Monday, August 31, 2015

Mom's Lunch Rules

Prawny via Morguefile
Every parent wants her children to feel comfortable bringing friends home. And truth be told, I enjoy both my daughter and her friends, so it's kind of fun when they show up.

But when the world of high school senior open lunch collided with the world of the work-at-home mom, it quickly became apparent that it was time to set a few rules.
  1. Don't expect to take advantage of me. I'll stock the house, I'll welcome you and your friends into it, I'll make sure the table is accessible for eating and I'll even stay out of your way. But I live here, too, and we'll need to coexist.
  2. This is not a restaurant. I'm happy to make you a sandwich. But if you ask me to cook anything more complicated than ramen, good luck with that. Most days, I don't even do that for myself.
  3. There's no maid service. If you come home and make a mess at lunch time, expect it to be waiting for you when you get home from school. I'll happily walk right by those dirty dishes if it means you'll learn to clean up after yourself.
  4. I won't be guilted into compliance. Please, Mom? Seriously? That hasn't worked since you were truly unable to do things for yourself. 
Am I sounding a little hostile? I don't mean to. I just know she knows better. 

And if I doubted it for a second? I shared rule #2 with her when she arrived (as I was writing this) and got that knowing grin -- the one I get when she knows she's got both feet over the line and just wanted to see what would happen if she hung out there for a while.
Oh, and one more thing. You might want to let me know you're coming. Otherwise, I might not be the only one embarrassed by my wardrobe.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Saturday Special: Packing it In

Photo: Kolobsek via Morguefile
I'm sure you wouldn't be the least bit surprised to hear that I read a lot about organizing. I always like finding good ideas, but I get excited when I find new ideas. And very often, the best ideas come not from organizing professionals, but for people who've spent time figuring out what works for them.

Real Simple magazine's "10 Genius Packing Hacks from Travel Experts" offers up a few familiar ideas (roll, don't fold) and some creative ones as well, whether you're traveling across the state or across the country.

Bon voyage!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Feature: Marketing Your Passion
When I told my colleagues that I was planning to retire, they were shocked -- mostly because I was about a decade younger than most people who make that decision. Once they got over their surprise, though, many of them asked me the same question.

"Are you going to write?"

Much as I loved being an elementary school counselor, my friends knew that writing is my passion. Yes, I procrastinate (wildly), yes, I get frustrated. But I can't imagine not writing.

When I read Neil Patel's article, How to Take Your Passion to Market In 6 Easy Steps, so much of it sounded like the advice writers get about building a platform. But that makes perfect sense, because that's what platform is -- a way "to take your passion to market."

What's your passion? Ever thought about taking it to market?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

5 Things I Wish I Were Better At
We all have things we enjoy doing, and usually, they're things we're good at. I love to write and to sing, for example, and I'm lucky to have some degree of talent in those areas.

But for everything we're good at, there's something else we wish we could do. While I know everyone can't be good at everything, here are a few things I wish I were better at.
  1. Sports. As a kid, I didn't pay much attention to sports, and as an adult, I'm often embarrassed to participate in anything that involves athletic prowess of any kind. So I don't.
  2. Details. Some people are idea people and some people are execution people. While I've learned how to map out a plan from idea to execution for big things, it's the day-to-day details that get me. 
  3. Estimating time. I've read almost as much about time management as I have about organization -- or at least enough to have identified my stumbling blocks -- and my biggest one is failing to accurately assess just how long each step of a process will take. I can plan out the process; it just always takes way longer than I think it will.
  4. Creating a mental image. I can imagine what something looks like, but I can't actually see it in my mind very well. Some writers are able to play their unfolding stories like movies in their minds. I am, unfortunately, not one of them.
  5. Cooking. As a teenager, I loved to bake, but I've never loved to cook. To me, it's an inconvenience that interrupts the flow of the day, intruding on whatever else it is I was doing instead. If I suddenly came into a lot of money, I'd hire a personal chef.
I'm not losing sleep over any of these weaknesses, mind you. But, in most cases, I'm not doing anything to get better at any of them either (#3 being a notable exception). 

