Tag Archives: time

Listen Here, Whippersnappers!

29 Nov

In the spirit of being Old Enough To Know Better (the long version name of this blog), I have reached the point in my life (officially 44 on Dec. 20) where I freely offer advice, to just about anyone.

Being old comes with privileges like that. Doesn’t matter whether or not people listen. That’s not the point. How handy to have this blog to help in my endeavor!

Along those lines, this post is a random collection of items that make me happy in life. Of course you want to know about them because they are sure you make you happy as well. Consider my tips an improvement over what you might find in high-brow periodicals, such as Martha Stewart Living, Oprah’s O Magazine or Real Simple—only better. The great thing is that I am sharing these happiness-makers with you for FREE, via my low-brow blog!

Here are five FREE! happiness-makers:

1. Make the bed every morning. No matter what.

This is something that I can easily control, even when the rest of my day is insane. Bonus: When I collapse in bed at the end of a long day, the covers are not in a messy heap. This gives me the illusion that I’ve conquered all chaos in my life.

Extra credit for remembering to sprinkle some baby powder between the sheets while making it…keeps things extra fresh.

2. Sit on a ball, not a chair, while at work.

I am not kidding. Unless you work in a profession that gives you frequent freedom to move about, your body is getting weaker every second you spend in that chair. Scientists agree with me, as empirically proven by this one study, as well as plain common sense.

At least sitting on a physio-ball ($20 from your local Target) keeps you working core muscles while you are sitting, because if you don’t work your core you will fall off the ball. The entire process will make you feel better. Especially the part about not falling off the ball.

Anyone who thinks you’re a weirdo has too much free time on their hands to be worrying about you and your ball…suggest that they get back to work and let you continue being on the ball.  Who can argue with good posture?

Extra credit for one or two backbends during the day, supported by your trusty ball. If you are both self-conscious and stealthy this can be accomplished while co-workers are in the kitchen or on bathroom breaks.

3. Even if you don’t like habits, pick a few that give you comfort and practice them every day.

I like change and don’t enjoy a lot of repetition in my days, so this is not an easy discipline for me. What hooked me on habits is that they are both nurturing as well as efficient use of time.

Getting ready for work or school and arriving at the same time every day is a simple habit that most of us have to do anyway, so that’s easy. Fitting in some time for meditation and journal-writing prior to work is something that I have grown to enjoy. Practicing an instrument is another.

If you have too many habits, make it a habit to drop some of them. This would include frequent trips to the office stash of Reese’s Cups (one of my too frequent habits).

4. Walk more than you do now.

This is something that just about anyone can easily do. I have for many years owned dogs that will drive me crazy if I don’t get them out for a walk or hard playtime in a field. This is terrific motivation.

There are so many little things that I notice about the world around me by moving more slowly than I can by car, and my body is thankful for the chance to blow off some steam and soak up the outdoors. Even in bad weather, being both outside and simply walking gives me a mood boost.

5. Pick one day each week when you will not use social media or electronic devices.

This is very difficult for me. I really hate it at first because I am quite obsessive-compulsive with being “in touch,” but it’s very beneficial for my peace of mind to go off the grid and not be always connected to everyone and everything.

All of it is still be there when I plug back in the next day. Most things can wait and don’t need immediate response. The Arcade Fire’s “We Used to Wait” is a good reminder that not so long ago we communicated with more delay between the send and response.  Immediacy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and being off the grid is a good reminder of how the world keeps spinning without my interventions.

There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on these tips. I will give you a full refund if you are not happier after putting all of these into practice for a month. Promise!

Advertisements

The Freshman

6 Sep

Today is my firstborn’s first day of her first year of high school.

I am too overwhelmed to write much about it, but in her honor I am posting the link to a well-written new online mag for teenage girls called Rookie, where a friend’s daughter is now a columnist.

Remembering my own first day of high school, all I can say is that I hope my daughter enjoys hers more than I did mine. I was too nervous to truly appreciate it.

What a special milestone, for both The Freshman and her parents!

Checklists As Memory Aids

6 Jan

I heard this bit on NPR yesterday about Dr. Atul Gawande’s new book, The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right. It made me think a lot about the value of documented repeatable processes, and how often I fall into the trap of thinking I’m too smart to have to use a checklist.

