Friday, March 31, 2006

Attack of the Icky

So, OK. I haven't posted in a while. I hate 'fessing up to things like this, mostly because I like to remain in denial for as long as possible before hiding under the bed hissing and spitting when the time comes for me to go to the doctor.

Hey – my cat didn't learn that behavior on her own, you know!

Thursday I had another Episode of the Something. After suffering a couple days, I saw my doctor and got a tentative diagnosis of acute cholecystitis, which in English means my gallbladder is on the fritz (wait…is 'fritz' German?).

It's been going on for a while now; I've been calling my symptoms "food poisoning" for about a year, because I've always had something to point to as the cause. "It was that strawberry shortcake I had at Applebee's" or "They must not be refrigerating their mayo at Jack in the Box" or "How come nobody else got sick from drinking this obviously contaminated orange juice?"

So I've got a bunch of tests and stuff to determine just how bad things really are; my doctor feels about 80% sure I'm going to be getting my gallbladder removed in the fairly near future, and about 75% sure we're going to have to do it the old fashioned way (e.g., the eight-days-in-hospital slasher special as opposed to the neat outpatient minimally invasive way) due to all the scar tissue I'm lugging about from All Dem C-Sections.

In the meantime, I feel like crap.

And that's enough about that. But posting is undoubtedly going to become even spottier than housework, because I have barely enough energy to deal with work, and patting my children on their heads in the evening. Everything else has definitely dropped way down the old priority list…

What a pain.

Also, may I just ask: why is it that the first response we have to such things is, "I don't have time to be this sick!" As if the doctor will then say, "Oh well, in that case! We'll just reschedule your gallbladder failure – how does January 2015 work for you?"

(If only…if only…because I don't have time for this right now…or in 2015…or ever, really…)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Single Steps

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." – Ancient Chinese Proverb

By 'ancient', we mean 2,500 years ago. Imagine: all that time ago, people were realizing that things great and small all began the same way, with a single step.

Sometimes, I am in awe of my species. Such a simple practicality. The whole journey is daunting, scary, huge, impossible, ludicrous.

But boil it all down and what do you have? A single step, followed by another, and another, and another – relentlessly you draw nearer and nearer to the daunting, scary, huge, impossible, ludicrous goal.

If we look at our grandiose List of Dreams, there's probably some things on there that are "impossible". Ludicrous! Huge! No. Way!

I suspect for every dream we have, we have at least five reasons why it just can't be done. I don't have the time, or the money, or the influence, or the looks, or the talent, or the guts (or lack of gut, which could help on some of my physical goals).

Eldest taught me a valuable lesson on this. When she was a young toddler, she would occasionally flip out at mealtimes. I'd put the food in front of her, and she'd go completely bananas. She'd throw the food, scream, cry, bang her head on the tray and sob hysterically. When I'd take the food away, she'd cry harder and scream, "Eat! Eat!"

But if I put the food back, she'd flip out again. "No! No!" {CRASH! goes the tray on the floor}

I thought at first it was the specific food she was objecting to…but it wasn't. It was the portion size. She just couldn't handle having all that food on her plate. She knew she couldn't eat it all, but lacked the adult understanding that hey – I don't hafta eat it all just 'cause it's there. (Well…sometimes I think we adults still lack that understanding, but that's another rant for another day.) So in spite of being hungry, she'd just flip out and refuse the whole meal.

Once her pediatrician helped me understand her little toddler psyche and I started making sure she never had more than a few bites at a time on her tray, peace was restored to the dinner table. She might actually eat an entire hamburger – one toddler-fist-sized slice at a time.

I don't think things change all that much as we get older. Give us a task that will take only a few hours, or a couple of days, or maybe a few weeks, and we're totally OK with it.

Give us one that will take months or even years, however, and we've got a problem. Toss in having to change our habits or sacrifice a pleasure or two, and we're on the floor screaming and kicking and banging our head on the Pergo. It's too hard, it's too much, I can't do it, I can't handle it, don't do this to me, you're MEAN!!!!

I'm going to guess that achieving our best dreams fall into that latter category – which is why they remain vague dreams rather than becoming our new, improved, lemon-scented reality.

That's where all this list-making and goal-setting and planner-using comes in.

Take your list and give it a good hard looking over. Pick out a few items for now – just those things that you consider to be the Absolute Most Importantest Stuff On There. Of all these things, which few would make the most positive impact on your life?

Now. Don't think of it as a Huge, Impossible, Scary, Large and No Way thing.

What's the first step you need to take toward achieving that thing? Write it down. Lather, rinse, repeat. What you're doing right now is giving yourself manageable tasks. Don't look at the whole mountain and faint! Look at the next step, and only the next step.

