Squeezing Big Meaning from Small Moments

“Procrasticleaning” is not something I can recall ever experiencing:

Procrastination Rewards

However, I procrastinate in other ways. We all have the activities we turn to when avoiding life’s bigger and more intimidating projects.

A weekly prompt from the Poets & Writers site references a Philip Roth quote:

Now I can have a glass of orange juice in the morning and read the newspaper.

Apparently Roth wrote this upon his retirement as a fiction writer. The prompt directs the writers to, “Write a personal essay about the simple, everyday things you wish you had more time to do, that are often sacrificed to a busy schedule,” and asks, “How are these activities enticing in a way that is different from the excitement of grander plans?”

P&W had another prompt based on the portmanteau procrastibaking.

Let the orange juice flow; here are my thoughts on the intersection of putting things off and finding alternate rewards along the way.

Procrastination Rewards

As I formally wrap up more than four years as a freelancer (more on that toward the end of this post), it would be easy to reflect on the things I could have done better or more efficiently.

The year after my father-in-law died, especially, was free of many of the distractions (logistical and emotional) that came with being part of a marriage in which both of us were primary caregivers to my father-in-law.

With different time management, I could potentially have:

-Used the roughly 52,000 words I have written in weekly Sunday blog posts and weekly Five Minute Friday posts to make progress on the book about Camp Gordon Johnston I have been saying for years I plan to write

-Helped the family bottom line more by ramping up pitches for paid freelance writing

-Helped the family bottom line even more by becoming a transcriber earlier and buckling down to accumulate more hours of paid transcription

My procrastination that got in the way of those types of things was characterized mostly by time on social media that didn’t have an immediately obvious positive effect on my pocketbook, productivity or general outlook on life. I sure didn’t (as mentioned at the top) clean house better.

However, there is a certain amount of processing involved in adjusting once a loved one is gone, and once all the responsibilities and constant vigilance of taking care of someone with short-term memory disorder (and two occurrences of cancer) involves. We also became a true empty nest when my son moved out to go to school, which also was an adjustment. I am choosing to give myself grace for that.

If Time Were No Object

Since the prompt asked, here are the small(ish) things I could make a higher priority and why they matter to me.

Cleaning

Let’s just get this one out of the way. I wish I could be one of those people who say, “I had a sponsored post due at 5 p.m. yesterday, so of course my floors were sparkling and there wasn’t a speck of dust in the house by 3:55.” I’m not that type of human, as I’ve discussed previously. It does matter, though, because I hate living in a cluttered, untidy house as much as the next person.

Social Media

Such a mixed bag here. I don’t need to make it a higher priority. If anything, it is too high now. I do wish I had time to delve deeper into some people’s shares. I know I owe people in some of my groups a thorough reading of their posts, a sharing of their content, and a thoughtful comment. They’ve certainly done that for me without much reciprocity on my end. Social media is one of my primary outlets for connecting, especially since I work from home. I think the key is using it more judiciously, not necessarily making a drastic cut in the quantity of time I spend there.

Needlework

The last counted cross stitch project I did took roughly three years to complete! However, every time I touched it, I was reminded of the comforting rhythm of doing something you can hold in your hands (that isn’t a smartphone). I also realized why my mom said “it just bothers my eyes” as she got older. The tiny work is not as much fun as it used to be for me, either. But the repetitive nature, seeing a design come together, knowing the project is a way to convey my affection for the recipient — those are all positives.

Procrastination Rewards

This doesn’t showcase the incredible job the framer did; I forgot to take a pic before it was packaged. Also: Censored for being NSFW — it’s a bit of an inside joke!

Exercise

I have finally gotten back into an exercise groove (yay), but I am still fitting in what to me is a bare minimum. I would love to find a new/different class, walk a different route, join a friend for some type of fitness experiment.

Coffee With Friends

This isn’t really that small in the long run, but I sure could happily put off some things in favor of time spent chatting with friends over coffee (or wine — I’m flexible!). I know that I have tended to say what I really mean through my writing more than my voice in recent years — and I need the real-time reactions and thoughts of people who know me well. I also need to give back to them by being a sounding board. It works differently eye to eye than it does in Facebook messenger.