Dr. Gawande spends his “leisure” time writing for The New Yorker when not performing operations at Dana Farber. Clearly, he is a man with time management on his side. The bottom line, he says, is that no one is too good for a checklist. In fact, we should use them more often. When he asked surgeons whether they would use the checklists, 80 percent said yes. For the holdout 20 percent, he was curious. Would they want THEIR surgeon using a checklist prior to operating on them? Ninety-four percent said yes. No surprise.

The doctor analyzed pilot reliance upon checklists and applied that practice to the O.R. — with very positive results. He catches himself at least weekly forgetting something from his checklists, and his colleagues report similar results. My sister-in-law is a surgeon, and I know smart when I see it. If a surgeon can admit to needing a checklist, it must be worth doing.

And I read this piece last night on The New York Times site, about a new study confirming what the “middle-aged” crowd (defined as 40-60, therefore including me) already knows:

We forget more, but we can claim mastery of locating patterns in the midst of chaos. And we can become quickly distracted.

Shiny ball syndrome is our weakness. An apt quote that pretty much sums up my daily existence:

Brains in middle age, which, with increased life spans, now stretches from the 40s to late 60s, also get more easily distracted. Start boiling water for pasta, go answer the doorbell and — whoosh — all thoughts of boiling water disappear. Indeed, aging brains, even in the middle years, fall into what’s called the default mode, during which the mind wanders off and begin daydreaming.

I look forward to using this “default mode” excuse the next time my gray matter wanders astray. It gives meaning to something I’ve always blamed on character weakness.

Where was I? Oh, yes.

One point from the memory study is that we middle-ageists can resuscitate our memory abilities by learning new information, in particular information that runs contrary to our own set of beliefs or expands our current knowledge base.  Simply put, we need to take the road less traveled, in order to keep our thinking young.

It strikes me that memory-building involves both Dr. Gawande’s recommendation for relying on tried and true to-do’s and the exercise of stretching our brains to connect up neural pathways through new learnings. In other words, we can make ourselves smarter with memory aids like checklists and becoming (or continuing to be) lifelong students.

Social Media Time Management

26 Oct

514845946_7922cff51aWhat’s that sucking sound? It’s the sands of time, the ticking clock and and my unfinished to-do list — all being eaten whole by Facebook, Twitter and my blog. I have succumbed to the time-sink of social media, and I’m all too keenly aware of my addiction. How do people draw the line between true engagement and online time-wasting?

It’s a difficult habit to kick when it partially drives the economic engine of my professional livelihood. Working in public relations, I feed the beasts of my own personal social media presence as well as my agency’s and certain clients.

I was recently asked a question about this on a panel. The question was: How do you find the time to “do” social media for yourself and clients? Doesn’t it take up all of your time?

The answer? It can if you let it. The best way to carve out the time is to set limits on how much time to devote to each social media footprint. The worst thing for me is to leave my time wide open. When I do that, I get caught up in “the zone,” or my “flow” space, where I lose all track of time. This is fairly self-indulgent for me—although it feels good in the moment, I can’t usually afford to let my time evaporate. I’ve got a family to get home to, client deadlines to meet and other normal life to-dos.

I try to spend 30 minutes on each Twitter account per day, 15 each in the morning and the afternoon or evening. With the blog, it’s a couple of hours a week. Just one post a week, usually. And then I’m reading others’ blogs through my reader, usually an hour a day.

Then there’s Facebook. How much sharing is enough, really? I try to limit myself to sharing just a few items per day of others’ content, with a couple of status updates and/or content of my own. This one is my real weakness, because I pore through information obsessively and tend to think that everyone should also ready the cool stuff I’ve come upon. This is where I have to reign myself in and exercise some judgment about not oversharing.

There are people I’ve friended that I filter out of my feed because they are constantly putting up stuff from third-party sources. To me, that’s as bad as someone telling me the minute details of their life second by second. Get original. Have your own thoughts and insights.

It does add up, all told. At least 10 hours a week for myself, probably another 15 or so for work-related items. When examined like this, the opportunity cost of social media becomes more stark. What real-life experiences am I missing due to social media interactions? How much outside time am I sacrificing?

What are others’ experiences? Amber Naslund, Director of Community at Radian6,  just put up a good post about time management in the midst of social media. Bottom line, it’s about knowing one’s goals and setting priorities aligned with them. She shares helpful information to guide social media priorities.

For me, it’s all about the balance. Easy to write about, not easy to strike!

“Just Drive,” She Said

6 Aug

The family that drives together thrives together. Long car rides, if they are not stressful, can build great memories. Together, my family of four has traveled this summer by car to Nebraska and Florida–both 18-hour drives–without staying overnight anywhere en route. We managed to stay awake for these marathon trips. And we didn’t drive each other crazy.

