Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Is it hot in here?

I have not fallen off the face of the earth, although I'm kind of wishing I had. I am working on a project from hell. I can't say anything specific about it, of course. All I can say is that my little office has become an inferno of bad writing that needs to be made good. And like any true hellish form of punishment, it's lasting an eternity. I'm now feverishly trying to get what is supposed to be the last (please, God, let it be the last) round of substantial editing done.

I could swear I just heard Beelzebub laughing from behind the filing cabinet.

I must have done something terrible in a previous life, because I'm paying for it now.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Green Friday--Working with the weather

The weather and I don’t always get along. I’ve been known to garden in the rain and to stand over a hot stove making jam on the hottest day of the year. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to think of ways that I can work with the weather to decrease the amount of resources that I use.

For example, we’ve always been ones to hang our laundry outside, if we happen to do our laundry on a sunny day. Now I keep an eye on the extended forecast and try to save the laundry for days when I can put it out for at least a few hours. Given that we live in a place with an average of 154.5 days of precipitation a year, this isn’t always possible. And sometimes, through a lack of planning or a spell of bad weather, someone runs out of clean underwear and a load just has to be done no matter what it’s doing outside. But there are some weeks in which the dryer has hardly any work at all and I would guess that we use it maybe 50% of the time we would if we were using it to dry all our laundry.

My office is cold—so cold that my fingers sometimes go numb and it’s hard to type. It doesn’t help that the only thermostat for the whole house is upstairs, where it’s brighter and warmer, and my office is downstairs, where it’s darker and colder. In the past, when it got cold enough that a couple more layers of clothes couldn’t keep me from shivering, I either turned up the heat for the whole house (which I hate to do, since it’s a big waste) or kept a space heater near me all day (which I don’t like much either, since it’s noisy). Now I take my laptop upstairs on cold days. Two added benefits are that (a) on particularly gloomy days, of which we have many, it’s much nicer to be upstairs and (b) I get extra exercise—and generate heat—by running downstairs several times a day for reference books, files, or the chocolate bar I’ve hidden in my desk.

If I’m planning to do some baking, I try to do it on a cold day rather than a warm one. Our oven is a 1970s classic and not very efficient, so it makes sense to have it leaking heat on a cold day instead of when the house is already warm enough. It heats up our tiny kitchen so well that I can do my work at the table and turn the heat down a little bit in the rest of the house.

Child Two and I walk to school whenever we can, but when it’s really raining, we drive. Now that the fall weather is truly here, that’s happening more often. If I have errands to do in that direction, I save them for the days we drive so that I can drop her off at school on the way and not use any extra gas. Errands that are closer to home I save for nicer days and I walk instead of taking the car.

I can’t control the weather. I have to stand at the sidelines at soccer games and cross country meets no matter how hard it’s raining (why can’t my kids pick indoor sports?). But in trying to work with the weather, I’m finding that, in addition to saving some energy, I’m a little more appreciative of the variety we have here. I’m grateful as I hang out the laundry on a sunny day and I enjoy the coziness of a warm kitchen on a rainy one.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Enough, already!--Month eight

Well, here I am being completely wordy on Wordless Wednesday yet again. It’s the eighth month of my “Enough, already!” project and this month—strange as it may sound—I’ve decided say “Enough reality, already!”

I don’t know if I can explain this clearly, although it makes sense in my own head. It’s based on two concepts I’ve come across in several different places. The first is acting “as if”—the idea is that if you don’t know how to do something, or don’t want to do it, you act as if you can or you want to until you learn how or start enjoying it or get it finished. The second is the idea that your experience of what is going on around you is heavily affected by the filters you see it through, and those filters are based on your past experiences, your relationships with others, and so on. I’ve heard this idea before but lately I’ve been coming across it over and over: online, in magazine articles, in books. I’m taking it as a message from the universe (self-centered, aren’t I, thinking that the universe is sending me messages again?).

I’ve been trying this out to see how I can use it. Take, for example, walking. Not the actual physical act of walking—even though I’m a total klutz and have been known to trip on air, I’m pretty successful at walking most of the time. For the past few years I’ve been wanting to exercise more by going for regular walks. But I don’t have the time. Really, truly, if I compare all the things I have to do with the amount of time in the day, I do not have time to go for walks—I barely have time to go to the bathroom. But since school started, I’ve been acting as if I do have the time and going right ahead and doing it.

I’ve also been spending more time cooking and crafting and gardening. In reality, I don’t have time for them. But I’m doing them anyway and somehow my schedule is shifting to fit them in.

These concepts work in other ways too. In reality, I’m a person who usually heads straight to the cookie jar for a snack. But now I’m acting as if I’m the kind of person who eats some fruit first. In reality, my sewing room is a cluttered mess, a fact that is often enough to stop me from working on a project. But now I’m acting as if I can find what I need—looking until I do and slowly but surely getting things in order as I look.

I’m refusing to accept the reality that I live with psychotic, plant-killing cats. I potted up some cuttings from our never-say-die spider plant and planted seeds for a kitchen herb garden and I will find a way to have plants in my house again (I am staying in touch with reality enough to plant only things that won’t harm the monsters).

I’m also refusing to accept the reality that over the years I’ve become very disorganized. Because I’m acting as if I were the old organized me, I now find myself filing papers instead of piling them on my desk and writing things down instead of trying (and failing) to remember them.

I’m finding that these concepts work well in dealing with people too. If, for example, when I ask my son to take out the garbage, I speak as if I expect him to remember and follow through, he’s more likely to do just that than if I’m thinking “I know he’s going to forget, just like he usually does.” If, when I’m talking to someone I’ve had bad communication patterns with in the past, instead of interpreting this person’s words and actions through the filter I normally use (and reacting accordingly, whether it’s warranted or not) I act as if we are perfectly capable of having a constructive conversation, we are less likely to fall into our old pattern.

So this month I’m going to ignore reality and live in my own happy little world—one in which people are mostly reasonable and cooperative, I’m organized and eat more fruit than cookies, I have time to do the things I love, and, I hope, a few plants escape death by feline.