Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Unexpected Peacefulness

Sometimes it's just hard for me to relax.  Isn't that weird?  It's frustrating.  I feel like this guy sometimes.

That's some very intense thinking going on right there.  If you look closely, really study him, all you see is tension.  He's not sitting comfortably.  He's not chillaxing there on his plinth.  Every muscle is tight.  His brow is furrowed.  Even the way he's sitting is not how you sit when you're just hanging out.  He's twisted so that his right elbow is on his left leg.  His center of gravity is off-center, if that makes sense.  Rodin made him that way on purpose, I once learned.  He's dwelling on something significant, and there's effort in that.

Once, I was getting a massage at one of those fancy-schmancy places, the lady said "You don't relax, do you?"  Ouch.  No, Helga, I don't.  I dwell like Mr Thinker up there, and I get all bent out of shape, literally, because of the things I don't let go of.  Most nights, before I can go to sleep, I work hard at relaxing starting at my head and working my way down to my toes.  Sometimes I have to do it more than once.  

I've started seeking out sources of restfulness.  It's funny, but when you're looking for it, you find it.  One of my friends on Facebook bakes these lovely cookies as a home business and someone emailed her and said that she must be a patient and loving soul to make such peaceful cookies.  Isn't that nice?  Peaceful cookies. And they totally are peaceful cookies (I'd post a link, but I think she's taking a break...).  I love the idea of seeing a quality of peace in something so ordinary like a cookie.

One night on my way to pick up Boo from daycare, I saw this:

Everybody stopped to look at it.  People were pulled over to the side of the road, taking in the wonder of this sunset.  Strangers took a moment to look at each other and say, Do you see this?  Do you see this amazing thing that's happening in the sky?  It's so beautiful!  Yes it is.  

And it was.  It lasted about 10 minutes, and people are still talking about that one night with the amazing sunset a couple of months ago.  For an entire city filled with jaded souls like this place often seems to be (have I ever mentioned that I'm in Las Vegas? yeah, born and raised.) we were moved by this moment of unexpected peacefulness.

(As I write this, I'm laughing, reminded of the Simpson's Treehouse of Horror episode where Homer is lured by the smell of Unexplained Bacon.  It's kind of the same thing, isn't it?  :) //end tangent)

Every night before we shut off the last lights (and before I go through my Relaxation Workout) I go into Boo's room to tuck her in.  She usually falls over asleep mid-action, and tucking her in generally involves flipping her over, pulling blankets out from around her legs, unraveling her from her last adventure of the day.  I set her to rights, smooth the blankets over her, and then I watch her snuggle into this new space and relax into the coolness of the pillow.  I carry that moment with me to bed, and when I feel the other stuff creeping in the next day, I go back to it.  

In with the good, out with the bad.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Time, time, time, see what's become of me...

Many (many, many, many, MANY) things in this world are irritating to me.  Ask 10 people who know me, and you'll likely get 10 completely different lists of at least 10 irritants, and they will all be accurate.  In my quest to Get A Grip, I've been working toward being less irritated, and this means letting fewer things irritate me.

It hasn't been easy.  My biggest coach in this process has been my daughter.  Boo is 3, and she is an obstacle course.  Exhibit A:

Boo has taught me the value of asking, "Is this a hill worth dying on?"  Sometimes, the answer is yes.  There are things that are just dealbreakers, and they will never not bug me.  One such thing?  When other people waste my time.  OH I hate this.  There is NOTHING in this WORLD more INFURIATING to me than when someone wastes my time.  This will never change.  What must change, then, is what falls into the category of "That Jackass Is Wasting My Time" and realizing that there's generally a solution for how I can remedy the situation.

When someone is doing 25mph in a 45 on a two-lane road?  WASTING MY TIME.  That person will receive an angry honk and the universal gesture for "what the hell?!"  If that same person is doing it on a 6-lane road?  Eh.  There's a solution, and that solution is a quick lane change with nary a dirty look as I pass them.

When someone asks me to look for something, and I bust myself searching high and low to no avail for an hour on my day off only to learn that they didn't look for it themselves in the first place?  (This happened yesterday, and is the inspiration for this topic...)  And then they tell me they didn't look for it and my only response can be silent incredulity while I compose myself?  The solution?  Well, what's done is done, but perhaps a diplomatic conversation about how that's not very considerate or respectful of my time, and perhaps next time a quick look-see around one's own vicinity before expanding the search to mine would be super awesome?  Yeah, that's our solution.  (We'll see how this goes...)  (We also learned not to be all "I informed you thusly" about it when they find the missing item in.plain.sight. in their own vicinity.) 

