Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Archive for the ‘Organization’ Category

For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her

If you met me on the street, you’d think I’m a normal run-of-the-mill human being. But don’t be fooled, because sometimes I am two people inside my head. We’ll call them Miss Rational and Miss Emotional.  Well, Miss R and Miss E got into a big ole fight today. I’ll give you a glimpse into the conversation once you have the backstory.

Our 11 year old is in the 6th grade gifted program in our district.  She worked a year and half to get in, usually missing the required standardized test scores by one or two points.  Making it into the program mid-way through the school year last year was a huge accomplishment for her and she was THRILLED.  She was also excited for this quarter’s subject: guided independent research on a topic of her choosing, which was Alaskan Wolves.

The quarter started around November 1st, but by Thanksgiving we got a head’s up from the teacher that 11yo wasn’t turning in stages of the required assignments. We are very hands-off parents with regard to homework, but we stepped in at this point to help guide and coach our chronically disorganized and potentially overwhelmed young student.

Fast forward to today: project and presentation due date when, in the car on the way to school, I discover that the centerpiece of her research, a telephone interview with a gentleman from the Alaskan government who works with wildlife, was omitted from her bibliography.  I was already struggling to keep my mouth shut about the lack of reference to this interview in her presentation, but when I heard it wasn’t even listed in her bibliography of sources, I hit the roof. “Take out the bibliography and WRITE IT IN,” I bellowed.  It was at this inopportune time that she discovered she hadn’t even printed out and included the bibliography, a major requirement of the project.

I cried all the way home, heartsick, while Miss E and Miss R took it to the mat inside my head.

One interpretation of Miss E and Miss R

Miss E: How completely embarrassing.

Miss R: What? Why? It wasn’t YOUR project.

Miss E: It’s incomplete per the rubric, it had PENCIL on the final project info board, it’s uncreative, she’s ill-prepared – and it shows.  It’s a complete DISASTER.

Miss R: It’s not your project.

Miss E: I’m the parent, it reflects on me.  People will think I’m a bad parent who can’t motivate my child to be responsible and follow directions. Worse, I’m a STAY-AT-HOME parent – parenting is my JOB.

Miss R: Every kid goes through this and besides, grades don’t matter.

Miss E: She’s had this organizational “issue” since kindergarten. This isn’t a one-time thing – it’s an ongoing problem. She should have this organizational thing figured out by now.  She has great teachers, involved (but not OVER involved) parents, and all the tools she needs. And grades are only unimportant in theoretical discussions on Twitter. We all know that in the real world, GRADES MATTER.

Miss R: Remember your 5th grade book report and poster on Daniel Boone that you did ENTIRELY the night before? Hmmm? You were the poster child for procrastination. And grades DON’T matter. Learning matters.

Miss E: Demonstrating learning matters.  She didn’t demonstrate it. Don’t tell me grades don’t matter.  Are you saying that 4.0 MBA I have is irrelevant? I worked HARD to earn those grades. And I learned not to procrastinate because the alternative was even more uncomfortable.

Miss R: (amused) So you don’t procrastinate anymore?

Miss E: Shut up.

Miss R: She’s bright, she’s creative, she’s imaginative, she’s kind-hearted, she’s thoughtful, and yes – she’s a bit scattered and disorganized. She sometimes can’t focus because her mind goes in a million directions. Everyone has issues of some sort.

Miss E: (dismissively) Yes, yes – she’s a great kid – but she has FAILED this project.  She did this in some of her regular classes, too, so this will be her worst report card EVER. She’ll never get into the magnet school for the arts to which she is applying with those grades.

Miss R: So what if she fails this project?  The gifted class isn’t graded. Maybe she’ll have learned from it. And a few B’s or lower on the report card aren’t the end of the world.  If she doesn’t get into that school, she doesn’t.  Life goes on.

Miss E: It would have been so much BETTER if I had done the project. It would have been complete and TOTALLY creative and top notch.

Miss R: It’s not your project.  You had your chance.  And what would she learn if you covered for her?

Miss E: The project would have rocked, and I’d’ve felt better about it.

Miss R:  Not in the long run.