Here’s how:

  1. We leave insanely early. I mean o’dark-hundred early, as in 2 a.m. This gives us a chance to let the kids sleep (translation: quiet time for adults). We have found that our kids will sleep soundly until the sun starts coming up. After that, all bets are off. The benefit to leaving this early for a long trip is that you can arrive at your destination still having time to get in some sightseeing or visiting.
  2. My husband and I share the driving fairly evenly. He is more awake than me at 2 a.m., so he does that leg of the trip while I sleep. Around 5:30 or 6:00, I take over, and we continue switching off from then on, with the non-driver taking naps or doing other activities when off duty (see #5 for more info on “other activities).
  3. We separate children in the backseat by a hard and fast barrier. What do I mean here? I’m talking a large cooler, preferably stocked with sandwiches, cold water and fruit/other snacks. The barrier serves as a boundary line defining each child’s “space” in back of the car, keeping screaming and whining at bay. Particularly helpful with the “little brother or sister” heckling phenomenon. Parents, you know what I mean here. The food will keep them happy.
  4. As much as possible, we limit stops to rest areas. This controls the amount of time spent getting off the road and back on again. Rest areas are pretty predictable in terms of getting in and out. Restaurants are not. Fast food is bad for you and gets slower the further south you drive.
  5. Make sure that everyone has activities to keep them busy if bored. Mad libs, car bingo, books, knitting, handheld video games, audiobooks, podcasts, music, math facts. We have found that it’s useful to have the kids also be in charge of ONE DVD player between them, so that they are forced to interact with each other, negotiating on movie choices. Each child should be equipped with their own headset, so that the adults up front are not in on the movie noise. Ladies, take note: I have found that the car is an excellent location for eyebrow-tweezing when you are not on drive duty. Plenty of light and otherwise optimal conditions unless the road is bumpy. This really passes the time productively. I tried to paint my nails during this most recent trip, but my husband complained about the closed space and smell of nail enamel. Oh well.
  6. A Garmin is essential. I prefer to have a hard copy map so that I can see the entire route–and because I am a lover of maps. But the audio directions of the Garmin are very helpful when the other adult is sleeping. And the woman’s voice is sufficiently snarky when you go off course (i.e., the nasal, “Recalculating”) that it’s entertainment in and of itself.
  7. A pre-teen to teenaged girl is extremely helpful when you run the risk of dozing off. She can be talking to you, her brother or a friend on the phone–it makes no difference. The nonstop talking is key here. And the somewhat high-pitched intonation, with unpredictably loud outbursts. Very important.

Enjoy your time on the road this summer. It’s precious family bonding opportunity.

The Bee’s Knees and Vintage Style

11 Jul
Photo of Bee Jackson, courtesy of Phrase Finder.

Photo of Bee Jackson, courtesy of Phrase Finder.

Talk amongst yourselves: What is the real-world definition of “the bee’s knees?”

I found a site today that fits the bill for this interesting phrase: Queens of Vintage. This is a light-hearted take on all things fashionista, historical and cultural–including interiors, clothing and zeitgeist–about the mid-20th century. One of my favorite periods, for all things about its “look and feel.” The only thing missing is some commentary on my friend Ben Storck’s Modern One, a furniture source for mid-century aficionados.

Here are some of the undeniable benefits from the so-called “mid century:”

  • The fedora hat
  • Red lipstick
  • Fashions for women not requiring starvation or extreme diets..except for the latter 50s and into the 60s (we can overlook that)
  • A magical time in American history, with innumerable innovations and forward-thinking positive attitude

Now that you’ve had a few moments to reflect on the meaning of “the bee’s knees,” I will spill the beans. This information, quoted directly from the Phrase Finder, includes origins from an Ohio newspaper and a 1920s flapper who was the World Champion Charleston Dancer. There are also additional word-lovers’ nuggets here too important to ignore, including a phrase often-used by my grandmother, “snake hips.”

So I’ve included the long excerpt, along with the site’s photo of Bee Jackson’s famous knees. Read on and enjoy….

