, for a date, essentially, less than a month after we started dating.  It was then that I added “See the Cubs Win the Series Live” to my life list.   I just knew that I would love to be with Dave in Wrigley when they won the series.  Of course, I didn’t really have a great grasp of what that meant- the series of events that would have to fall into place for that to happen.

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Cubs Win!

How much control do you have over the things you WANT to do?

There are some things that we decide to do, which are simply a matter of grinding it out- committing the time or putting the work in.  These include things like learning a skill or a foreign language or running a marathon.  These items require commitment to the cause and regular effort- be it weekly or daily or more often.

But, there other items are largely outside of our control.  Wanting to see the Cubs win the Series Live has a major requirement: it requires the Cubs to be good.

I know, right?  LOL!!

Except, not really right now.  In the last two years, the Cubs have been brilliant.  At no point since 2003 have my chances of seeing the Cubs win the series Live been THIS GOOD.   Honestly, I don’t wanna jinx it, but they are so good right now.  I mean, how could you watch the video below and not want it to happen?

IT MIGHT HAPPEN THIS YEAR.

Take a deep breath…

Let’s remember that in order for me to see them win the series (LIVE), they need to first, get to the series.  For argument’s sake, let’s just say that is going to happen.

Because I want to see this happen live, I am going to need to be at the game when they win it- which is the tricky part.  World Series tickets don’t just grow on trees.  Even if I could get them, they would likely be much more expensive than a responsible person (such as myself) could probably afford.  Assuming I could pinpoint the exact game when the Cubs win the series, it would be very expensive to be there (and I am not at that place in my life to afford it).

Because I can’t tell the future, I would have to buy tickets to games 4, 5, 6, and 7, to ensure that I am in the stadium when the Cubs win.  Worse, I would also have to plan to travel to away games- in the event that they win on the road.  GAHHHHHH!!  Why couldn’t I have been a trust fund baby!!!

Really, I have very little control or agency over seeing the Cubs win the Series, which makes this item a bad life list item for me.  But for someone who has more financial resources- this isn’t unreasonable.  That is the cool thing about life lists- is what might seem like an insurmountable item for one person is a done deal for someone else.  You might have the time, but need the money.  You might have the money, but need the time.  You might have neither the time or the money, but you have the know-how.  Or you might have time and money and know how to get the know how, you just haven’t put a plan into action.

In what ways will accomplishing life list items CHANGE YOU?

There are the things that we want to do, because we will benefit from the process of doing them.  Running a marathon- means, probably becoming a runner.  Learning french will put you in a good place for a big fun trip to France.  Maybe learning to code will help you get a better job.

But, there are some things that we want to do that really won’t change us.  They won’t impact our lives in any meaningful way.  We want to add these items to our collection of experiences.

There is nothing wrong with this.  There is nothing that says you have to grow and become a better person with all the items on your life list.  If I got to see the Cubs win the Series Live, would it make me a better person?  A smarter person?  A more disciplined person?  A better mother?  A better athlete?  No.

Might it be something I remember when I have misjudged the distance of the last step on a set of stairs when when my life flashes before my eyes?

Yes.  Yes, it will.

Not a Memo. A Mission Statement.

The human brain is a weird thing.  Mine so, probably more than most.  I think it is in part due to my preference for bright, shiny things.  Like, for some reason, my brain has no problem watching movies I have already seen.  You’re probably thinking, “Dude, that is everyone.”  Fair enough.  But does your brain constantly search for the exact right movie scene to describe a real life situation?  No?  Well, try not to be jealous of my super power.

The scene I am thinking of is Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire– at the beginning, when he has his epiphany and writes the memo mission statement.  I feel like Jerry McGuire right now.  I am wiped out after a long day at work and not much sleep last night, yet, here I am- furiously pounding away on my computer.  The rest of the house is asleep and I really should be in bed.  But here I am.

Tri-Star Pictures
Jerry McGuire (Tri-Star Pictures)

Here is the thing:  we are at a very special point in time.  In our hands, we have devices that can access all information known to man- SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME.  These devices allow us to save so much time, because we do the things that we need to do in our lives so much faster and more efficiently.  Twenty years ago, if I wanted to deposit a check in a bank, I had to actually go to the bank- today I take a picture of it and upload it to my bank.  If I wanted to talk to my mom on the phone, I had to plan to actually be in my house at a certain time in order to talk with her, on a land line- today I can call her when I am getting off the train on my way to work.

It is not all barfing rainbows and unicorns.  Our technology has become a double edged sword.  While we can shop for groceries from home via an app or pay bills through a bank’s mobile app, we now have the ability to waste unprecedented amounts of time.  Think back twenty years ago, what you might have done if you found yourself with an extra 15 or 20 minutes.  Say some type of schedule or transportation glitch left you with 15 or 20 minutes you might not have accounted for.  How might you have filled that time?