When someone is late for an appointment, doesn't call, doesn't email, doesn't apologize when it finally starts and just attributes it to "Oh hahahaha I run late all the time?"  WASTING MY TIME.  There isn't always a solution.  Sometimes the jackass latecomer is (on the org chart, at least) a professional superior.  Sometimes, seething quietly is the only answer. 

What makes the silent simmer possible and easier is when I deal better with the other stuff.  If I don't spend all my energy getting all bent out of shape about the stuff I can resolve or even dismiss, then I tend not to get as irritated by the bigger stuff that's beyond my control.

Thank you, Boo, for the lesson.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Five Things That Make My Life Easier

It would be easy to call this "My Favorite Things!!!" with some cute little reference to raindrops on roses and schnitzel with noodles.  But I like to give context  to why I like or don't like something.  And I'm not Oprah (yet...).  So I've made the following list based upon how much easier my life is and how much better I look because of everything on it.

I'm not a big believer in gadgets.  I'm not an early adopter of new technology.  I exist within the same time and space that you do, which means that I only have 24 hours every day and a limited amount of places to put my worldly goods.  Stuff that enters my time and space needs to earn its keep, and these five things work overtime for me.  
  1. White Vinegar:  This is amazing stuff.  A.MAZ.ING.  I cook with it.  I clean with it.  I do laundry with it. If I could marry it, I would. 
    • Substitute half a cup for fabric softener.  SERIOUSLY.  Do it.  White Vinegar plus Oxi-Clean equals perfect laundry.
    • Fill a spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and plain old Dawn dishsoap.  You'll never buy Windex again.
    • Need a surface cleaner?  I got this great idea at Little Brick Ranch Get a jar, put orange rinds in it (clean them off very well), fill with white vinegar, and seal.  For 2 weeks or so, shake the jar every day. Then, strain it through some cheesecloth (or whatever you have, really) into a new, clean jar.  That's your starter; leave it in the cupboard.  Get a spray bottle, fill with 3 parts water to 1 part orangey vinegar.  Boom.
    • Did you cook something three days ago, and your kitchen still stinks?  Get a cereal bowl, fill with white vinegar, put it on the counter.  The vinegar will absorb the odor.  FOR REAL. 
  2. Steam Mop: We have a 3 year old daughter and a Labrador retriever.  The kitchen, playroom, and bathrooms are tile.  They get so gross, so very gross.  The steam mop fixes that.  I like the B&D steam mop, but I've heard good things about the Shark as well.  They go on special on Amazon and and Target.  Worth every dime.
  3. The Wrinkle Guard setting on my dryer:  Because sometimes, you just don't get to the laundry the minute the dryer stops.  You know how hair dryers have a "cool blast" setting, and you push that when your hair's all dry but you want it to maintain some body?  The wrinkle guard setting does that for your clothes.  This means you can put a load in the washer before you go to bed, put it in the dryer in the morning, and put it away that night.  WOOHOO.
  4. The Roku Box:  This thing makes me feel like Jane Jetson.  It's a little tiny hard-drive that turns a wi-fi network into a cache of ten million movies.  Netflix streaming? check.  Amazon Prime? check.  Pandora? check.  Hulu?  CHECK.  We cancelled cable six months ago, and the only thing we really miss is Food Network.  We feel very smug about no longer subsidizing Snooki or whatever hot mess they're showing on TLC these days (I don't even know what hot mess is on TLC = AWESOME).  
  5. Super programmable universal remotes:  We have one remote upstairs, one downstairs.  Takes a little bit to program, but it's really not bad.  One remote to rule them all!
I've justthisminute decided to start a new series called "Five Things".  Every now and then, I'm going to rock your world with five things that I love that I think you might love too.  This is Installment #1 :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I'll have to check my calendar...

I live and die by calendars and schedules.  The only reason I was willing to upgrade to a smartphone is that I could link it to my Google calendar (oh, how I love the Google...).  The day I learned to link it to my Google Docs changed my life.

I have a spreadsheet that is my weekly housecleaning schedule.  