There’s no definitive origin for ‘the bee’s knees’, but it appears to have been coined in 1920s America. The first printed reference to it I can find is in the Ohio newspaper The Newark Advocate, April 1922, under the heading ‘What Does It Mean?’:

“That’s what you wonder when you hear a flapper chatter in typical flapper language. ‘Apple Knocker,’ for instance. And ‘Bees Knees.’ That’s flapper talk. This lingo will be explained in the woman’s page under the head of Flapper Dictionary.” [an ‘apple knocker’ is a rustic]

Clearly the phrase must have been new then for the paper to plan to take the trouble to define it. Disappointingly, they didn’t follow up on their promise and ‘the lingo’ wasn’t subsequently explained. Several U.S. newspapers did feature lists of phrases under ‘Flapper Dictionary’ headings. Although ‘bee’s knees’ isn’t featured, they do show the time as being a period of quirky linguistic coinage. For example, from one such Flapper Dictionary:

Kluck – dumb person.
Dumb kluck – worse than a kluck.
Pollywoppus – meaningless stuff.
Fly-paper – a guy who sticks around.

There’s no profound reason to relate bees and knees other than the jaunty-sounding rhyme. In the 1920s it was fashionable to devise nonsense terms for excellence – ‘the snake’s hips’, ‘the kipper’s knickers”, ‘the cat’s pyjamas’, ‘the sardine’s whiskers’ etc. Of these, the bee’s knees and the cat’s pyjamas are the only ones that have stood the test of time. More recently, we see the same thing – the ‘dog’s bollocks‘.

(Note: knickers weren’t underwear then – even for kippers. At least, one would hope not – the edition of the Newark Advocate above also had the headline ‘Bride Wears Knickers To Wedding’.)

One possible connection between the phrase and an actual bee relates to Bee Jackson. Ms. Jackson was a dancer in 1920s New York and is credited with introducing the dance to Broadway in February, 1924, when she appeared at the Silver Slipper nightclub. She went on to become the World Champion Charleston dancer and was quite celebrated at the time.

It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that the expression was coined in reference to her (and her very active knees).

Now, armed with your new 1920s lexicon, go forth with dropped waist and meaningless lingo that will confuse all your friends. Personally, I am eagerly awaiting my next opportunity to leverage “the sardine’s whiskers.”

A Tale of Loup City

3 Jul
Communism among the Cornhuskers!

Communism among the Cornhuskers!

Loup City, Nebraska is in the center of the country. Pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It’s so small that the intersections do not have stop signs. Whoever’s on the right goes first.

When my in-laws decided to move here a couple of years ago, we were not sure why. Now it makes more sense.

My husband’s family has always been about big family gatherings, involving large doses of food and opinion. His parents bought their house in Clintonville/Columbus, Ohio before he was born, and he and his four sisters lived there until they moved out. I can appreciate that, having moved more than a dozen times with my parents before moving into my own place—including a few moves right down the street. There’s something to be said for continuity.

But the concept of family togetherness changed after my husband’s oldest sister died at 43. She had lung cancer but never smoked a cigarette in her life. From diagnosis to death, she had 8 months. It was a painful time for everyone in the family, and she is still greatly missed. The old house in Clintonville just had too many memories of growing up. The other three sisters had already moved away, to the coasts, but my in-laws were still in that house full of memories. They had to move on.

That’s what prompted the relocation to Loup City. I’ve got to hand it to my in-laws. They wrote their own solution to their sadness, and they did it in a way that’s true to their values of family and time spent together.

This is sort of a biblical family name rundown, also in the style of Tolstoy, so bear with me: My husband’s Aunt Janie, my mother-in-law Sandy’s sister, started it off. She bought a house in Loup City that belonged to their mother’s family. My husband’s grandmother, Helen Lewandowski Sorenson, was born in Loup City. The town was settled primarily by Polish and Danish immigrants. Her parents were Polish, off the boat. Her husband’s parents were Danish, off the boat.

Then, my in-laws Sandy and Tim bought Grandma Sorenson’s parents’ house. This was a house where Janie and Sandy had fond memories of visiting their grandparents, Valeria and Waldemar Lewandowski.

Now, for the second summer in a row, all of the family members have converged in Loup City. It’s a vacation choice difficult to explain, on the surface. But when everyone is here, overrunning Sandy and Janie’s houses with 11 cousins and four sets of parents, plus the grandparents and great-aunt, there is a sense of family that has historical threads and a path to the future.

There’s not much to do. We ride old bikes and take walks around “town,” visit the Polish Historical Society and the new town pool. My in-laws have renovated the old house true to its original trappings and have resuscitated the old garden in the backyard. This year, they are celebrating their 50th anniversary in their Loup City home, and we have flocked here from afar to commemorate their commitment to each other—and their ability to move forward past their sadness.