Simple:  you would have read a newspaper, read a book, did a crossword, or some type of handiwork (knitting or crocheting)- if you had your materials with you.  Maybe, if you didn’t have any of these, you might have sat in quiet reflection for 15 minutes.  But now, we have these devices that allow us to piss away an obscene amount of time.  Between social networks and game applications alone, an average person can blow 20 minutes without even thinking about it.  If I am not careful, I can piss 15 minutes away before I EVEN GET OUT OF BED.

Isn’t that amazing scary amazing horrible amazing?

Here is the thing: 15 minutes here and 20 minutes there doesn’t sound like a lot- because it isn’t.  But think about what it might add up to over the course of a day.  15 minutes when I first wake up.  15 minutes at the end of a workout, where I catch up on emails and notifications I missed while I was working out.  20 minutes waiting for dinner to cook.  15 minutes pissed away on social media when I put my son down for bed.

What’s more, is that very little of what we do in this wasted time (scrolling through social media, streaming shows and movies, and texting) actually adds up to anything of substance or value.  At the end of my life am I going to be laying on my deathbed really glad that I finished watching Sons of Anarchy on Netflix?  Probably not.  Am I going to be think back to all the information about reality TV stars that I have somehow collected through social media?  FALSE.

The good news is that this situation isn’t hopeless.  With a plan and the right mindset, it is possible to convert all those “wasted” minutes to productive minutes using deliberate action steps.  We do this in order to help us achieve the things that we want to achieve, whether that is learning to fly fish or running a marathon.

In his book The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New RichTim Ferris argues that most of the things that people WANT to do in their life don’t require extreme wealth or even vast chunks of uninterrupted time.  Even the “big” things that people want to do, like “buy a house”, “learn another language” or “take my family on an around the world vacation” aren’t really that big or difficult with the right mindset and a killer plan.  Further, he argues that we get it into our heads that we have to put off doing these things- until we are retired, until we pay off the mortgage, until our kids graduate.  The trick is to change our mindset from thinking of doing these big things as a reward for a long and productive career to engineering our lives in a way that supports the things we want to do.

i-will-not-be-commanded-i-will-not-be-controlled-i-will-not-let-my-future-go-on-without-the-help-of-my-soul-greg-holden-the-lost-boyThat is what we are doing here.  It is why I am here.  I am not a wealthy woman.  I am not entirely in control of my own career at this point.  I have a child and a partner who expect me to be reasonably in the picture (which means, not taking off and hiking the triple crown right now).  But I will be damned if I am going to sit on my ass for the next 40 years, waiting to retire.  There is no way I can live, hoping to “earn” my retirement, destroying my body by sitting in an office chair for 50 years of my life.  I want more.  And I am not willing to wait.

I want this blog (and theoretically the community that it will support) to be a vehicle for getting myself and others working productively on the things we WANT to do.

What about you?  Are you going to wait until you’re at the end of your life before you start living it?  Or are you going to start now?

I guess what I am asking is, are you in?

Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying

One of my favorite movies is Shawshank Redemption. I have probably seen it, maybe 20 or 30 times (legitimately).  I was recently discussing with a friend that if we see it on cable, we are canceling all plans for the rest of the day.  Because that is what you do when Shawshank is on.

My favorite scene is with Andy (Timothy Robbins) and Red (Morgan Freeman) sitting in the prison yard.  They are talking about whether or not they could live outside of the prison.

I see a lot of parallels between their situation and the situation that a lot of people find themselves in real life.  For whatever reasons, many of us find ourselves imprisoned in a life that we don’t find fulfilling, doing work we don’t love, existing in situations that don’t make us happy.  We grind on- because at the end of the day, most of us do the things we’re SUPPOSED to do before we do the things we WANT to do.

We put off for years, decades even, the things that we really want to do- the things we think will make us happy because we’re waiting for conditions to be right.  Instead of doing the things, we cultivate a life list or a bucket list, with the hopes it will tide us over till we’re ready.  We’re waiting for our kid to go to kindergarten, for our partners to get those promotions, for retirement.  We spend so much time waiting for our lives to be right, to foster success in the things we want to do, that they are one and the same in our minds.  We’ve somehow convinced ourselves that many of the things we want to do require such large time and resource commitments that they are impossible until our life circumstances change.

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Columbia

Here is the thing:  most of the things that we want to do in our lives don’t require life-changing, consciousness-altering events.  Often they don’t require us to be suddenly, disgustingly rich.  They don’t always require large chunks of uninterrupted time in the most inaccessible places. In most cases, accomplishing the things you want to in life requires a shift in your philosophy.  For many, living your funnest, most fulfilling, best life simply requires making the time for the things you want to do and committing to them.  In many ways, it is a simple choice: “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

As Red would say, “That’s g-damned right!”