Just a Status Update

Well, we now have five baby snails in the bowl, and we saw at least one sub-millimeter, possibly snail-shaped thing crawling on the glass. Daughter checks the main tank twice daily (when she should be heading out for school and when she should be going to bed. Not before breakfast, when she has plenty of time to regain any lost time, and not after school. She has a schedule (and diary) on the whiteboard to remind her when to clean the bowl. Today she said she needs to do it four times a week, because at three times they go too long between cleanings. She also hopes this will prove she’s ready to look after a pet (meaning small mammal in cage). Hmmmm, she only tried cleaning the big tank once, and I’m not keen on small mammals, although her friends all have them.

I’m finally back in the swing of things after four weeks. Never read 14 books in 14 days, then start a new job (even if they only needed me one day) and have surgery. Still very behind in some things, but I tried something that usually doesn’t work for me: “little-and-often”. I’m doing the bathrooms that way. Every time I go, I spend an extra two minutes cleaning. That’s a sink, or counter-top, or toilet back, or toilet gross bits (which get cleaned often enough that they aren’t gross). Normally, little-and-often feels too much like multi-tasking to me. Tons of set-up and take-down, but not much doing. In this case, though, set-up means grabbing a cleaning cloth from the towel bar, and take-down means rinsing it and re-hanging. It seems to work so far. After three small sessions, all that was left was the floor, so grabbed the broom, then a wet cloth, and done. Next time I caught myself dusting the window ledge. Last time I tried it, though, it only worked for a day. After that, there was nothing left to clean and the habit dropped. I need to use the main bathroom more often during the day.

It’s not the way “little-and-often” is usually used in the forum. There, it usually means you pick a project from a list (or the system picks it), and you have to do something on it — even just a tiny bit. Maybe that’s the difference. This is doing it based on location-based trigger. It makes sense.

Tomorrow and Friday I’ll try cleaning every room just a bit before leaving it. Rooms that I go into often will get more attention — and they’re the ones that need it. All my errands are done, so tomorrow is housework and paperwork. I don’t have to be anywhere, so no excuses from the schedule. It seems like a good day to try try it. I’d love for it to become a permanent habit. Maybe for my next 30-day sprint.

I finished two crochet flowers in time for Monday’s Show and Share. I plan to have at least three, and suggest doing them in a class. Perhaps I should show two this month and one next month, to raise interest. Pictures in a bit. I should also check Ravelry for crochet flower patterns. Maybe I’ll be able to offer an entire bouquet.

Edit: Ravelry has over 1000 free crochet flowers. At least 1/4 are variations on the same general pattern, so they’ll fit well in the same class. Happy.

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It’s Been a While

I’ve had this urge to start blogging again, and today seems like a good day.

Life’s been as busy as usual. Way too many projects and goals, with too few deadlines.

I now have an occasional job as backup secretary at the church. Me? Working for a church? We started going because my daughter wanted to join their community choir. It’s a denomination I’m comfortable with (no hate, much inclusion). Fortunately, it’s not the secretary’s job to provide pastoral care, and as part-time I can honestly say, “I’m not familiar with the policy on that, would you like to talk with a minister?”

I started networking for a new job mid-January with a friendly person at the church, and her eyes lit up. It turns out she’s the backup secretary, looking to spend more time on other things, and the full-time secretary had a 2-week vacation coming up. Long story short, we didn’t ask the personnel committee in time, so I didn’t get trained before she left, then the backup had a family emergency so she trained me on a morning when she was very low on sleep, and both ministers were at a week-long conference. They only needed me one day, and I did okay, but it was awkward. Fortunately, it was a light day in the schedule. Another team had dealt with the money on Monday, and the bulletin didn’t need doing until Thursday. (Starting it too early doesn’t save time, since information dribbles in all week.) I’ll go in for more training next week when the full-time secretary has recovered from her vacation. The only way to really learn a job is to actually do it while the trainer works on another project.

My goals for the blog now include “what I learned today.” This might be something I researched that I think others will find interesting, or document another step towards me learning wisdom and gaining expertise. (An expert is someone who has already made the mistakes.)

On to housework.

The Weeks After Holidays

Last week was not, I hope, typical of my new year. After two weeks of holidays, which included receipt of World of Kefflings and several books, expecting to keep even with housework was a bit unrealistic.

Great time with the family, including Dad’s family reunion. Great Grandma Jesse had good genes.

This week started well. Reset New Years Resolutions starting date. Paid bills, cleaned fish tank, went to singing lesson, then played Kefflings. Oops. Also noticed that the books I took out of the library for the trip were due, so had to read them. All this had the usual effect on bedtime and ability to sleep, which then had the usual effects on the next day’s decisions (or lack thereof).