Get Lost in a Project

I feel a little ridiculous admitting how much relaxation and joy I got from creating things with Smarties. I love the candy itself but I also really love gluing it together to design an image.

Procrastination Rewards

I guess Smarties Art kind of ties in to some of the other things I mentioned above — doing projects with my hands, seeing a vision come to life (even if it’s silly chickens!), spending time away from a screen, giving people conversation starters.

I think that was Philip Roth’s point: each individual would probably choose something different if time were not constrained. The prompt asks about the small things, not the big bucket list things. I’ve always felt that less monumental actions and conversations are the adhesive that binds our lives together (I especially feel that way about parenting), and this is what I would do with mine.

How about you?

Procrastination Rewards

Here’s How Things are Changing for Me

My period of time working solely as a freelancer is coming to a close, as I mentioned above. This may leave less time for needlework, Smarties Art and cleaning (um…not a worry!), but this is a welcome change and a career transition that allows me to be a bigger part of an organization that has grown in significance to me, both its product and its people, since I began as a freelancer in January 2017.

I will be a full-time editor at SmartBrief starting tomorrow, editing email newsletters such as the Social Work SmartBrief. Please visit the main site here and subscribe to any of the newsletters that appeal to you (there’s something for everyone).

Procrastination Rewards

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Next Steps: My Job Hunt

Now that my father-in-law has passed away, it’s time to reshuffle the career/life deck of cards. While he was with us, I had to be home, and that requirement limited my vocational options.

Writing this blog is my way of forcing myself to put some of the building blocks in place (resume updated? check!) and organize my thoughts (while simultaneously asking for help/ideas/support).

First Steps

I am transitioning out of my freelance commitments at Weaving Influence and the Lead Change Group. I started working there in October 2014 (although I had been a friend of the organization before that), and am abundantly grateful for what I have gained from WI and LCG. It has definitely been more than a paycheck.

I updated my resume (here it is!).

I added a passage to my LinkedIn profile, detailing the demands of being a caregiver. I don’t know why this seems like such a renegade thing to do because it was most definitely “real” work but the management skills, empathy, and paraprofessional medical capabilities needed to shepherd someone through mini-strokes, dental crises and two recurrences of cancer have to count for something.

Options

There are several options as I see it now, some more realistic than others.

Add A Second Part-Time Job (virtual or brick and mortar)

Now that Dad is gone, so is the restriction that I be at home. For that reason, my “Plan A” is to keep my part time position with a B2B newsletter, which takes from roughly 6:45 am – 12:15 pm every day, and add “something else” to the mix.

Maybe that “something else” will be, for example, something out of the house from 2-6 pm.

Maybe it will be something virtual (I have feelers out for that).

There are pros and cons to both. I love working from home and honestly wouldn’t mind working from home, 100%. However, I also realize there may be some value for me, growth-wise and spirit-wise, to interact more directly with human beings in person more than I do now.

(Note: I know I have left out the option of “one full time job.” Time will tell and obviously that’s not ruled out, but I love my current B2B newsletter job and am not ready to give it up barring the most amazing offer/opportunity ever.)

Write a Book

On the one hand, I feel that writing a book is one of those things that you should only do because you have to, not to make money or meet some other perceived external need.

On the other hand, I work with many authors though Weaving Influence, and I often find myself saying, “I wish I had my own book to promote.”

I have set aside my idea of writing about Camp Gordon Johnston (for now). I am toying with the idea of writing about caregiving, but want to do that while the memories are fresh. I also have an edge idea of a picture-book type thing (comedy) related to elder care.

Hmmm.

Be an Elder Care Sherpa

This is the one that, if I had a little more courage, surplus organizational skills, and enough income to build it as a practice, would, in my opinion, eliminate (or reduce) the types of frustrations we had as caregivers, for an easy-to-navigate resource directory, for advocacy with physicians/dentists/other providers, for assistance centralizing all of the pieces of information we were invariably hunting for, for helping cut through the conflicting pieces of information we received. The key to being a kick-a** elder care sherpa (in addition to the courage and organizational skills) would be a true heart for eldercare (especially the element of serving the families doing the eldercare) with the counteracting asset of not being personally emotionally invested in each elder’s life.