Get a piece of paper. This is going to go into your planner, so use appropriate sized sheets. Head the paper with what the goal is. "Get Master's Degree" or "Buy a House" or "Write the Great American Novel" or "What Have You".

Then we get detailed. What's the first step to making this goal a reality for you? Don't think about the whole goal at this point – what's the first thing you need to do to make this dream come true. Write it down. And the next one, and the next one.

No fair using the 'then a miracle happens' step! Be detailed, be specific, be realistic, and give yourself a deadline for each step – because the next thing we're going to do is make sure we put our Dream Acquisition into our daily tasks.

Monthly, I review all my goal sheets. How am I doing? Am I on track? Do I need to revise the task list based on new information? Do I get to check off any tasks? Why not? Pep talk, go me, I rock!

Once a week, usually on Sunday (because it's generally a fairly quiet day), I sit down and go over my specific goal tasks. This is one of the Covey tools I love best: the weekly compass card. First of all, it fits into a plastic pouch that doubles as a placeholder in my binder – sweet. Impatient people adore things like bookmarks. No searching required, just grab and flip.

But more importantly, it helps me focus. The question asked is, "What is the most important thing I can do in this role this week?"

I write the goal name, and I answer the question: what is the one thing I can do this week to move this goal along?

Every morning, the first thing I do…well, first, I make my coffee, because I cannot function without my coffee in the morning. It is a physical impossibility. People have died because I tried to get on with my life without my coffee.

Well. Not physically (yet) (reminder: past performance is no guarantee of future returns). Only in my mind, because I was pissy enough to wish them dead when they annoyed me pre-coffee. People who are perky at me before I have had my coffee die a thousand horrible deaths in my mind.

It is not a pretty thing.

So first, I make coffee. Tea will do in a pinch. But some form of hot caffeine must happen first.

THEN, I sit down with my planner and block out my day. I write my meetings and other 'non-negotiable' time commitments in first. Then, I pencil in my tasks, right into the calendar side of the equation. "Write stored procedure X" might go in from 6:30 to 7:30. "Answer this email question" from 7:30 to 8:30. Got a meeting from 8:30 to 10:00 (ugh).

Every single day when I start the process, this weekly compass card is right there in front of me – of course it is, it's my bookmark! "Hey!" it says. "Remember this? Don't forget about this – these are your Big Deals! You don't want to let all the sock-folding prevent you from getting these things!!"

So as I'm blocking out my time, I glance over that weekly 'big deals' list and today, I put in "Go to bank, close old checking account" from 10:00 to 11:00. That's part of Goal #2: Financial Independence / Retire Early (or FIRE).

That mountain is particularly daunting. When you think of it as a single thing, "Save $1.5M in twenty-five years", it's totally Impossible! Might as well just give up right now, save time, avoid the rush.

But breaking it down into individual steps…first, focus on putting together a good budget, free up some of our income by eliminating poor spending choices. Then, we're going to pay off this highest-interest debt. Then, this one. Then, this other one. Then we're going to develop our savings. We're going to bump up our 401k contributions, work toward earning Best Possible incomes, keep the momentum going – one small task at a time.

The journey may be over a million bucks high and two decades long and be Impossible!, but each individual step is…just a step. A simple little step, one after another.

We can so totally have, do and be the things we want.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sparrow v. Sliding Glass Door

First, he merely bumped off my sliding glass door. Not hard, mind you –just sort of hopped off the ground, bumped into the door, shook his little head, chirped, "Ow, dude!" and flew onto the lawn.

He pecked feverishly for a moment with the other little birds, hopping ever-closer to the house.

Then he hopped off the ground and bumped into the door again.

"Ow!!" he chirped, and flittered over to the patio table where he perched and ruffled himself up a few times, hopping up and down with increasing fury. He talked to himself, going from intermittent chirps to a constant barrage that sounded suspiciously like a battle cry…

…and then…

He erupted off the table like a dogfighter, zoomed the few feet across the patio, and !!SLAMMED!! into that sliding glass door. Made a tremendous cracking noise as he hit, and then fell to the cement patio thoroughly stunned. I swear I could actually see little cartoon stars circling around the feathery head.

He then had to endure me laughing my butt off as I made sure he was still alive. I held him for a moment, checking the little wings and legs for damage while he regained what little sense he had. I made a cradle of my hands and he sat nestled in it for a long moment, not seeming particularly upset at being handled – probably still a bit out of it from having attacked the double-paned slider with his hollow little noggin. He chirped quietly a couple times: "Ow… Ow... Ow... Ow…"

And then he jumped from the cradle of my hands to the top of my fingers, glared at me, shook his head in disgust, and flew unsteadily to the fence, where he has been sitting for the last several minutes telling his buddies about the Evil Door and the mean lady who laughed at him for face-planting into it…

Sunday, March 19, 2006

In the spirit of Ivan Borisov…

Here it is. My Olympic sweater, finished last night…rather late:

On the plus sides: it fits, it is extremely warm, and the “rumply” thing where I think I stranded too tightly actually did smooth out under the influence of a nice warm steam iron.

