Unbalanced Ideas

I’ve been participating in a discussion, started by David Seah’s attempts to come up with a form to help balance his life. Lots of suggestions about what parts might need balancing, and how to plan and record it.

At first, I was all gung-ho, and thought about what parts in my life aren’t balanced. Most of my forms have to do with balancing housework. More specifically, the frequency with which each task needs doing. There’s also a column for exercise, which often gets marks via housework or walking with the moms after dropping the kids off at school.

I have to admit, though, that some areas of my life need a bit more work. Right now, son’s in his room alone while I’m typing, and it could go on all day. Great opportunity for Mom/Son time while Daughter is at camp, and it’s slipping by.

The discussion sometimes bothers me. There’s much discussion about what we need to balance, or how to lay out the form. How often should I review it? Will it crash and need major work to resurrect without daily review? Do I have to stick to it strictly?

What I don’t see is people getting out and actually doing things. They may be getting out and doing things and not writing about it, or they may be too caught up with the planning.

We need to be aware of balance and imbalance. We need to be aware of what areas are out of balance, either too much or too little. A quick diary is good for that. A form can make that diary faster and more complete.

The important thing, though, is what you do with the new awareness.

Some people go out and plan something to fill the gap. “I will take my son to the zoo.” Well, if your son is anything like mine, saying, “Hey, Son, I’m going to spend time with you. We’re going to the zoo,” won’t wash.

I prefer serendipity.

Today, I have to buy groceries. We also need to get him swim goggles and sunglasses, the cottage needs a new shower head, and I need more coloured paper, and daughter desperately needs more shorts (she grew over the winter). Son has to come with me. So, this morning while he was having his breakfast, we discussed the week’s menu. It’s now filled with things he likes. We’re lucky — his sister likes everything on it as well. Later today, we’ll go out shopping, to buy food he likes and can help cook. I’ll let him decide when the other errands get done, and if we can be around DQ at snack time. He gets to make decisions. He’s also learning about meal planning, list making, and how to organize a week, all without squeezing in half a day at a hot, smelly zoo.

Last month, husband was in a grumpy mood. We have a rule for those moods: Accomplish something! Pick something off the list, pretty much anything, and do it. Usually, it’s something that’s been bothering you for a while so getting it off the list will be a load off your back, but not something that makes you feel frustrated just thinking about. Something that gets you moving, and that you will take pride in.

He chose baseboards.

He asked the kids if they wanted to go with him. It became a trip to the store with Daughter, complete with chocolate bar, which, incidentally, resulted in baseboard arriving at the house.

A while later, he needed help holding the tape measure. Son had finished his video game time, and was grumpy, so he was dragged in for a few minutes. Son ended up making a sketch of the needed pieces, and being quite proud of himself. He likes math.

Another trip to the store resulted in a bike ride.

Next month when both kids are at camp for a week, we’ll have a romantic lunch and get colour samples.

So, he achieved balance. Exercise, time with each kid (educational even!), time with me, pride in our home and his handyman skills, and something off the list.

I can tell you, though, that the grumpiness left way before then. The minute he decided to do the drywall, and started taking action. All the rest came from being open, and taking advantage of the opportunities as they came up.

Even if all the rest hadn’t happened, at the end of the day he had painted baseboard. Much better than, “I played Zelda all day, and re-organized my lists, while trying to decide what to do.”


Lent Recap

Jane said that Lent doesn’t have to be about giving something up; it’s about discipline and submission to God.

FlyLady suggested that for Lent we give up whining, procrastination, stinking thinking, and all those other bad things that prevent us from Flying.

Normally, I wait for the third shoe to drop before hearing a message. I forget the third one, but took up the challenge anyways.

On Jane’s blog, I entered:

For this season I will: work for fifteen minutes a day on one or two of my self-improvement projects: Singing, shorthand, or storytelling. I will not let all the other projects creep into this time.

Singing because I’m paying good money for good lessons, and wasting them if I don’t practice.

Shorthand because I’ve wanted to reach my goal (equivalent to one school credit) for twenty years, and just found a local study buddy. We meet this afternoon. (I’m not actually here. I’m on Ravelry, checking patterns so I know how much yarn I need to buy before meeting her at the downtown library.)

Storytelling because the local guild needs as many polished performances as they can get. Also, next year there will be at least two opportunities to, gasp, get paid, gasp, to tell. Storytelling can include paperwork like archives and permission to tell, as well as practicing.

I started out strong. It took only 10 minutes to print a calendar on which to record my progress, in the style of Seinfield’s Don’t Break the Chain. My morning routine became: Walk with the other moms. Do kitchen and put in load of laundry. Set timer, and do two units of study. Sometimes I went a bit over. Sometimes I did more later in the day.

