At Peace With Paper

This week has been anything but exciting.  My highlight (so far) came from the fact that I perused our little town newspaper and found an ad that all county residents can drop off all personal documents they need shredded, during a free recycling event Saturday.  This is very exciting.  Do you know what this means?  It means that I can avoid sitting in front of my cheap, hand-me-down shredder for a few hours, while I destroy receipts, bills and credit card applications, to the sound of a whiney and overworked motor.

It means no paper cuts.

It means no more piles of “I’ll get to that”.

It means silence – less frustration – and no overheating small appliances.

I try to be organized, but my ambitions and lack of time only take me so far.  I have a file box with hanging folders that are appropriately labeled and organized.  Instead, I usually end up with a three inch pile of paperwork that is crammed between the tops of the folders and the lid.  Eventually the lid doesn’t close; I drag the box somewhere and it spews all over.  Not today.  I spent the last couple hours weeding through the least eighteen months of paper we “might need to reference one day” and I’m so ready for Saturday.

You can say I’m lame and ask why I’m actually wasting even more time on this by writing about it, but it’s truly exciting to me.  Just a couple months ago, I dreamed of having myself an office and a workable and clean workspace.  I’m so close.  My walls still need to be painted and my books are in Rubbermaid tubs for the moment, but my desk is perfect, as I’m not pushed up against a wall and I’m not seeing scattered piles of paper to distract me from the calm demeanor this room is supposed to enable.  I feel at peace with paper.

Now, what to do with my hoards of greeting cards that I’ve saved…

Sometimes I wish I were heartless.  My house would be so much less cluttered and my basement would be empty to build our dream pub.  For another day, I’m feeling too accomplished to put that kind of weight on my shoulders tonight.

Photo courtesy of rangershredding.com.

I’m starting to see a trend that my Sunday posts are not so inspired. It makes me wonder if posting every day is working against me. I like to feel inspired to write, or have a goal, so instead of waiting for that to happen, I’ve forced myself into a spot of obligatory random writing. Some days, there just isn’t a lot to say.

I don’t know if any of you writers out there feel this way, but I find I must have my workspace in a very particular manner to feel right when I start writing. I really haven’t had an ideal workspace in…wow, ever? Maybe once or twice I had a random station set up that felt do-able or felt at home in a cozy café, but this is all about to change.

We have two guest bedrooms in our home and no guests. Not often enough to have two rooms set up, anyway, and one in particular was never used in almost four years. Today, the amazing husband, (insert Superman theme here) spent the day helping* me swap furniture to other rooms, the attic and the basement, in order to make one of the guest rooms exclusively my office. It’s not a shared space, which will find my desk serving as a table for fresh towels or a suitcase.  It will really be my room.

*His “helping” by the way is a loose translation of: He did almost all the work. I try not to just be a supervisor, but I’m also a weakling.

The room isn’t right just yet. I need blinds in there so I can work at night without feeling creeped out. I’m thinking I’m glad I never had a guest sleep in there, with the lack of blinds and sheer curtain issue. We’ll paint and move all those books onto some shelves, but my desk is in there and that is a start. And by “we”, I’m fully investing in getting this done, paint speckles in my hair and all.

I find that setting my environment to the right kind of writing mood helps, and maybe I will be more inspired in there, than with the laptop in bed while I rush to meet my personal deadline. The daily deadline, by the way, I keep missing because there is no real punishment resulting from a late post.  The worst that can happen is that I say “Damn it” and keep writing. After all, this is not a real job, though I wish it could be.  Maybe I should set real goals so I go to bed earlier and post timely.

Shannon: No cookies if you post after midnight…got it?

Oh, and also, stop thinking up good ideas, composing them in your head while you drive or do dishes and then not write them down.  You get proud of yourself and think you’ll remember but you never do.  You’re killing me.

And with that, I say, “Good night”.

I Can Eat a Quart of Ice Cream Because I Ate an Apple Yesterday (and Other Excuses)

I did it again.  I woke up in the middle of the night, eyes wide open.

“Damn, I didn’t post!”

But, Tuesday hasn’t technically started for me, even though its 3:00am, so I can write now and it will still count for yesterday.  It’s still Monday night, right?  I mean, I didn’t mean to fall asleep, I had plans to write.

Then I starting thinking how late I’ll be if I woke up now and became functional, only to go back to sleep for two hours until my work alarm goes off.  So I got up, turned the TV off, lights off and hit the shower.  Better to get ahead of the game, plus I do some of my best thinking in the shower; except that I usually get on a mental “roll” in there and forget what I was going to write by the time I’m done.  I started thinking that I should keep a recorder outside of the tub in case I have any ideas that are earth shattering.  Then, because it’s 3am, I came up with a silly line about I can make a joke about those plastic flute-like recorders 4th graders get, and how that wouldn’t help my blog writing.  Sure glad I didn’t use that one.  Whew.