On the downside…the sleeves are just a hint too short, and overall it fits a little on the snug side (although I suspect a quick soak and being stretched to dry will probably fix both of those).

Who, you may be asking, is Ivan Borisov? He was the sole downhill competitor from Kyrgyzstan (a country apparently about the size of South Dakota), and he missed a gate on his downhill run.

He turned around, struggled his way back up to the gate, went through it and continued his run. He finished 41st out of, uh, forty-one competitors.

The persistence of the underdog, personified. Fix your mistake, and carry on. Don’t give up, don’t wuss out, don’t give up on yourself just because you blew it this one time.

My hero.

Bode Miller? Keep him. My heart belongs to Ivan.

Friday, March 17, 2006

DOH! Of the Day

Every so often, I'll get a phone call from my husband that sounds like this: "{indistinct mumbling, car noise, books on tape rumblings, maybe a car horn}"

It will go on, and on, and on. I can shout into the phone all I want, he isn't going to hear me.

This would be on account of because he's sat down in the car, leaned on a button or two, and the phone has said (on account of because it is a Highly Intelligent Phone that tries to guess what you meant by all that button pushing), "Ah ha! This man wants to call his wife!"

And it will cheerfully dial for him, and once it has a connection with the house, it will not let go.

I have hung up on these calls, only to pick up the phone moments later to find it's still there.

{Twilight Zone Music Here}

But, I digress.

The DOH! Of the Day goes to Johnny Ray Miller and Robert A. Patterson of Enid, Oklahoma, in honor of their astonishingly bad combination of timing and number dialed.

And, when I become an evil overlord…no autodial on my cell phone. Check.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


It is the weirdest thing. I often find that within moments of writing about a problem…it either vanishes or the solution pops right up in front of me.

About ten minutes after I sat here pounding my head on the table and sobbing and whining writing about my complete and utter inability to get on with my professional life…something just quietly went, {Click!}

And I've had an amazing morning / early afternoon. I've just realized it is 1:00 (13:00 to you, Mr. Timesheet!), and I'm hungry, and I've gotten to the point of only having one (1) more thing on my list of stuff I really want to get done today.


Curse these floppy upper arms of mine! Man, it just irritates the hell out of me, the utter lack of muscle tone I've got in my upper arms…

{whisper} Now, let's see if anything happens…

Disquiet of the Brain

I have this feeling today. I feel as though…if I were a decent and honest person…I would call in…hmm.

Not exactly sick, although I did have a bout of the Something last night (long story short – the Something is a Mystery Ailment that has been impacting my digestive life in a very unpleasant and recurrent way since the start of the year) so my entire stomach area feels like someone spent the night hitting me with the business end of a pole.

But unfortunately, it doesn't hurt enough that I can't work. Or even enough to be why I'm suffering my real problem. Which would be…an utter inability to get my arms around the concept of getting something done today.

I'm having one of those days where I have read the same email at least five times, and still – it might as well be written in Finnish. I can understand all the words. And I have a ghostly feeling that I know what it is they're saying to me, and what I am supposed to be doing in regards to said email.

But then I go to, you know, do it…and it's gone.

Back to the email. Read the email. Oh yes, I was going to {alt-Tab to other application} stare at application screen…what the heck was I going to do? {alt-Tab back to email}…got it!…{alt-Tab!}…duuuuh… {alt-Tab!}…got it!…{alt-Tab!}… duuuUUUUUuuuuh…{alt-Tab!}…

I'm trying. I really am. All blog-posting-in-the-middle-of-what-is-supposed-to-be-a-working-morning evidence to the contrary, I really truly am trying my best to get my head out of whatever null-zone it has found and back into the job for which I am being paid.

But I still think, if I were an honest person, I would email my coworkers and boss and say something like, "I'm, uh, not feeling quite up to par today {fake cough here}. I'm going to go ahead and take a sick day and hope to be back online tomorrow."

Because I'm starting to fear that if I do manage to get something done on any of the three tasks I wanted to get handled today…it will be wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. A waste of my time and their money.

And yet, undaunted…I'm going back to that infernal email again. Maybe this time, I'll be able to hold onto the questions therein long enough to write a stupid query to answer them…

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Wanna take a trip with me?

At the moment, my planner is just a glorified fridge calendar. You know, a list of things to do, a space for each day with things like "Eldest, dentist appointment, 2:40" scribbled in it.