I made great progress for about a three weeks. Fifteen minutes is enough for a full set of singing warmups and twice through my song, or bring one shorthand exercise up to speed, or nicely format one story for my archives. Now Telling Season is on, it’s just the right time to work on a story without going stale.

Then I hit two very hectic weeks, lost the calendar, had March Break, and caught a cold.

I liked having the self-improvement as a daily priority. Normally, I tell myself I should do my zones or decluttering first, and procrastinate on that, so never get to the studying. This way, it got done. Even better, it got done while I was alert and could get the most out of it. I liked that.

Now that life has cycled back to an emptier calendar, I will pick it up again. (Note I didn’t say, “Life is back to normal.” Normal varies. My ideal schedule uses 18 of the 20 child-free hours I have each week, so when I have an additional 4 appointments, other things have to slide.)

I liked the shortness of the commitment. Yes, they’re long-term goals, but this was a reasonable sized step. Also, when I make a schedule for the long-haul, I put on everything that “should” be there, and over-load myself. This way I can say, “For this short time, I will concentrate on these three things, and make progress. All those other important things can wait 40 days.”

I like that they weren’t tied to my other cycles. I normally start resolutions in September, January and late March (after the school break). My household starts (or restarts) the normal routine then. However, during the lead-up to those dates, I generate reams of tasks labeled “Do once kids are back in school.” The I burn out, and the next natural reboot is a month or two away.

I will definitely do it again.

Memories to File

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout says the school system spent reams of paper teaching her to do the alphabet. (Quote from memory. Google informs me I can buy many papers, perhaps a ream’s worth if printed, on the book, but won’t verify the quote.) After watching my own kids go through that stage, I concur. My son knows the alphabet thoroughly, but there’s an exponential increase in paper brought home each year.

Mom was good. She only kept three boxes, before I reached the age when I decided what to keep. At that point, I kept the notes from the subjects I liked, and tossed the rest. I threw out my grade 13 math notes last year. The engineering degree proves I mastered it.

In January, I sorted last year’s boxes by kid, and stuffed it all back into the boxes. Today, I sorted son’s pile by subject. Now he’s going through the “indoor recess” pile. I guess he’s patient and bored today, because he looks at each piece and remembers what it is and who he drew it with. I remind him occasionally that if his kids see 100 sheets, they’ll look at the top five and be bored, but if they see only five they’ll be interested. It’s not sinking in. But, he’s enjoying it, and at least some is making it to the garbage.

Question: How do you manage the reems of paper your kids (and yourself and other housemates) bring home? Do you distinguish between school, free time, creative, class notes, and tests?

Tolkein for Life

We were watching Lord of the Rings as a family. Gandalf and Frodo had a conversation while in Rivendel, and say this:

‘I wish it need not have have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.

‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.’

So True! "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us!"

The series suits FLYing very well, in so many ways:

  • Little by little, one travels far.
  • If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
  • It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.
  • His house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking, best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.
  • "It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say. "You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.
  • But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on — and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end.
  • The deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.


At the council of Elrond, they are amazed that the hobbits seem so resistant to the effects of the ring. Yes, they’re affected, but not as badly as others.

I give them two reasons:

The Shire. During the darkest days of their journey, Sam talks about food they enjoy, and the Shire. They draw strength from their memories, and they literally go to the ends of the earth to protect it and those they love.

Their size. They are small. They know they cannot do great deeds or be great rulers. They do not want the power or responsibility the ring tries to lure them with. They are content with their piece of the world, with food, cheer and song — shared with friends.

(Thanks to http://www.quotationspage.com for collecting the quotations.)

State of the Week

Friday may work better for blogging that Monday. That may be the wrong way around. Things other than blogging may work better on Monday.

I’ve found a voice I want to try emulating for a while. She has real content and themes, I have meandering reports on my life, but it’s an exercise in tone, not content, so we’ll see how it goes. It’s actually a storytelling exercise, to help you find your own style. (And everyone I follow is now wondering if I’m immitating them. If you do recognize yourself, pretend you don’t.)

The week started well. Monday I spent two hours on stories for my gig next week. I recorded two of them, and listened to them on my new mp3 player over and over while knitting. I’m not sure if it helped or not.

I started a mid-level clean of the kitchen — things that need doing every two or three months. I set my timer for 15 minutes when I start the evening dishes, and keep cleaning until it beeps. Most nights, dishes only takes half the time, so progress is good. I know, the system I should be on Zone 1 this week, and I did try. Husband cleaned the dining room table so I could sort through all the papers the kids brought home last year, but every time I opened the fridge or looked under the sink I was tempted. I’ll count helping him get the Christmas tree down as my hour in the zone for the week.