This week started strong. Walked with them to school, spent time on the rowing machine, sat down to check email before showering, then the school called. Daughter(9) had fallen and bumped a tooth. All is well now. I must have faith that the dentist’s decision not to Do Something was correct. I love our dentists. They’re two brothers, our age, with kids the ages of ours. Instead of saying, “You aren’t getting behind their molars clean,” with that “You shouldn’t be a parent” look, they say, “I can’t get there on my kids either.” Anyways, the probable outcome is a day home on painkillers and her front tooth will stay twisted. We already knew she’d need braces in 3 years, so it will get untwisted then. He mentioned something about not bracing it while it healed. Like I said, I must have faith in his decision not to Do Something.

Today is Tuesday. The plan is to spend an hour social-networking, then four hours of housework, starting with dishes, laundry, bills and bathrooms. Wish me luck!

More Engineering Thinking

Several months ago I realized that I use a set of 12 folders named with the months of the year in several places on my computer. Pictures, drafts, podcasts, todo lists, all sorts of stuff. So I created an empty set and stuffed it into a folder called “template folders”.

That’s engineering thinking. See something that annoys you and do something about it.

I’m way behind in my podcast listening. For “current” podcasts, I like to listen in the order they were released, both within the series (so I don’t get spoilers) and between shows (it mixes my listening experience up nicely). Many of my favourite podcasts don’t include the episode number or release date in the file name. It’s a pain to edit each file name as I copy them to the player. (No, it’s not an iPod. I got a Sansa Fuze, similar to a Nano, and saved $100.)

I now have another set of template folders labeled “short weeks”. 1-5, 6-10,…,30-35 .

The original plan was to sort by weeks, but I got tired of looking up the date each week starts on. This way is just as easy to use. A weekly podcast will have one episode in most, but not all, folders. Yes, I might listen to Friday’s episode titled “Anything about Distraction” before Monday’s “Xtreme Procrastination”, but it’s close enough.

Why not daily folders? I don’t have any daily podcasts. The only 2/week podcast doesn’t need to be heard in exact order (although it’s easier to keep track if I don’t skip around to much). The player goes nicely between files within a folder, but I have to stop (and dry the dishwater off my hands, or clean the garden dirt off, or dig around in my pocket for the player) between folders.

Why 30-35? The column of alternating 0’s and 5’s is aesthetically pleasing.

Shared Labour

My husband did the income tax this year. Rather, he reviewed, sorted, summarized and assembled the folder for the accountant who does the final paperwork. Normally I do it, but this year I decided he needed to remember how.

When we were first married, we would sit at our respective computers and make spreadsheets, then enter each other’s data to verify. Then QuickTax appeared. For a few years we mailed in the printouts. One year we took a disk to an accountant who did “EFile” and paid $15 for him to send it. (I think he also checked that the supporting documents existed.) The next year I think the government had a website that let us upload the file. Eventually, QuickTax talked to the government all on its own.

Several years ago, we changed financial advisers. The new one has handled my inlaws’ investments and taxes for years. Between Oma and us, someone in the family sees him every few months. He also does income tax, for only a little more than the cost of the QuickTax program.

The downside to this is neither of us have looked at the forms for years. Our lives have changed. We might be eligible for deductions that we ignored before. Fortunately, the guy knows our family. As our lives change, he points out the tax implications — usually to our benefit, like the Active Kids deduction.

During the year, I throw anything that might be tax-related into a tax folder. I have one for each year, plus one for Forever. The Forever one has things like stock purchases — we’ll need the info if we sell the stock, but not before.

The tax file for the year has the usual T4’s, T5’s and charitable receipts. It also has receipts for professional memberships, which would be useful if I made any money in those professions. (Storytelling and engineering.) It also has medical receipts, which would be useful if we spent more than $3000 on medical expenses. (We did that only one year, when Son was tested for ADHD and had 12 weeks of Sensory Integration therapy.)

Of course, I’m not entirely up to date with my filing. It’s all in my office, but not in the file. Some is in a pile on top of the filing cabinet. That’s not too bad. The bad is every few months I move everything off my desk into a “super-low priority” file — usually once per season. The intention is that I deal with them within another month or two. Reality is closer to a year. Fortunately, those files are usually sorted by date, (i.e., most recent stuff lands on top) so I can usually find things in them, provided I haven’t made an aborted attempt to “improve” them (i.e., put them in some other order, which made sense at the time).

I went through all that stuff and made sure the tax file was complete. Husband then went through the tax file and, well, he doesn’t work the same way I do. Says there was too much in it. (About half the papers didn’t get to the final envelope.) You’ll note he didn’t say, “Just give me all this stuff from now on and I’ll file it.”