There's nothing wrong with that. It's a darned sight better than having to pay $120 for the dentist appointment you forgot to show up for, I'll tell you that for nothin'.

But an effective planner can do so much more. And I intend to leverage mine for all it's worth.

I'll start with what, exactly, I've got for a planner. Physically, I mean.

I've got a binder. Just a plain old three-ring binder, with one cool feature: it stands up. Cost me $10 for this binder, yessir. I don't wanna confess how much I spent on "specialty" planner holders (leather bound, seven-ten-fifteen rings, had handles, didn't have handles, spaces for the PDA, all that) before I discovered that overall – a plain old three ring binder worked best for me. I like being able to buy cheap old college-ruled paper and put it right into my binder without any fussing.

I buy my fillers in what Franklin Covey refers to as 'Monarch' size and the rest of the world calls "Oh, you mean just regular 8-1/2 x 11?", because I write BIG.

Now, I'm going to put this right up front: all of this stuff, other than a calendar of some kind, is totally optional. There is no reason on earth why you can't draft hand-made daily planning sheets using plain old binder paper instead of shelling out $30 for a year's worth of pre-printed daily planning sheets.

That said, when it comes to the specialty papers inside it, I like the Franklin Covey system. I like the layout, I find it very easy to use, and I find many of their 'patented' tools extremely useful. Also, I like the colors of the Monticello pages. Yes. I am that shallow. I like the blue, and it is worth some extra bucks to me to have the blue.

I bought the monthly tabbed sheets that are two pages per month (see comment about writing BIG, above – I can't stand the dinky little spaces provided by a single page per month calendar), the Daily Planning Pages, and the Weekly Compass cards. I already had from Days of Yore tabs for Values / Missions, Goals, Finances, Key Information, a pouch the weekly compass cards go in that doubles as a page finder, and a bunch of generic numbered tasks.

And, I bought a big old package of binder paper, to be used for everything from taking notes in meetings to doodling memos to myself on the train.

So. I've got all this stuff.

…now what?

I'm going to skip all the motivational pep-talking about values and goals and blah blah blah, and cut right to the chase: there are two kinds of to-do lists. There's the kind that is purely a list of crap you've got to get done, in no particular order. The laundry list, the eternal 'honey do' list. The glorified fridge calendar. It helps keep you on track for those things that are right in front of you, right now.

Fine. But there's another level you can achieve with these things.

It starts by knowing what you really want to achieve on a grander scale. It's really about knowing yourself, what you personally want to have, to do, and be.

It's answering the question: What is 'all this' really about? Once you've got the answer to that, you can start planning your time and tasks with one eye on the here and now, and one on the bigger picture.

It's so easy to get so caught up in the process of life that you forget there is a bigger picture. I know I get very caught up in the process – I've got to make dinner and do the laundry and get the report out and gosh golly I forgot all about those pants I was having altered and then I get a phone call and I've got to remember to pencil my mom in for a visit, which means I have to vacuum up the filth between the door and anywhere she's likely to walk in the house…

Another term would be 'tunnel visioned' – so intense on what is right immediately in front of me that I forget I'm trying to get somewhere.

This, right now, is where we stop. Step away from the processes for a minute. Raise up our eyes and look around at the horizon.

What do you want?

Are there things you want to have? A better (or just different) job, a house of your very own, financial security, a new pair of tennis shoes, an actual lawn instead of a rather seedy weed patch?

Maybe some things you'd like to do? Get that college degree, take a cruise, see Greece, climb a mountain, learn to speak Sanskrit?

Or maybe you've got some areas in the 'be' department, maybe you'd like to have more passion, or compassion, be more generous (or less generous – as a person who sometimes has trouble with the tiny little word 'no', sometimes I wish I could be just a little less giving sometimes).

Don't worry about what's on your list. It isn't graded by anybody else. It doesn't have to please anybody but you – not even your spouse. This is an utterly self-absorbed activity that is all about your personal happiness and success. It doesn't have to be noble and self-sacrificing, nor does it have to be all about greed and avarice. The things don't have to be easy or hard. You don't have to be attempting to build a trampoline you can use to bounce up to the moon; or even the second story, for that matter. But neither do you have to ask yourself, "Is this safe? Is this sensible? Is this something I feel I can actually do?" and limit yourself only to things you think come back 'yes'.

This isn't the time to worry about the how part – that comes later. Right now, we're dreaming up a better life for ourselves, a more purpose-driven life, a life we'll be proud to have led, one that we can look back over and say, "Might not have been perfect, but damn – it sure was good!"