But really, I’m sure I’m not alone in the incessant excuse making.  I don’t think I use them when it comes to others, pretty much just for myself.  I’m a selfish excuse maker.  Here are some of the best I’ve come up with in the last week.

  • I’m not going to the gym.  Those people who never go and make a New Year’s resolution go and it gets too crowded.
  • I’ve gained a few pounds.  It’s probably because I’m stressed at work or my metabolism is starting to slow down at 28.  It can’t be because I’ve been on a cookie diet since Christmas.
  • (To my husband)  Yes, I saw the apples went bad.  Why didn’t YOU eat them?  I didn’t eat them because I didn’t want leave you without any.  (Ok, so maybe I’m not so selfish with myexcuses after all.)
  • I had to buy those boots, because they sent me a $10 coupon and then there was another sale ad for 20% off.  It would be like wasting money if I didn’t use them.
  • I know we just bought the Girl Scout cookies, but if we don’t eat them it’ll be like the tragedy of 2011, when we forgot about a box of shortbreads on top of the fridge and they got stale.  (Reference second excuse here)

At least I’m not murdering people or doing harm to others with my excuses.  They are really harmless.  Oh man, I just tried to validate my excuses.

Enact the Fifteen Minute Rule

Call your girlfriends. (Photo courtesy of tucsoncitizen.com)

One of my greatest friends made a suggestion not too long ago and unfortunately, it took me a while to let it sink in, and to realize how beneficial it is.  I wanted to share it with you.

Regardless of how busy your week is, take 15 minutes to call the people who are important to you.

Sounds obvious right?  My oldest and still my closest friends are, for the most part, scattered around the country.  With different careers, relationships and social lives, it’s nearly impossible to keep up on the day to day things that matter.  I hate it.  It’s embarrassing to not know a heck of a lot about people you love and care about.

The thing is, I always felt that if I made a call, the inevitable would happen; we’d tell the most recent random story, we’d laugh a ton, ask about each other’s families, jobs, significant others, reminisce about an old story, etc. and before you know it, two hours has passed.  Which, on a slow night is great and I can hang up the phone with a huge smile and say to myself, “After all these years, we still click”.  And we do, too much, over text and emails and not enough real conversation.

If we all said, “Listen, I have 15 minutes to get to point B, I wanted to check in and see how you are”, we’d talk more often and be more in tune.  Since none of us are sitting at home bored, I don’t think it’ll be offensive because we are all just as busy.

Call me old fashioned but the sound of friends’ laughter beats an “LOL” any day.  And imagine this, telling your friends how excited you are about their news instead of “Like”-ing it on Facebook.  Who knew.

Time Is Not Always On Our Side

No one likes to listen to a whiner; particularly in January.

“Wahhh, I’m having trouble keeping my new goals!”

There are so many people who are out of work, starving and struggling for a normal existence.  All I really need is sleep and time.  I suppose at times like these, they are just as much a luxury as diamonds.  Who am I to ask for more?

Still, there are days I truly understand why writers and artists end up single and starving.  Creativity simply takes time, some days more than others, and time is so valuable.  I struggle with how to divide it and how to decide if I can take any of newly discovered free time for myself or when I’m supposed to share it.  Sharing makes me happy, but it can also be draining.

Sometimes I don’t mind writing my daily blog two hours after the day actually ends, even when I find myself waking up on the couch at 1AM, still needing to compose thoughts and words, only to wake up in 4.5 hours.  Today I mind, and today I feel like I have nothing left to give.  Even though it is late and certainly not earth shattering, at least I kept my goal.

I still didn’t make those damned Christmas cookies though…*

*Post-Christmas Cookie baking took a backseat to sharing my time with Grandmom on Saturday, forgive me?

10 Simple Goals. Drum Roll Please…

 

One of the many things that deserve more attention.

This is no simple list or is it a list of  New Year’s resolutions.  I could’ve slapped one of those together in no time, without really thinking about the end result.  I didn’t even plan on making goals because resolutions seem so silly.  In reality, I realized that I need to handle my life like I do my daily chores, on sticky notes.  Without making my list and seeing what has to be done laid out in front of me, it’ll never get done.

Well life, here are some things that I think will make me feel happier, healthier and less regret or embarrassment on a regular basis.  It may even do some good in other peoples’ lives too, and really, that’s one of the most important things.

Ten Simple Goals – In no specific order.

1.     Send a handwritten note once a week. To someone who deserves more than a text or a wall post. It can be simple, but will guarantee a smile on the recipient’s face. It’ll keep my Catholic School cursive on the straight and narrow and help the US Post Office stay in business, one little stamp at a time.

2.     Shop locally. A local farm for eggs or a local pharmacy – it’s like putting money back in your neighborhoods pocket and usually comes with more personal service.  Plus, I can meet all kinds of interesting people who are literally invested in their work and won’t treat me like a number on a corporate pie chart.