My husband suggested my son do a website for his history project. It’s Mommy’s business after all. Uh, Husband, it’s been almost a year. Some parts went smoothly, but there were some odd glitches. Son is thrilled, though, and his teacher is happy with the results. He even created another page (it’s a wiki) and added some links of his own, so he can get to his bookmarked sites when on other computers. But that took a day of my time.

I finally got a recording by the original (and only) artist of my favourite song to my singing teacher. Yep, he sings it in a different key than the sheet music. We decided I’ll sing in his key (Cmaj) and she’ll transpose from the sheet music (Eflat). Yay! (I really don’t enjoy the high range she says needs work — probably because it needs work.)

I spent $18 on a new counting tray for fundraising money. I was torn. Eventually, I’ll be done with the tubes and on to the plastic rollers that do the counting for you, but after today I’m no longer waffling over returning it. It counts perfectly! The only mistake was when two American coins were in the roll. They’re sandwiches of two colours of metal, so easy enough to pull out. We might make $3 on the exchange over the entire year, so I didn’t bother before now.

My most challenging storytelling gig ever is next Tuesday. It’s three grades, two classes each, for 30 minutes each. I need at least six stories, otherwise I’ll repeat so much that I lose sponenaity. I chose stories I remembered, mostly, and one I want in permanent repertoire but need to refresh. I need maybe two more hours before I have verbatim confidence. I could wing it now, but with the sneaking suspicion that I didn’t do the story justice.

Son’s cold officially arrived this afternoon. Daughter may or may  not be fighting one. Husband and I are both healthy.

Next week will start busy. We see our new doctor (our doctors keep leaving town!), then the storytelling gig.

The balaclava I’m knitting for my son is down to his chin. It’s a bit too long in the back, so I’ll ease it in when I do the short rows under his chin. I suspect the real problem is eyebrows to top of head is too long, so it slides back. It’s 1-1 rib, so I can’t cut it and pick up the stitches. It’s an experiment, and so far he’s happy with it.

And I Never Completed Anything,…

Last spring, the kids brought home the last of a year’s worth of school work. I added it to the overflowing box for the year, confident that I’d actually go through it later.

It’s been hiding unsuccessfully on the far side of the dining room table ever since. Some books that didn’t fit back on the shelves behind it have joined it.

Today Daughter-7 and I spent fifteen minutes on the it. We sorted papers into “Brother’s Work”, “Give to Oma”, “Give to Grandma and Grandpa” and “Keep at Home”.

All the nice, colourful, finished work goes to the grandparents. Most of the “Keep at Home” pile is stuff she wants to finish.

I hope the grandparents will keep at least some of their piles, so her kids will see at least some finished stuff.

Weekly Report

After two weeks off (one with a nasty cold, the second recuperating (blame the new computer — it runs an old game my other one didn’t)) I’m slowly getting back on track.

Those two weeks, I did dailies and zones, and very little else. Most of the weeklies can happily slide a bit, but if you miss a zone stuff accumulates for another month.

I’ll jump in on the virtues again next week. Jump in where I left off, not restart.

Now I’m catching up. Slowly. Tons of email requiring action and a story to polish for tonight.

After nine years of very little volunteering, I’m back in the saddle.

The school VP’s face lit up when I agreed to roll coins for them every week. Now I know why. Two weeks of accumulated fundraising took almost three hours, but that included manually sorting. Next Friday I’ll bring the coin sorter basket. I also got some of those plastic coin wrappers, which always count perfectly (although husband says the cheap brands are sometimes off, so I’ll still double-check a few times). I’ll use the plastic to count, then dump them into the cheap paper wrappers. (I looked longingly at the $40 electric sorter that also counts (by height), but decided to wait a few weeks. Those things are seriously noisy, and I’d still want to double-check the count until it earned my trust.)

After a year of watching unsuccessfully for a sale, I finally bought a printing calculator at full price. I even paid $10 extra for a bigger keypad and a few functions I won’t use. I’m horrid at long columns of numbers. It took me five tries to add up one kids’ Heart and Stroke donations last year! It’s noisier than I expected (getting a thermal printer would have used up all my mad money, and I have my eye on a few other things this month), and it doesn’t work like a normal calculator — to do 3-2 you type 3+2-. But it’s not Reverse Polish, either, since 3×3 is entered 3×3= . Make up your minds, people! Because of the noise, I’ll probably be to embarassed to use it in the staff room, but I’ll have it when I need it.

I also told the librarian I would help her on Friday mornings. Julia Morgenstern says to chop half an hour off your day, to make you work faster. I hope chopping 4 hours off my free time each week does the same for me.

Today is zone 2, the kitchen (including fridge, pantry and freezer). If all goes as planned, I’ll have done an entire deep cleaning of that zone by the end of the year, which is just about right, although it’s also proof that I need to put in a bit more time if I was hoping each zone would have a month or two left over to use on rooms that aren’t in a zone.


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