Take your time. I'm probably going to take the whole weekend to tweak around on this stuff. Maybe longer. I'm looking both for things that are near term (like maybe getting a new bleepin' cooktop, since mine has been busted for, oh, what? three YEARS now?!) and far term (maybe…a master's degree? Or even [dare I ponder it] getting one of those million-buck hovels closer to Where The Work Is?), and Supremely Long Term (…I'd love to retire before I'm 92…)

So – think about it. If there were no limits, if you weren't afraid, if you had all the resources in the world and there was nothing to stop you – what would you do? What would you buy for yourself? What would you do with yourself? What kind of person would you want to be?

Go write it down. Have fun. We'll come back and talk about it some more in a few days…

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

This just in: 30% pure EeeeeeeeeeeeeeeVILLE!

You Are 30% Evil

A bit of evil lurks in your heart, but you hide it well.

In some ways, you are the most dangerous kind of evil.

I beat my friend by 2%.

BWA-HAHAHAHA- er, I mean, how awful. Gee golly, I surely do hope I didn’t hurt her feelings at all…

Friday, March 10, 2006

Division of Labor

You guys got me thinking; especially the part of ‘you guys’ who have flooded my inbox these last few days (what do you have against just leaving comments directly on the blog, BTW?). This is dangerous. It means that I get all philosophical.

You brought this on yourselves.

Specifically, I was taken with how many people felt that regardless of what the task was, the husband and I should be splitting the chores right down the middle. See, I think that's mental. Utterly mad. Highly inefficient, fraught (fraught, I tell you!) with the peril of having things taking endless hours to do poorly.

There is one basic assumption I think needs to be addressed right up front: that he’s sitting on the sofa drinking beer and playing backgammon with his buddies or something, while I slave away like an indentured servant.

{!BUZZ!} Oh sorry, No! But thank you for playing!! In point of fact, even while I was staying at home the division of labor didn’t change. My husband having done the stay at home dad gig for a while, he never considered my staying home to equate to a ‘woo hoo, now I get a free ride when it comes to household chores!’

While I’m ironing, he’s hedging. While I’m organizing closets, he’s rebuilding the infernal fence. While I’m folding the laundry, he’s putting knobs back on cabinets, recaulking the bathrooms, acid-washing the driveway.

It’s a Divide and Conquer method; the only chores we share right down the middle are the things we both hate and/or suck at doing equally. For those, we have the advanced technical method of ensuring equal misery called, ‘I did it last time!’ This simple phrase ends all argument when it comes to things like poopy diapers, sweeping the kitchen floor, dealing with crying children in the wee hours of the night, and so on.

But I'm digressing.

I was actually pondering division of labor, and the application of same to the plain vanilla world of the Household.

Division of labor has been around for as long as civilization. Adam Smith pointed out its benefits in his Great Work™, The Wealth of Nations back in 1776.

“The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labour,” quoth he. “And the greatest part of the skill, dexterity, and judgement with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour.”

He describes at some length his observations of a pin factory, where one guy pulls the wire thin, another cuts it, a third sharpens it and so forth. At the end of the day, ten guys working in specialized concert, produce 48,000 pins per day; those same ten guys could not have made 20 pins apiece in the same time period if they had made each pin from start to end by themselves.

Judging from the emails I’ve been getting lately…I suspect a few folks were out sick the day we discussed this in Econ 1A. Either that, or you’ve all married lazy jerks who need horse-whipping. If your partner is one of those types who considers his/her list to consist of “earn a paycheck” and “surf the Internet”…well…may I suggest one of these? Or perhaps this might suit the bill. (In any case, it might get their attention…)

But I digress (again). I’m sorry. I’ve just always loved bullwhips…yeeeeeeeeeeHAW!! {!CRACK!}

Efficient division of labor is a major force underpinning the generation of wealth. It works for nations, for business large and small…and households, too. When each of us works to our best blend of interest and strength, we prosper. When even one of us decides to slack off, we falter.

To attempt to split all chores, regardless of what they are, is to remove the layers of efficiency we currently enjoy. Removing efficiency is removing wealth – here defined not just as money, but also time and overall life satisfaction.

It seems a piss-poor exchange to me, ‘utter equality’ for ‘quality of life’. I’d rather do all the ironing, every last hankie of it, every week, than have to trim the hedges even once a month. He’d rather be up on that unspeakable ladder cleaning out the gutters every single day than do the ironing even every other week. Seems like a pretty easy call to make: you handle that stuff, I’ll handle this. We’re both happy, and it all gets done.

The work, I’ve noticed, doesn’t really care who does it, as long as it gets done.

Maybe I’m just missing something. I’m sensing a lot of seething resentment in the emails I’ve been getting, like a lot of people feel they’re somehow getting the short end of the stick. I don’t know what the cure would be for that; I don’t have that feeling around here. The way things have fallen out for us, each of us thinks the other one has the “harder” set of tasks.