The weekend reminded me when we were first married. He could could to feed himself. He couldn’t do laundry. He wanted me to take his name (something I’d already decided to do). His explanation was, if I was in the hospital he didn’t want to have to remember to say, “I’m here to see my wife, “Maiden Name.” I counter-blackmailed with “When I get home from the hospital, I don’t want to have to do a big pile of laundry.” He did enough loads that I knew he wouldn’t ruin things. (He’s good at putting his hand-knit socks in a mesh bag before putting them down the chute. It’s easier to pull out a bag than notice a few dark socks mixed in with the rest of the laundry. If he does laundry, he knows how to sort colours and set stretchy stuff aside. He’s also great at getting the laundry off the line not too long after the dew falls — which says something about how well I keep to my plans each day.)

We’ve entered all our receipts into Quicken since 1994. Yes, I can tell you how much we spent on kids’ clothing, and how much our grocery bill decreased when they were out of diapers. We don’t sub-divide it as finely as we used to, but we still enter every receipt. Sometimes I think it’s a waste of time, but it’s a shame to stop after all these years. It’s also useful to see just how much I’ve spent on yarn or nice lunches.

When we were first married, we took turns entering data and filing receipts. When I stayed home with the kids, I took over. The filing system has evolved over the years. In this house, the big file cabinets are in the basement, so I keep the current year up here on a shelf and prior years’ downstairs. All the files are labeled, and I try to do something that makes sense, but sometimes the mechanics break down — like with the “seasonal unfiled” stuff. The systems I put on top of the main system to keep things moving are just another layer of complication. (One file for urgent bills, another for receipts to enter, another for statements to reconcile. We won’t talk about the medical receipts / send to insurance file / check their reply file.)

It’s all stuff he’s capable of doing, but the system has evolved and is no longer suitable for shared use.

It reminds me of my parents. Dad is capable of doing any housework task (although is pure ADHD when it comes to paying bills). Mom does the bills and current files. Dad takes over when they go to long-term storage. Mom keeps her accounting files separate from hobby files. Dad sorts purely by alphabet, with coloured dots for category. Resistor Catalogs is beside Rent, one has a blue dot and the other green.

It’s good to organize your work in a way that makes sense to you, including which things you let slide and how you make sure they don’t slide too much. On the other hand, it’s also good to keep things up to date and uncomplicated, so someone else can take over if necessary.

Selective Hearing

Dtr8 is upstairs now, crying her eyes out. Loudly. Brother said, “It would be nice if we could …” Daddy heard, “It would be nice if we could …” She heard “We can…”

The strange thing is, Brother’s idea had to do with Nerf sniper rifles and battles and things she’s not normally interested in.

You can see why the only bit that concerns me is whether she’ll be over it before it’s time to leave for dance lessons.

Something similar happened to me yesterday. Being bored, I searched “Sock Summit” and “this year”. No, don’t do it yourself just yet.

The first result brought up a city that’s commuting distance from here. Hint: It’s the capital of Ontario. Heart races, excitement rises, toes and fingers cross. I searched some more.

“Maybe in a few years.”

Reality set in.

Big events like that come about in two ways. Some start small and grow. The infrastructure grows with them. Most years are variations on previous years. Others start as a huge, one-time event, with the entire infrastructure being invented at once.

Sock Summit was the latter.

What probably happened was someone said, “We should do this next year!” Much exhausted agreement in principle. “Yes, but in your hometown!” More excited and proud agreement in principle, brains being too drained to think it through. By the time the team has recovered from the first event, reality sets in.

So, heart comes down a bit.

Much as I’d like to keep everything crossed until 2011, or 2012, or as long as needed, I’ve had to compromise. I can’t read my current pattern with crossed eyes.

Still Alive

Taking a break from the Weekly Virtues for a bit. They were a good idea, but couldn’t compete with my other good ideas.

I bought a new needle organizer, and then made labels for all the pockets. Rather nice, but they could use another set of eyes or three before I put up the final files.

There are two sizes: Return Address (1-3/4″x1/2″) and Mailing (2-5/8″x1″). Both are readily available in stores.

They include sets for needles, crochet hooks and tiny crochet hooks. Each label has the size in metric and conversions for US and UK. Eventually, each will have a page of just knitting, so you can print a set for each type (straight, circ, dpn). Note that the conversions aren’t exact, just the closest round number. It’s better than no conversion, and there are so many other things that can affect gauge that you still have to swatch.

http://www.cricket.onebit.ca/Test/NeedleLabels

We also took the plunge and bought a keyboard. It was a tough call, but this one fit the budget, has most of the features piano teachers look for, and the tiny toy I was using to support my voice lessons was dying. If no one takes piano lessons, it was the right call. If one of us does, we’ll have to upgrade and it was an expensive experiment.

Right now I’m enjoying the self-teaching book very much, like the sound much more than the sound of even cheaper keyboards, and lessons aren’t in the budget, so it was a good buy.

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