3.     Share knowledge. Be considerate enough to inform people about news or details that can potentially affect them. I don’t plan to post any billboards on the Interstate anytime soon, but I can be more generous with knowledge that can benefit the people I care about. Speaking of sharing, please note that #1 is about to get more expensive as a stamp increases to 45 cents on January 22, 2012. This list is working already.

4.     Exercise. AHAHA. Yes, this usually makes the top of everyone’s New Year’s goal sheet. It’s so typical, I’m really questioning why I put it on here at all, but it really is important. Maybe by not limiting myself to something I know I’ll never do, it may work? Run an hour a day? No, I’ll never do it, plus it’s bad on the knees. Walk? That sounds better, but maybe I’ll take more of those yoga classes I signed up for or dust off my Wii Fit board. To be perfectly honest, I’m scared of my Mii avatar criticizing me for how long it’s been since I logged on. Last year, when I gained 5 pounds, it mocked me and made my avatar chubby.  Listen Shannon Mii, you’re not encouraging, your mockery has turned me off, but I will give you another shot.

5.     Take better care of my dog. He really is my favorite little guy, but he doesn’t get all the care he deserves. He is incredibly spoiled emotionally, as every pug yearns for, but he deserves more. His breath is awful but he threw my back out the last time I tried to brush his teeth. His nails grow so fast that I can’t keep them short enough regularly. Trifecta…ready? I will walk him more, which helps #5 and #4 AND if we walk to the family owned dog groomer, maybe I can find some fancy option to sparkle up those little chompers, successfully satisfying #2.

6.     Wake up earlier.  Inevitably my morning begins with the following:  “Damn it!”, as my eyes shoot open and I look at the clock and realize I’ll be running for the door again.  Either I get up earlier or I prepare pretty much everything but my face the night before.  I’d say get more sleep, but really, then I’d have time issues getting everything else done.  Don’t be silly.

7.     Save energy? No, I do that.  Recycle?  Kind of OCD about that too.  Hmm.  What if I strive to finish projects?  I snicker as I write this because I need to come up with three more goals to finish this list and now I think I’ll tackle my little side projects too?  Well Blog, if you’re going to hold me to it, I have to.  I have that yarn that I started crocheting.  I keep buying picture frames for my 75% completed photo wall, so that’s a possibility.  The antiques still need some minor repairs and those hollowed out eggs my Grandmom gave me to make ornaments never saw the lights of Christmas.  I hear you inner voice.  What you’re saying is that I can focus on one at a time and get these accomplished? Interesting.

8.     Share more of my time.  You may ask, “Well Shannon, if you have all these time consuming goals, how can you possibly have any time left?”  The answer is easy; I have no idea.  But I will find it.  There is family I always want to spend more time with, friends I promised I’d see, you know, once the holidays are over, and before long, months have passed.  To be honest, I have become accustomed to being by myself so often, that I’m selfish with my space and my alone time.  It is self-centered and I’m lucky to have people who want to spend time with me.

9.     Learn to converse.  I’m so awkward.  My mouth doesn’t move as fast as my mind or vice versa.  Either way, I walk away from random banter and deep conversations feeling like a moron.  “I can’t believe I just said that”.  There is a book I bought about how to hold conversation and I am going to read it.  Maybe that can be a “project” I can work on.  It’s really a skill that doesn’t get very much credit.  I think I’m fairly interesting but my conversations truly lack anything stimulating, causing me to get flustered and tongue-tied.  Whenever I end up referencing the temperature, I think of another good Oscar Wilde quote; “Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” Eek.

10.     Define my character.  I will always be myself, but how do I want to be portrayed?  It can consist of many superficial things; how I dress, a signature perfume and include my general demeanor, my handshake and verbage choices.  This is for starters.  I can live up to who I know I am, by keeping promises and not overcommitting myself to things that are unlikely to be possible.  That said, this list of 10 things will take major commitment, but it’s not impossible and worth the time to the people I care about and for the betterment of being a good, honest and healthy individual.

Torn About Reading

Courtesy of Trinity College Dublin

Ultimately, I want writing to have a more prominent role in my life. For the time being, reading tends to monopolize most of my down time.  But after spending all the gaps in my plans this weekend by beginning and then finishing a novel, I reached a philosophical dilemma.  Is it possible to waste too much time reading? Should I be spending more time living?

I say this is a dilemma more than a simple question to ponder, because writers need readers. How can I expect to succeed without a reader and how could my favorite authors have succeeded without us to turn the pages?

By reading, we open the mind. We can learn to open doors to possibilities that we don’t stumble upon in our everyday lives, thus having more meaningful experiences, or at the very least, dreaming of them.  We can also become hermits.

Like most questions I run over in my mind, the answer always leads to the same rule drilled into my brain by one of the most important people in my life, my Dad. He says, “Everything in moderation”. I know he wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last to live by this, but I haven’t yet found a situation where this standby fails.

So now, I have written.  I will go read (and not all night) and I will get a Goldilocks portion of sleep.