It’s either that we’re Mutant Alien People™ (which would explain a lot about our kids, actually), or we’ve hit on something that is sorely needed Out There.

Communicate your needs and wants. Discuss them. Come to an understanding. Share the overall burden equally, but also with an eye to your individual preferences and skills. We’ve had our ‘I can’t handle all this, I need you to handle {tasks}’ discussions, and it’s gone both ways. My husband has had times when he asked me to pick up a few of “his” tasks, and I’ve had times when I’ve asked him to pick up some of “mine”.

It’s not a fight. It shouldn’t become a fight. It’s about pulling together. Be thou a shield unto my back, and I shall be one unto thine…

Lift up your eyeballs from the stupid list, and look at each other. You may be a team, but you’re also individuals. You have individual hopes, dreams, skills, preferences, and interests. Play to those strengths. Leverage them. If you can maximize the household efficiency, you both win. Smash the efficiency to bits in the name of ‘perfect equality’, and you both lose.

I think sometimes we get so caught up with trying to force life to be fair that we forget it’s short. Very short. Way too short to be busting our spleens over who takes out the garbage and whether or not that makes his list 0.08% shorter than mine.

And entirely too short to waste it trying to make hedging my job. Because I can spend two hours trying to make two tiny little hedges look vaguely round and end up with a pair of hacked-up hedges, a rash all up and down my forearms from the hedge-juice, and a husband who is lying on the driveway rolling in helpless laughter, tears streaming down his face.

Oh well. At least I’d get my laughs in when he went off to work wearing a shirt with multiple creases ironed into it…until I found the scorch marks on my blouses, anyway…

Thursday, March 09, 2006

What a pair to draw to…

This morning as I was rousting the Denizens from their warm beds and forcing them to endure the indignities of getting dressed, I realized that I had forgotten to grab a pair of socks for Captain Adventure.

Dang. Have to go all the way back upstairs now…But wait! I have a seven year old! Surely I can ask my seven year old to grab a pair of socks out of his drawer, right? I mean! They’re all rolled up in pairs! Shoot, my four year old could probably handle this!

“Eldest! Can you do me a favor? Could you go upstairs and get a pair of socks out of Captain Adventure’s drawer?”

“OK!” she says, enthusiastically.

{THUMPA-THUMPA-THUMPA-THUMPA!} go her little feet up the stairs. The drawers are opened and shut with great enthusiasm.

There is a long, long pause. A long pause. A ‘what, did you have to drive to WalMart for those things?’ pause.

After which the little feet make the reverse trek down the stairs and she comes skidding into the laundry/changing room clutching two socks.

One sized for a newborn, the other one of her own. She flung them at me and turned to run off.

“Hang on,” I commanded, holding up the mismatched pair. “Do these make a pair?”

She regarded them studiously, then opined that nooooooo – no, they did not.

“Can you get me a pair?” I asked, when it became obvious that she wasn’t going to make that particular connection.

“Oh. OK!”

{THUMPA-THUMPA-THUMPA-THUMPA!} {vigorous drawer opening and shutting} {THUMPA-THUMPA-THUMPA-THUMPA!} {skiiiiiiiiiiiiid}

And she handed me, with a huge flourish a (one, uno, singular) sock of the extraordinarily frilly and bow-ridden variety. In size LARGE. Both of his little feet could have gone into that one sock. His very squirmy feet, because by this time he’s lost all patience for hanging out on the changing pad waiting to get his shoes put on.

I took it and looked at it for a moment. Then I asked, slowly and with great emphasis, “Eldest. How many feet does Captain Adventure have?”

“Oh {giggle}. Sorry.”

“And Eldest?”


“Is this one of his socks?” If the size didn’t give away the answer, the enormous pink bow waving listlessly from the cuff did.

“Oh. {more giggling} No.”

“Honey, please don’t be silly right now. I need a pair of his socks. Just get me one of the pairs of socks in his drawer.”

She began trying to tell me there were no socks in his drawer. None. She had had to take a dogsled to Canada to find the one sock she had just brought down. Nine hundred miles, uphill in the snow, barefoot, both ways!

Eventually, I let out an, “Oh for heaven’s sake, Eldest!”

At which point, she collapsed into tears and lamentations. No socks. Never seen socks. There were no socks. It was an evil plot, asking her to look for the socks that didn’t exist…

And my feet went stomping up the stairs, and I slammed the drawer open, and while I will admit there were only two pairs of suitable socks in there – THERE WERE TWO PAIRS! Not one! TWO! Right there! Right there in the very front of the drawer!