The challenge of being a loving family member, marginally equipped to handle all of the onslaught of needs/requests/demands while also working to make a living, is daunting. An eldercare sherpa could help streamline the demands, in a caring yet businesslike way, while *possibly* helping that family find a little more peace of mind (and get a little more sleep every night).

Strengths and Weaknesses

As I cast my net to seek new opportunities, and in the event you’re reading this and are aware of something, here are my top three (self-perceived) strengths (and a bit about weaknesses):

A love of writing, decent writing skills, and an intent to always improve

The ability to apply social media skills to helping people extend their messages and refine their presence online

Being capable of “connecting dots” and helping find unlikely intersections between people/entities that help both be better

As far as weaknesses, I guess the upside of my weaknesses is that I have pretty transparently written about them here, here and here. (TL:DR – taming the confidence monster.)

I know I have a tendency to focus on a single pine needle to the point that I may not realize the entire forest is on fire, but attention to detail is not always a big thing (unless the forest is on fire).

Why Change Matters Now

There’s a very practical reason I need to change now. With Wayne’s dad gone, I need to redouble my efforts to contribute to our family’s bottom line, especially until we can make a change to our housing situation to save money (and that’s going to take time).

While I am very flexible about what I do next, I also agree with my friend Dwayne and what he said in his awesome blog post about finding purpose:

Our souls know what we are meant to do, and will nudge us in that direction when we are heading somewhere else.

I was also talking on Twitter with @lisamunro, who asked via this tweet, “Do you feel that your work is a calling? If so, how do you know? Can we have more than 1?” Her question led me to revisit this tribute post to my friend Jarrod, who passed away at far too young an age. I closed out that post with this quote from Leigh Caraccioli (I would link to Leigh but I can’t find a recent link, sadly):

When you live your passion, there is no line dividing what you do and who you are.
They are one.

 

Besides these two wonderful, inspiring quotes, I won’t add some self-help inspirational offering from Pinterest about how wonderful change is. I know change is a good thing (mostly) but primarily I am torn between a tiny sense of adventure, the fact that I’m still processing the freedom, emotional and physical, that came with dad’s passing, more than a little anxiety, and the hope that I can find someone/someplace where I can make a difference while meeting our family’s financial obligations.

I would love any ideas/networking recommendations you have to give!

Communications Job Search

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Five Questions for 2015

It’s the first day of March and I a doing a “look back at 2014” post. Hmmm…..

It is a little late in the year for this, but I was attracted to these “5 Questions to Make the Most of 2015”  and their accompanying quotes so I decided to give them a shot. Retrospection is never really out of style especially if it helps you improve.

When did I kick ass?

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” – Tom Peters

If I kicked ass in 2014, it was either:

A cumulative set of small things (like honoring the soldiers of Camp Gordon Johnston almost every day, demonstrating accountability in my workouts, consistently using Charity Miles to earn money for causes I love via my workouts)

StanleyDuPlanti

or …

Successfully biting my tongue during my daily drives with my father in law. It has been a struggle to “be the adult” when being told how to drive, having my motives for working questioned, or being berated for taking the time to lure the cat in after he (again) left the door open accidentally.

However – you know who’s the real badass in this situation? He is. For dealing with the loss of his spouse of 55 years, for dealing with decades of debilitating chronic pain, for waiting interminable amounts of time for diagnostic tests to explain the latest health issue, for having zero control in a world where he is accustomed to being in charge.

When was I most alive?

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman10409403_10152149271486315_2859153504720087386_n

Easy: the week I spent in El Salvador and the week I spent in NYC.

Also, any time I was on an FSU film set.

And when I was scared to death and completely out of my element auditioning for a musical (then when I took a lesson to try to at least improve the piece and redeem myself). It was still below par musically but clawing myself up from awful to mediocre felt very, very alive.

When was I bored?

“The opposite of happiness is not sadness, but boredom.” – Tim Ferriss

“Here’s a great definition of boredom: The absence of growth.”