Miss E: Nothing is solved.

Miss R: Nothing ever is.  Correct one weakness and another will emerge.

Miss E: Life sucks sometimes.

Miss R: Yep. Sometimes. That’s life.

Simple Solutions

Sometimes, the simple solution staring us in the face still eludes us.

I’ve had a mini-van for over 7 years, and for at least 5 of those years, the placement of the plastic garbage cans has caused me a problem: they get in the way of my sliding door.  I have long, unsightly white scratches on my van door from frequent collision with the cans.  Until today, it was a problem without a solution.


There’s simply no better place for the garbage cans than where they are.  Slimmer cans are not to be found.  My van won’t fit on the other side of the garage without MAJOR rearranging, and there are sliding doors on both sides anyhow.

But this morning, I came home knowing I would be leaving twice more.  I usually crawl through the front seats from/to the passenger side to get in and out, but in the winter THAT becomes a major pain with drippy, heavy boot on my feet.  So I decided to back into the garage for today. That’s when I noticed that when I’m backed in, the garbage cans are not in the way at all!

My front door clears the pole, the sliding doors are obstruction free, and the problem is solved!


I know why I had never considered this solution before.  Somewhere along the way, I picked up the impression that backing into the garage wasn’t as safe as pulling in forward because exhaust fumes get trapped in the front part of the garage instead of being vented out the large open door in the back.  It probably does increase the amount of trapped fumes, but cars today emit a lot less exhaust.  I don’t ever idle my car in the garage so I bet the “increased risk” is minimal, if measurable at all.

Just to be safe, I posted over in NPR’s Car Talk forum to see what others had to say.  But at this point, I’m pretty sure the increased blood pressure I experience every time my car door hits the garbage can is a larger health risk than the exhaust fumes.

From now on, I’m backing in.  Problem solved!


I haven’t felt the need for resolutions this New Years, perhaps because the last seven months have been a time of focused change for me. But I know lots of other people are making goals, some for the first time in their lives. This post is for them.

As with everything, there are no hard and fast rules for setting goals, but there ARE some tricks and tips that could help you set goals that last beyond January 15th! One of my favorites, that I have used for years and taught to many other, revolves around the acronym SMART.

I mentioned SMART goals in a past post, but I really didn’t elaborate aside from linking to this summary website, which is an excellent resource! A SMART goal has these five characteristics:

* It is Specific.
* It is Measurable.
* It is Attainable or Achievable.
* It is Realistic or Relevant.
* It is Time-Bound or Tangible.

SPECIFIC – What do you REALLY want to do? Lets say your goal is to lose 50 pounds. That’s a great start! But WHEN do you want to do this? A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a vague one.

Make sure you can answer the 5 W’s: who (you), what (lose 50 pounds), when (by 12/31/2009), where (from my body!), why (hmmm…) Sometimes the “why” ‘s the hardest, but most critical one to answer! When you hit the wall and feel like giving up on the goal, remembering your “why” can get you back on track.

MEASURABLE – How will you know when you’ve reached your goal? How will you measure success? When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continue the effort required to reach your goal.

Some goals are inherently more concrete than others (“lose 505 pounds” versus “learn to ski” for example). But all goals can be measured in one way or another. “Learn to ski” might mean being good enough to make it down a certain run in control without falling or it might mean completing 5 ski lessons.

ATTAINABLE or ACHIEVABLE – When you tap into your true inner goals, the things you truly most want to accomplish, you find ways to make them happen. Your desire to accomplish creates your ability to accomplish. You start to discover the means to achieve your goals.

In other words, attainability or achievability is largely determined by your true inner perception. Change the little voice inside your head that tells you that you can’t, believe that you are not only able, but deserve to accomplish your goal, and you can accomplish anything!

REALISTIC OR RELEVANT – In general, goal attainment doesn’t just happen by chance. You have to be both willing and able to work toward it. This takes motivation and focus.

Why do most New Years resolutions fade away after a few weeks? Our motivation, which was strong when we were on vacation and feeling the clean slate of a new year, fades when we lose focus within life’s daily distractions.