If they had been a snake…I’d’ve been posting about the long wait times at the local ER this morning.

Of course…there is still the question of where the mates to the three socks she brought downstairs have gotten to…

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I feel so much better now

So. Somebody at Google made an itty-bitty, teeny-weeny, what’s it between friends kind of boo-boo, and posted the wrong damned spreadsheet on the corporate internet site.

Hey, it could happen to anybody. So many spreadsheets, so much pressure to get things posted, STAT! Shoot, I’ve sent out the wrong file a few times in my day, too.

‘Course, my blunders along those lines never, say, caused a company with 304,000,000 shares outstanding to lose $6.65 per share in market capitalization in a single week.

That’s $2,021,600,000. TWO BILLION BUCKS {and some spare change} in market cap. Zap! Gone (for the moment – tomorrow, someone will whisper ‘Google is hot’ in a bathroom somewhere and the stock will undoubtedly soar like the phoenix on newly-feathered wings…)!

That is not gonna look good on the old resume. No sir, it is not.

And suddenly, I feel so much better about sending out a report a couple weeks ago that was missing a handful of items because I pulled from the wrong table.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Monogamy is so overrated

The Yarn Harlot was talking about project monogamy (and her utter lack thereof) on her blog and I was feeling very at sea because I’m a one-project kind of person.

Yessir, that’s right. I cast on, I knit through, and only when I’ve finished what I’m working on do I move on to the next project. Can't relate to the whole ‘multiple projects’ issues, not a bit.

Oh, really? Let’s take a quick look through the house, shall we?

First of all, we have the Olympic sweater. (There is progress on that, by the way – I’ve gotten to the bottom cuff detail on one sleeve.) (But I didn’t take a picture of it yet, because there have been enough pictures of that project.)

Then we have the ‘portable’ project, which is a pair of socks. See, I was going to do the alpaca scarf and beret next, but then I realized that I actually had the socks actually on the needle, so I faithfully set aside the alpaca (on different needles) to resume them.

Then I found this little gem lurking in my actual knitting basket. This would be my ‘One True’ project that I was working on before I took up the Olympic sweater – this is the front of a very nice mohair-blend sweater. Isn’t it a cute little cable? Yes, I thought so too. Right up until the moment I abandoned it.

I found an alpaca sweater being knit in the round that, after a bit of consideration (and the discovery that the pattern had long ago gotten separated from the work in progress), I tore out to recover the yarn.

And, there is also the May Queen pattern I wrote about a while ago. I had actually cast on the hem of that little dress before I realized I had a ‘broken’ pattern.

That’s six projects in progress, for a ‘one project at a time’ person.

But honestly – I am a wild-eyed polygamist in my heart of hearts. Because every single time I go into my craft closet for any reason, I pause for a moment to admire the yarns that are “next”. The soft angora blend, to be made into a wee little hat for a newborn head. The beautiful claret alpaca for the beret and scarf to drape artfully over my black wool coat. The endless (and I do mean endless) balls of sock yarn. Check out these puppies:

Yes. I have more of this kind of ludicrously variegated, “you're not really going to wear those in public are you?” sock yarn.

And in my mind, I’m already knitting it up.

Ah, fickle is my knitter's heart...

Voyage of (Re)Discovery

I used to be pretty damned good at this whole ‘working mom’ thing. I was good at managing my time, keeping things together, blah blah blah…

Oh yes. I used to be really good at this stuff.

Today…eh…not so much. Meals have been downright weird, my kindergartener has brought cereal bars for lunch more times than I like to admit, bills are languishing unpaid a little longer than is strictly kosher, and I’m finding myself easily confused between tasks. Ack, which do I do first? The vacuuming! No, the bathroom! Wait, I haven’t started dinner! OK, I’ll vacuum with my left foot while I stir the rice with my right hand, pay this bill with my left and…Aw, heckwithit. Let’s just order pizza and watch a pay-per-view…

See, I don’t know about anybody else, but when I have Way Too Much To Do©, I get very, very tired. Very, very, very, very tired. Confronted with a huge amount of stuff I need to get done, all of it ‘important’ or ‘urgent’, I have a tendency to kind of freeze up. I can’t deal with it, I can’t cope with it, so I…ignore it.

What elephant? I don’t see no stinkin’ elephant…

Of course, while denial can be lovely for a while, it doesn’t tend to end well. These last few weeks, I think I’ve actually spent more money than I’ve earned on convenience foods; the house has gotten steadily seedier (it wasn’t all that hot to begin with); and I’ve dropped an awful lot of social and work-related balls.

So I blew the dust of my trusty Franklin-Covey planner this weekend and started trying to get it back together. The writing stops abruptly on February 6, 2003 – a couple weeks after I came home from work ‘for good’ (ha!).

