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.

View all my reviews

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Orange Your Way into Fall

If you didn't notice the black spider webs and bags of candy corn shelved next to the end-of-summer pool toys and school supplies - it's almost Halloween.  Well, almost, if you are one of the millions of folks who will participate in some kind of Halloween activity and spend almost $7 billion for all the fun. (Yes, with a "b" - that was last year's spending, according to Forbes - and they know how to spell "billion.")  Doesn't it seem that the Halloween prep starts earlier and earlier each year?  I guess if the farmer's could get the pumpkins to grow earlier, we'd be carving jack-o-lanterns at the 4th of July picnic.

Other than the candy (bring on the chocolate!), I'm not a big fan of the holiday.  Basically, because it's scary and spooky. And carving pumpkins is messy and difficult.  But the theme colors - orange and black - are pretty.  So if you're like me, and peeking through one eye open until November 1, here's a few ways to enjoy the color of the season, without all the ghouls and mess.

Decorate with mums.  I can't grow anything, but I love flowers. Potted plants are the solution.  I'm sad when they finally wilt away, but I love the burst of color while the flowers are still in bloom.  The bright fall mums are the obvious choice for front steps or a flower arrangement inside.

Go to a farm for pick-your-own fields.  The kids and I enjoy picking our own whatevers - fruit, flowers, berries.  If you're lucky, there may still be farms with a few apples left, great for applesauce, apple pie, apple cake, caramel apples.  Of course, you can pick up the biggest, fattest pumpkin for carving and pumpkin seeds - or several little ones for a pretty table setting.  If you're lucky, there may even be a corn maze in your area and the kids can get lost for an hour or so (in a good way.)

Make orange jack-o-lanterns. Skip the carving and scooping and "what do we do with all the inside guck?"  Get a bag of oranges and a black Sharpie and let the kids decorate oranges as little teeny jack-o-lanterns.  Quick, easy, not messy. Fun to throw in the kids' lunchbox or sports snack bag.
Easy to make and cute for the lunchbox.
Crochet or knit in orange.  Mother Nature tells us without a doubt that orange is the color for the season.  Even if you think you don't like orange - it's a nice wake-me-up color to wear when it's dark when you get out of bed and dark on your way home.  Grab a skein of your favorite yarn - wool, silk, cotton - the season is just fickle enough that almost any weight will work and stitch yourself up a cute little scarf or hat.
An asymmetrical triangle-shapped scarf, made from a light-weight sock yarn.
Bake pumpkin-y goodness. Pie, bread, muffins. Even the seeds make a tasty treat.  On my list is a Pumpkin Cake Cheesecake that I noticed on another site - Sally's Baking Addiction.  There's pumpkin, there's cheesecake. Yum. Add a cup of creamy coffee. Wrap up in my new orange scarf.  Hey - it's fall!

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Currently... Trying to Establish Balance

If you keep up with me, you may have noticed that I only had one blog post last week.  My "Currently..." post, last Monday.  Note that the first thing on that list was "fighting a cold."  Yeah, well, I lost that battle.  I chalk it up to what I call "exhaustion flu," when you're body determines that you don't have the good sense to take a break and rest when you need it, so every cell in your body goes on strike, leaving you to be able to do nothing but lay on the couch and barely move as your children walk round you, peeking just to make sure you are still breathing.  So, note to the wise - take time for yourself.

I know, as busy folks out there, we tend to think we don't have time to rest, we eat on the run, and we feel we must check and respond to every email, text and phone message ASAP and post our every thought on Facebook or the world will stop spinning.  As moms, we even feel guilty for taking a nap, saying "no" to the call for volunteering at school (again),  ordering dinner rather than cooking from scratch, and going to bed at a reasonable time instead of staying up and sewing on all the Girl Scout patches and baking two dozen cupcakes for tomorrow's bake sale.  My daughter asked me recently, "Mommy, why don't you ever take a bubble bath?"  What an excellent question, which sadly the only response I had was that I was too busy.

But, I did get out of town over the weekend. Not 100% a restful get-away, I attended a sorority conference, but there were some restful moments.  I did travel alone, drove through the New England countryside a little bit, and I went to dinner by myself before my friend got in town.  This is such a rare treat - real food that I didn't have to cook, with cloth napkins and candlelight, a martini and everything. I take my book, order whatever I want, people watch, and enjoy some quiet time.  This really is one of my guilty pleasures.

So, yes, we do need to rest, we do need to eat right and take care of ourselves. Otherwise, the only thing that's going to stop moving is you. The world is going to continue on.

What's your favorite way to rest? (And do not say going out for a run because that is not resting!)

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