Don’t plan to do things if you are unlikely to follow through. Better to plan only a few things and be successful rather than many things and be unsuccessful. Start small, with what you can do, experience the joys of meeting your goal, and only then gradually increase the amount of work that you ask of yourself. Setting goals in which every minute of your day or every penny of your money are accounted for is unrealistic; unplanned events will crop up and wreak havoc with your schedule. Give yourself some flexibility so that you continue to experience success through unpredictable change (this is hardest but probably most critical for us type-A perfectionists who want ti done perfectly or not at all!).

TIME BOUND or TANGIBLE – Setting a time-frame for a goal, as discussed under “specific” up above, is so critical that it deserves to be re-iterated here. I have heard it stated that a goal is a dream with a time-frame! The time-frame can also impact the attainability and realism of a goal. Trying to lose 50 pounds in 50 weeks is a far different and more achievable goal than trying to lose 50 pounds in 5 days.

But a good goal should also be tangible, meaning able to be experienced with one of your 5 senses (taste, touch, hearing, smell, or sight). When you lose 50 pounds, you will FEEL your clothes fit better and SEE a healthier person in the mirror. A tangible goal is more likely to specific and measurable, which means a greater likelihood of attainability.

So – what are your SMART goals right now? I can’t wait to hear how you are achieving them!!

Clothes Closet Clean Out

If you are like me, the years seem to be rolling by at an ever dizzying pace. Didn’t it *just* turn to 2008?  Heck even 2000 seems like it was just a few short years ago!  And if you’re even more like me, you have items in your closet that have seen more than one decade.

Most of the items from high school are long gone.  I will admit to having and occasionally wearing (with slimming undergarments) the knit dress I wore for confirmation in 8th grade, which used to blouse and tie at the waist back then but is a nice slim, straight dress with no tie now!  And I probably look better now then I did then in the strapless dress I wore under my gown for college graduation.  Though the plastic stays leave marks around my middle now and the elastic back is certainly stretched more than it was, my cleavage has greatly improved!

But the point is, I keep clothes for a  l-o-n-g   t-i-m-e.  I don’t consider this a bad thing.  I’m not a clothes horse or fashionista, so I buy for durability and versatility, not current fashion.  Actually, my definition of current fashion is “what I feel like wearing today.”   I *like* most of my clothes and I do prune out what no longer flatters my figure.  But it started to annoy me to have to push aside items I never wear to get to the items I like.

So in December of 2007, when I read a blog post suggesting an easy way to keep track of what in your closet does – or does not – get worn over the course of a year, I thought, “I can do that – and it will be fun!”  So I did, and you can, too.  Here’s how:

1.  Turn every one of your closet hangers backward.

2.  Wear what you want, when you want, for the next year, but when you hang something back up, hang the hanger the right way – forward.

3.  In one year, you will know which clothes you HAVEN’T worn because the hangers will still be backward in your closet!

Isn’t that easy?  Hardly any work at all, really.  Just the kind of organizational system I like.imgp9176

So today was closet clean-out day 2009.  Some of the items surprised me.  (What do you MEAN I haven’t worn my favorite suit in a year?  There’s no way I’m getting rid of it!  It fits well and looks good!)  In that case, I wrapped a white twist-tie around the top of the hanger and put it back in the closet.  Same with a few skirts and one blouse.  I’ll have to think hard about keeping them next year if they’ve gone a second year without wear.

But most of the items I hadn’t worn in a year got folded up for donation to charity:  hand-me-downs from my sister-in-law that didn’t match anything else I had, shirts I’d had since college, and dresses from my mom’s storage unit that made me look 60 years old.  It felt great to get them OUT of my closet.  I have more hangers, more room, and things in my closet that I love!

And when I’m out shopping for new ski pants this week to replace the ones I’ve had since high school that no longer stay snapped when I breathe (I’m sure it’s bad hardware causing that problem and not my leftover baby belly!), I might even be tempted to take a glance in the women’s section for some bargain clearance items.

Now I’m off to tackle my pants drawer.  I think there are 5 or 6 pairs of old stirrup pants that need to join the items from the closet…

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