I was bored at work. Therefore I left.

Note: At no time in almost 20 years was I ever bored with the cause of providing quality, affordable health care to children. I was bored with the way my responsibilities were playing out. I was feeling the itch to do more communications and incorporate social media into my work life. Neither of those were options. I have only written one blog post about why I left, and it’s not about boredom, but here it is.

Who were my teachers this year? Whom did I teach?

“You are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time.” – Jim Rohn

I have actually had a placeholder to do an entire blog about this idea — I read about it previously in the blogs of one of the Lead Change Group Leading Voices.

The answer to the “five people” question is:

My husband, Wayne

My father-in-law, Wayne

My son, Wayne Kevin (do we see a theme here?)

The online community

My Toastmasters group

My husband has taught me to ask for things I don’t feel like I can get. My father-in-law has taught me to check and make sure the door is really closed so that cat doesn’t get out! My son has taught me that the people who seem the least observant are sometimes quite the opposite. My online community has taught me it is okay to ask for help. My Toastmasters group  has taught me to tell my story with fewer double clutches. (A double clutch is when a word or phrase is repeated such as “She played basketball played basketball well.”)

Who have I taught? I enjoyed being a first-time mentor to a new Toastmasters member. Maybe some other lessons I have taught will come home to roost. We’ll see.

What mattered most?

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who spends himself on a worthy cause” – Theodore Roosevelt

Family. Always has, always will.

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Do these questions pique  your curiosity as they did mine? Give them a look and let me know what you think!

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Currently (Running For Meg and Never Looking Back)

Our Front Yard

Our Front Yard

I read an interesting blog recently that uses the “currently” template (thank you, Jenna, for the inspiration). I’m giving it a whirl this weekend for my weekly post.  (The bold headings are the “currently” template).

Currently Thinking about:

I am currently thinking about how fleetingly time passes. Although I feel that I always take “the long view” and appreciate every moment, and don’t view my November 50th birthday as a bad thing, I am itching to be able to say “and I never looked back” like Joel Robison, a guy who got a job with Coke on their FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour because he did what he loved, for the love of it, and eventually it turned into a job. My “30 Days of Camp Gordon Johnston” project is underway … it’s a start of telling a story I so want to tell.

Currently Reading:

On paper, I am reading “Love ‘Em or Lose “Em: Getting Good People to Stay” by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. (I will be blogging about it next week.) I have not gotten very far into the book yet, but I already see many concepts with which I agree, such as the idea that compensation is not the top reason people stay with organizations (number 1 in this book is listed as “exciting, challenging, or meaningful work” whereas “fair pay” is number 6). This correlates with what we learned in our Certified Public Manager program — that the things that keep people in a particular workplace a) differ from person to person and b) are not predominantly compensation issues.

Love 'Em or Lose 'Em

Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em

On audio, I am listening to The Loudest Voice in the Room by Gabriel Sherman. I am not a Fox News watcher but I am drawn to a well-reported story about someone (Roger Ailes) who has done so many things (yes, I DO remember the Mike Douglas show; I didn’t know Ailes was a hemophiliac or that he was a Broadway producer). I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention the audiobook I finished right before this one: Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink. Beyond the obvious ethical questions (patient euthanasia during a hurricane-induced system-wide crisis), so many things about this book made me think and think hard.

Currently Listening to: 

I downloaded two great Rock My Run mixes this week (Born to Run and The Comeback); I give them two HUGE thumbs up. I am also listening to Chris Russell’s RunRunLive interview with Dave McGillivray, Director of the Boston Marathon.

Currently Watching:

I don’t watch much, but my husband and I just finished watching 30 for 30: The Price of Gold, the ESPN feature about the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding incident of 1993.  I am a huge figure skating fan, and I was in Detroit at the National Championships when the attack occurred. Indicative of the times, we learned more about what was going on from CNN than from anything local. I wonder how social media would have changed our access to information.