Full disclosure:
  1. Everything does not always happen.  I do skip days. The goal is not to skip too many in a row, and then jump back in when I can.
  2. I have a cleaning lady who comes in once a month.  She goes over the entire house, but what I really depend on her for is thorough vacuuming  and cleaning the showers/bathtubs.  Everything else she does is a bonus that ultimately saves me probably 6 hours a month.  Worth it.
I start with the Room Checklist :  I deal with whatever biggest pile/eyesore/fire catches my eye.  Think about your kitchen, for example.  Somewhere in it, is a pile that never quite goes away.  Once a week, I deal with that stupid pile.  Next I take a lap--I start at one end and work my way around, putting things back where they go, dusting, wiping off, tidying up.  No big whoop.

Daily is the minutiae that if it doesn't get done at least 90% of the time, other stuff piles up behind it.  Worst case scenarios include:  If the dishwasher is full of clean dishes, the sink gets full of dirty dishes, the counter gets full of newer dirty dishes, and I can't cook a meal so we eat cereal or get takeout.  If the cedar chest at the foot of the bed has a pile of clean unfolded laundry on it, then dryer has clean dry laundry in it, the washer has clean wet laundry in it, the basket has dirty laundry in it, and the hamper has old dirty laundry in it, and Boo has no Princess Panties to wear, which is NOT A GOOD SITUATION..

Special Projects is my Big Picture, Longer Term To-Do List.  This is the stuff that when I have a minute (which does happen if I stay on top of the other two lists...) I can take care of.

The best part of all of this is that it's maybe half an hour out of my day.  Tops. None of it is a crazy deep cleaning/scrubbing tile with a toothbrush sort of task. It's maintenance.  Maintenance is good.

Calendars are also a fantastic way to stay ahead of the game.  Mr. Incredible is trained willing to email me his doctors appointments and work travel information, and I just add them to the calendar whenever I get them.  I color code his travel, so if he's gone for several consecutive days (or weeks, yikes) then I can quickly get an idea of what my own time is going to look like.

I also use the calendar to keep track of what I've made for dinner--a couple of times a week I take a few minutes to make a quick 5PM appointment that's just whatever we had (i.e. "pork chops, rice, salad, steamed veggies").  This serves 2 purposes for me:  I don't accidentally make the same thing twice in three days (it's happened...) and after a month, I have a month's worth of meal planning ready for next month.  Everybody wins! 

Not everybody works this way, I know, but it's kept me sane.  When I was pregnant with Boo, I knew  we were going to need a way to keep ourselves organized.  This helps me do that.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Wishin' & Hopin' & Thinkin' & Prayin'

The last thing I want is for people to roll eyes at what I write. (Click the link, read the post, and smirk about just how much you don't relate to a word of it.)

I mean, I get that the whole self-improvement thing can easily get happy clappy, and suddenly we can see the potential awesomeness in EVERY.SINGLE.THING around us.  We look at our lives and we know that there's got to be something better that can happen.  We seek so much.  We want to have less and still somehow manage to have more.  We work hard for the money (so you better treat us right) and sometimes we get frustrated by people who seem to work less and pass us by anyway.

I'm still at the very early stages of figuring out what this Get A Grip thing is going to be.  It's very easy to sit here and write a bunch of myopic tripe on how to be perfect or better or whatever.  I could focus very specifically on one topic (I just love this chick) or I could try to cover everything in the world (God help me, I love her too).  In determining the goals for this.... project, then, I'm going to work through creating my own goals.  What do I want my world to look like when I'm not sitting here writing about how to make the world better?

I want to wake up at Not 6:30AM.

I want to have more time with my daughter out of the car doing cool things 
than I do with her in the car on the way to stuff that sucks.

I want what I do for a living to have value.

I want the time spent away from my family to be worth being away from my family.

I want to love what I do.

There's more, I'm sure.  Interesting that 3 of the 5 things that came to mind first are about time.  My time is not my own right now, and I think that's a big part of why I'm seeking a change.  I've played the game for quite long enough.  It's scary to think about letting go of the security of a state paycheck and pension, but the status quo is making me wither away (oh, the drama of it all...) and I just want more.  I need more than this.  I need to give a damn and be surrounded by people who give a damn about me giving a damn, dammit!

I don't know what else to write.  I'm sitting in my sad cube at 3:10PM on a Friday, with work to do but no interest in doing it, and no real incentive other than the prospect of some vague personal satisfaction that might spark as a result of getting something done.  All I can think of is where I'd rather be.  Not geographically, although I'm always up for some discussion about fabulous vacations.  Not personally, because I can't imagine being happier with home and family than I am now.  Professionally, though, it's wide open.  I am more than a square on the bottom of some crappy org chart.