How about you? What's something you wish you were better at?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sometimes, Drastic Measures are Called For
Last spring, my e-mail decided to cooperate only sporadically. Its timing was, of course, marvelous. E-mails began disappearing into cyberspace and failing to arrive in my inbox right around the end of the semester, when I had the least amount of time available to remedy the situation. For a few weeks, I worried that friends thought I was ignoring and that business associates really hadn't gotten the things I'd sent to them.

Fortunately, the Apple Store was able to come to my rescue. Unfortunately, this came at a price, and that price was my e-mail stash. It was, shall we say, substantial.

The Apple technician was very kind and understanding -- although he was taken aback by my less-than-organized desktop and amused when I told him I write about organization. He allowed me a few minutes to process my impending loss (mostly because he didn't want to be blamed if I lost anything important, I suspect) and and then we hit the appropriate keys and sent several years' worth of back e-mails hurtling into oblivion.

It was a necessary step -- one that was unavoidable in order to achieve the larger (and more important) goal of a functioning e-mail account.

Three months later, I miss very few of those thousands of emails and am, in fact, relieved to be free of the dead weight of a backlog I could never seem to manage. I still have more e-mails in my inbox than I should, but I've also become more ruthless about what stays and what goes. More important, I've recognized that the time it takes to keep things under control is time well-spent. My goal, after all, is a functioning e-mail account.
As I prepare to begin a new semester -- one which will include teaching freshmen about setting goals and developing good habits -- it occurs to me that my little lesson in technology applies to much more than e-mail accounts. It is, in fact, an illustration of Covey's second habit of highly effective people: begin with the end in mind.

If we don't know what we want, we can't begin to know how to get there. If we do know what we want, we can often cope with drastic measures, and we might even choose to take them.

What constitutes drastic measures will, of course, vary from person to person. In my case, it was letting go of correspondence, much of which was trash, but some of which might have been buried treasure. For a college freshman, drastic measures might mean staying home on a Friday night to study. To those outside of these situations, neither of these measures sounds particularly drastic, but drastic is in the eye of the beholder.

We all want things that are too expensive, whether that expense comes in the currency of cash, time, e-mail or something else entirely. Sometimes we're willing to pay the price, and sometimes we're not. It depends on how important the goal is.

What ends do you have in mind? What's keeping you from them?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Saturday Special: Baby Steps to De-Cluttering
De-cluttering is one of those things we have to be in the mood for. Like so many other things, getting started is the hardest part.

That's why this article from Bright Nest makes so much sense. The concept of starting with a small space isn't exactly rocket science, so to speak, but it's easy to overlook its benefits:
  • Putting a halt to the procrastination process and starting somewhere, no matter how small, often energizes us to tackle bigger spaces;
  • De-cluttering is de-cluttering. Reclaiming a space, no matter how small, is a step on the road to organization;
  • Smaller spaces can be easier to keep neat in the long run, and a succession of neat spaces that stay that way contributes to overall organization.
Still overwhelmed? Trying the Give it Five! trick. Set a timer for five minutes, and when it goes off, you're finished. You can keep working if you wish, of course, but you can also walk away.

So where will you start? 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Feature: To SAT or Not to SAT?

This picture is from an excellent editorial in the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Last year around this time, Millersville University announced that it wouldn't require local residents (those who live in Lancaster County, PA, where Millersville is located) to submit SAT scores as part of their application for acceptance to the school. The first of Pennsylvania's fourteen state schools to do so, Millersville also left the door open to removing the requirement for other applicants in the future.

Last month, George Washington University in Washington, DC dropped its SAT and ACT requirement as well.

And these two schools are not alone. A number of schools, some of them quite competitive, have made the submission of SAT scores optional for their applicants, choosing instead to focus on other factors, such as GPA. And, since all GPAs are not created equal, many colleges "strip" the high school GPA, then build it back up again, making sure the same standard is applied across the board to all applicants, effectively leveling the playing field.

It seems that colleges are beginning to believe that one test score on one day might not be the best way to judge an applicant's qualifications. Those of us who've long believed that's the case, particularly when it comes to young children and high stakes testing, can only hope that this little zephyr is the harbinger of a hurricane -- one that topples the house of cards that is the standardized testing industry.

One can only hope. But in the mean time, kudos to the schools who want to look at kids, not scores.