simplify

Learn to Do Less

Too often we mistakenly believe that doing less makes us lazy and results in a lack of productivity. Instead, doing less helps us savor what we do accomplish. We learn to do less of what is extraneous and engage in fewer self-defeating behaviors, so we craft a productive life that we truly feel good about.

– Marc Lesser, “Do Less, Accomplish More

On my nightstand are five books in progress: one is a book I’ve been dying to read for a long time; another is required reading for a class I am taking; two more are great big novels that will take me months to get through; and the last is a recent acquisition, gifted to me by the author.

On my desk are paper-clipped clusters of material: kindergarten school enrollment; Chinese school applications; upcoming fund-raisers and programs; photocopied articles to be read at some undetermined date; catalogs with Post-it notes poking out, suggesting a wish list of sorts:, magazines; and at least three to-do lists in progress.

I have a family calendar on the pantry door in the kitchen. I have a planner in book form on my desk. I have an iCalendar on my computer desktop; our family shares a Google calendar. Just yesterday I synchronized the Google calendar on my new phone.

I have four schedules to coordinate: my teenager’s school and work schedule, which is wrapped around a custody schedule; my husband’s work, teaching, and travel schedules; my preschooler’s school, extracurriculars, and playdate schedule; and I have my own freelance and volunteer schedules to squeeze into the remaining 30 minutes of each day.

I have a basement full of junk (most of it not mine, but that is beside the point) that I wish to be rid of. Most of it is old furniture we are saving for the teenager when she goes off to college or whatever; but also there are boxes of newspaper clippings from my writer days (OK, that’s mine; I just don’t have the heart to shred or torch it.) and enough paint cans to build a formidable pyramid in my back yard.

My car trunk as well as my garage are brimming with stuff that needs to go to the recycling center.

I yearn for a streamlined day, a less-cluttered space. The problem is, no matter how much I attempt to organize my time, to dole it all out in bite-sized pieces, life has a way of rigging explosives to my planner and laughing as I scramble to rescue all the airborne pieces.

You know what’s so great about vacations and travel? The simplicity of it. Your life in a bag. Details like unmade beds, dirty glasses, and hair in the tub are not really your concern. Meals are a no-brainer. Your day is set up how you wish, and luckily with stretches of time to just appreciate the blue of the sky, the chirping of the native birds, and the crackle of gravel under your soles.  How, oh, how to maintain that feeling at home?

Daily life can become a blur of details, most of which are lost, along with the car keys, that bag of groceries, and the last sliver of my inner calm.

One book on the nightstand.

One calendar to direct my days.

One goal for each day.

Time to breathe.

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It's time to unplug

needle

Last night, there was too much noise. 

There was enough noise and mayhem to send me running for the sleeping bags and outdoor gear.

We’re heading out of the city to unplug, recharge, refocus and relax.

I’ve traveled in too many directions lately, juggled too many balls. This week, I lost my way and dropped all the balls. I feel a little like Humpty Dumpty.  This is surely a sign that I need a break.

I need to get away from a lot of things. Mainly I need a break from the noise.

Yesterday, within a few miles of our home, a home exploded from a natural gas leak, then a tanker truck crashed on the freeway, resulting in multiple explosions, causing a raging inferno, followed by a bridge collapse.

Once I read about the accident online (thank you, Twitter) the wail of sirens, the buzzing of helicopters, which must have been in the background all along, came to the fore.  Toss in the jerk neighbor and his endless supply of illegal fireworks and the marching band practicing two blocks away and you get the idea of the Symphony of Chaos.

Independently, these things do not bother me. I like marching bands. Fireworks, when ample warning is given or it’s a holiday, are dandy.  A random siren, a chopper overhead, are not really a big deal to me. Last night, the cacophony nearly unhinged me. 

I had a hard time falling asleep last night. Too much to worry about. Not much in the way of solutions. Not to mention the thoughts about all the folks involved in these disasters. What traumas are they working through today?

It’s time to escape for a few days. It’s time to get off the grid. It’s time to unplug and unwind.

I know not everyone is into camping or roughing it. It’s a lot of work. But it renews my spirit to follow the rhythms of nature. 