I sat down and read through my old notes. Man. I was one organized cookie, back in the day. Monthly goals, high level weekly goals, daily prioritized task lists, coded by project or life area.

No wonder I have memories of being able to lay hands on an envelope, stamp and return label without a forty-minute search in a hard-hat through the craft closet.

So I began thinking about what I need to do to get back on track, and I have to admit: simple organization is what I need more than anything else. Over the last couple years, I’ve really been letting things slide – especially things like drawers and closets. They’re stuffed with miscellaneous stuff, because I kept saying I’d deal with it, you know, later.

But when you’re working full time and you’ve got precisely two hours per day at home that aren’t taken up by sleeping – spending a precious half an hour in the garage digging through empty diaper boxes and cans of green beans searching for the box of laundry soap you know is out there somewhere really doesn’t work so well. I’m sure my coworkers won’t mind if I give my shower a miss today…again…

Given the time crunch, I’m planning to go about battening down the hatches of the Den of Chaos the same way I’d go about eating an elephant: one bite at a time.

One drawer, one shelf, one ten to fifteen minute organizing job at a time, I’m going to get this place cleaned up. I started yesterday with a small but psychologically significant area: the kitchen junk drawer.

From that one area, a 18” long by 20” wide by 4” deep drawer, I threw away almost an entire plastic grocery bag full of stuff. Stuff like, a broken sugar dish from the dollar store. A stack of ancient rubber bands. A deck of torn-up playing cards (I suspect I grabbed them away from a toddler and stuffed them in there to keep them out of reach). Lots and lots and lots of ancient candy, probably likewise confiscated from a Denizen.

The drawer is now organized, and less than half full. You can see at a glance every single thing in it. It is clean. The things it holds make sense.

It’s a small bite – but it’s a start.

Just a few dozen more, and I’ll be really cookin’ with gas…

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The things we don't know...

My husband did not know that the Den of Chaos has financial ‘closes’.


Now how, I ask you, how, can this man have not known that when I lock myself in the office for two days on or about day 10 of April, July, October and January, that I am doing a quarter close for our books?

Seriously. A fairly rigorous, in-depth fiscal checkup EVERY quarter, for TEN YEARS…and he has no idea that I do this.

Apparently the fact that I tend to repeatedly come out of the office clutching graphs and spreadsheets and spewing out things like “how in the world did we spend $5,872 on ‘dining’ this quarter? This $58.07 from Home Depot, was that for the back yard, or was that the drywall in Captain Adventure’s room? And somebody had damned straight better explain this $2,721 for pay-per-view movies…the $8,827 for yarn I understand, perfectly natural that, but pay-per-view movies?!” never clued him in.

Oh no. It wasn’t until, while talking about other things, I mentioned in passing that I probably would be reevaluating my working situation during the Q2 close rather than Q1 due to several weeks of data being ragged that he looked at me with an expression both amused and surprised and said, “Wait – you do a ‘quarter close’ for us?!”

I think it really does prove one thing: any time I start talking about finances, he really does only hear, Blah blah blah Ginger blah blah blah Ginger.

Oh well. I understand. I do the same thing when he starts talking about dts packages [here ends my knowledge of actual terminology] with the thing on the other thing and I think there’s a server involved…or something…and anyway the code did this other thing? Which was cool? But then this other thing happened which was not cool and blah blah blah something something something and then, uh, he fixed it. Somehow.

With, uh…code.

Before I start preaching about frivolous spending…

I just frivolously spent $13 on Tulip Sock fixin's.

As to why…well…see, this is hard. It really does go against my usual rules on flippant purchases. It was over $5, and it was not something that could be eaten, so it should have gone through a slightly more rigorous decision process and been tossed out on the basis that I already have enough sock yarn to keep my needles busy for about sixteen years. And, furthermore, I have enough other yarn to be making sweaters and baby blankets and whatnot for a further eighteen years. I am rapidly approaching SABLE (stash acquisition beyond life expectancy) in the yarn department.

The only defense I have, the only reason I can give for my buying the yarn and pattern for these rather garish examples of the knitting trade is…they made me laugh.


I mean it. I saw those socks in an email from KnitPicks last night and I laughed so hard I shot zinfandel right out my nose. I was so cheered and amused by these socks that it didn't even bother me that I was wiping zinfandel off my laptop screen.

They embody the whimsy of Spring, to me. They say, "Yes, that's right! We're garish, and PROUD OF IT! We're bright and we're bold and we're cheerful and if you don't like it, we really don't care! Because we're socks! Really, really, REALLY Spring-y socks!"

So I bought the yarn, and I fully intend to make – and wear! – them.

In public.

Because they made me laugh.

Really, really hard.