Currently Thankful For:

I am thankful for my fellow runners. After the death earlier this week of runner (and wife/mom) Meg Menzies, who was killed by a drunk driver while she was out running, thousands of runners, walkers, and supporters banded together to run, walk, and move yesterday in her memory and to raise awareness of the dangers of drunk driving. The hashtag for the event was “#megsmiles.” Although I frequently run alone, especially on Saturdays, it felt every kind of wrong (for me) to run solo yesterday. I felt my fellow “Badass Army” friends and started off my run with them. That felt every kind of right. Thank you, friends. Scott and Meg’s children: you are all in my prayers and will remain there — having lost a family member at the age of 30 who left behind young children, I know the road ahead is hard. But you have thousands of supporters behind you. I hope that makes a difference.

megsmiles

In closing, a quote I saw this week that captures so much of what I am feeling right now:

time

Have a great week, everyone!

(And if you want to do your own “currently,” use the template then

link up via the button below!)

Currently

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

This Is Not About You

I would be a really inept private detective. In deciding to write the blog post that follows, I may have made a conclusion that is 100% wrong. But the subject weighs heavily on my heart and mind so I am going to write this post, and if the audience I am writing to reads it and scratches their heads, saying, “What on earth did she think we said?” then I’ll just hope something about the message still edifies or entertains someone.

This Is Not About You

The office grapevine came back around to me with the message last week that I had hurt people’s feelings with my YouTube videos. Specifically, with the impression that I had stated that people I work with are poorly educated. For 24 hours, I scratched my head about this, prayed about it, lost sleep over it, and (the only good thing) used the stress to fuel a great workout. Then it hit me, the acting monologue that I had recorded to be included as part of my “Faster, With More Energy” post in April 2010 talks about call center representatives who, despite being college graduates, “have the vocabularies of fourth graders.” Here it is:

If you don’t have time to watch and/or don’t want to endure a minute and 35 seconds worth of my amateur acting (trust me, I wouldn’t blame you!), here’s the monologue, word for word:

I talk to the American People on the phone every day as part of my job, and I can tell you — they’re dumb. And petulant. And worse than 5-year olds. Are they dumber than they used to be? Hell, yes! How else do you explain two terms of George Dubya? Worst president, ever! I don’t suppose you could say this is the dumbest country on the planet. There are worse, I’m sure. But the other countries have excuses: famine, war, oppression, plague. We did it to ourselves! My co-workers are college graduates. Those under the age of 30 have the vocabularies of 4th graders. If I had a dollar for every “like” “you know” “I mean” and “awesome” that comes out of their mouths, I could vacation in Reykjavik. Or in some other interesting city whose name Americans can’t spell and about whose geography and history they haven’t a clue. And let’s not even discuss their writing skills. It’s like dealing with foreigners who have learned individual English words but who can’t yet put them together into sentences. What’s the point? Everybody’s connected to their iPod, surfing porn, getting down, being cool…. Dumb’s #1!

This monologue is from Minute Mouth-Offs by G.L. Horton. When I was choosing a monologue, I liked this one because I have been involved in a lot of call centers, so the topic of a call center did not feel foreign to me. And haven’t we all been in the position of the consumer contacting a call center who had a less than stellar experience? 

That video is no more directed at anyone in my real life than I am really pregnant in this scene from “An Impossible Marriage” that I did in December 2010:

This Is Not About You

When I cross the threshold at work every day, my mindset is “This is about us” — what can we do as a team to help the uninsured children of Florida?

In Lori Deschene’s “25 Reasons to Embrace Criticism,” she opens with an Aristotle quote: “Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”  True. 

My favorite reason of her 25 was number 21:

Learning to receive … criticism … without losing your confidence is a must if you want to do big things in life. The more attention your work receives, the more criticism you’ll have to field.

I do want to do big things in life. I want my children to grow up to be happy, decent, fair people. I want to slay the debt monster once and for all. I want to write a book that chronicles the blend of courage, patriotism, and humanity that overtook Carrabelle in the early 1940’s in the form of Camp Gordon Johnston. I would love to write a blog post or vlog that makes just one person (or 1,000) say “I am going to do something differently today because of what you wrote (or said).”

I do want to do big things.

But I will never, ever do that by intentionally making someone else feel small.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.