We will not have: television, cable, Internet service, or electricity of any sort. We will not have running water. Phone service will be spotty at best.

We will have: peace broken only by birds calling, deer snorting, assorted woodland creatures gnawing and shuffling and clawing about. We will have the sunrises and sunsets to ourselves. We will have a starry night to take our breath away, complete with shooting stars, and if we are lucky, aurora borealis. 

While I am breaking out in hives and hyperventilating about the idea of disconnecting, I know it’s what my soul needs now.

I need time to wake up with the sunrise and bird calls, to collect fire wood and cook over an open flame.  I need to spread a blanket  on the forest floor, crack open a book, and read or daydream or write stories in long hand. I need meditation time on the banks of a woodsy stream.

I tell myself that I do not need to know what’s going on with everyone and everything at every given moment. I do not need to relive Michael Jackson’s hair fire or  to know whether the Jonas Brothers are still chaste.

So, I’m giving the keyboard a rest. I won’t  be Facebooking; I’ll be facing a book. I won’t be tweeting but I’ll be listening to the chatter of birds.  I won’t be blogging, but I will be gathering logs and maybe even hiking by a bog. Maybe I’ll carry some logs along a bog. 

I hope it’s quiet where you are.

How many wake-up calls does it take?

Who knew? Drinking excessive amounts of coffee, popping OTC cold pills and getting five hours of sleep aren’t a recipe for good health.

Sounds stupid, but it’s what I did to myself last month. It began with a simple request from the husband for me to look for work. It ended with a phone call from my doctor telling me I had pneumonia.

In between all that I stressed, panicked and over scheduled my life. And when you over schedule your life, it has way of getting the last laugh. Such as: Two days before a planned vacation, one of kids gets really sick, like emergency room sick.

My carefully planned itinerary for the next few days to prepare for this trip was thrown to the wind. We barely made it to the airport for our flight. For the next few days of our vacation, I felt so tired I drank excessive amounts of coffee to stay alert and active. Then I felt a cold coming on, so I loaded up on OTC medication to dull the symptoms. I didn’t want to ruin our trip so I didn’t rest. I willed myself to keep going, to play along with the plan and not be a buzz kill.

When it was time to head to the airport for our return flight, I was full-out sick and could barely put one foot in front of the other. I spent the whole flight home curled up in a ball of misery.

This cascade of events has led me to today: In a bit of a worry about my future and consciously applying the brakes to my high-speed/going nowhere life.

A week after my doctor’s visit, the doctor called me to see how I was doing. She said they’d looked at my chest X-ray again and decided there was a spot on my left lung that needed to be watched. Could I come back in a few weeks for a follow-up X-ray?

I contemplated this. I’m a former smoker; I quit 15 years ago. It sounds weird to say but I’m hoping the spot is pneumonia and not something else.

I’m not job hunting right now. I’m not finishing that painting project. I’m not cleaning the basement. 

I am taking it easy. I am hugging my girls a little bit longer. I’m trying not to worry. Really, I’m trying to just  appreciate each moment. Two scares in one year are too many.

Spin wheel, spin

It’s the last week of summer vacation, folks. Time to panic.

What? You are relaxing? Sipping iced tea on the veranda? Lucky you. I’m guessing you had the sense to schedule hair cuts and dental appointments and shop back-to-school sales well in advance of this week.

Me? I’m guzzling coffee, heck, pouring beans straight down my gullet and spitting out the pieces. I’m well on my way to a panic attack. Here’s a recent picture:

I’ve been driving all over the city like a woman who hasn’t been behind the wheel of a car in two months. (True.) And I’ve been conducting my life like someone who doesn’t have an appointment book or a phone or two children, one of whom starts high school next week.

It must be that.
The mark of time marching forward in the parenting continuum. I am now entering the unknown territory of the high school years. It’s melted my brain entirely. I have goop in my skull and it’s leaking out at a rapid rate. Soon my head will be filled with cobwebs. And then how will I find my way around to make up the forgotten doctor’s appointment, the missed orthodontic check-up, work my way through the 20-plus pages of Super-Duper Important Stuff to Know and Pay For before Sept. 2?

Spin wheel, spin.