Tag: productivity

Sheltering-in-Place Days 17, 18, 19, 20

Waterfalls, moss, boulders, plants

A view of a different part of the waterfall as we walk up the path, holding onto the handrail The Engineer built for me when I was first diagnosed with wet macular degeneration

Friday, Day 17 ~ 3.27.2020 ~ Cashiers, NC

It’s 10 a.m. and we are just getting up. While I fantasize about sleeping late, actually doing it ruins the entire day for me. By 10 a.m. I should have much of my To Do List done. Then and only then do I earn time to stitch and write, says the dreaded Voice of Authority on the Committee of Jeanne. (The other COJ members are saving up for a firing squad. I just might create something to sell and contribute to the cause.) Daily accomplishment/productivity is important to my mental health and survival during times like this.

Planning book on red fabric

My weekly planner that functions more like a record/ledger

This year I’m using the Ink + Volt Planner.  I love the look and feel of the red book linen cover and the two ribbon markers, though I only use one so far. Weekly “planning” works better for me this year, though I don’t use the planner quite as it Is designed to be used. So far (and especially now) I use a sticky note (fear of commitment?) to create a Task Well – a list of things I would like to accomplish during the week. Once I’ve done something from the well, I note it in the day it was accomplished (in pencil – again, I ask: fear of commitment?), complete with a box that I then tick off in green ink.  I like structure and accomplishment –  I thrive on structure and accomplishment – I miss structure and accomplishment, but I find it incredibly hard to come by now when time is in plentiful supply. Is it grief or avoidance?

The NC governor issued the official shelter-in-place decree for NC, effective from 5 p.m. Monday, March 30, 2020 to April 29, 2020. We – Mother, Alison, The Engineer, and I – have already been at this for more than two weeks, but there’s something unsettling about it being official and applicable to everyone in the state.

Hosta, moss-covered tree stump

Hope (hosta reaching to the sun) and History (moss covered tree stump)

Saturday, Day 18 ~ 3.28.2020 ~ Cashiers, NC/Fayetteville, GA/Cashiers, NC

Last night Alison said she missed her jewelry, and that sparked an idea that The Engineer fortunately agreed with. We spent the day in the truck, driving to Georgia and back, giving Mother and Alison an hour in their homes to fetch creature comforts and necessities.  It still feels like we’re in a post-apocalyptic movie when we leave the house. They made their lists on the drive down, and they each forgot only one item.

The roads are eerily empty, and I am relieved that there are state patrol cars at the state line. Even though the governor’s decree doesn’t go into effect till Monday evening, it feels like we are doing something wrong, scary, dangerous.  In nearby Highlands, police are stationed at each end of Main Street because apparently people are renting cabins and coming up expecting to shop and dine as if on holiday. The governor as well as Jackson and Macon County officials add into their decree that any rentals less than a month in duration (unless for essential workers) must be canceled and anybody coming up to stay a while must bring enough food and medicine to get them through the two weeks they will spend in self-quarantine.

It was a good day. I close it out as I always do, with a list of Grins and Gratitudes.

Chore chart

Chore Chart V.2

Sunday, Day 19 ~ 3.29.2020 ~ Cashiers, NC

It’s surprising how tiring 9 hours in the car can be. We sleep late, nap long, and continue  binge watching Downton Abbey late into the night.

During our waking hours, I hand out the new individualized Chore Charts I created – one for everybody – intended to keep everyone in their own lane, doing their own chores. Each chart has space for everyone to write in other things they want to accomplish (They’ll likely use it about as much as I use my store-bought planner.). I reduced the number of chores, deleting some and combining some, till I have 8 daily chores, two per person. Thursday will be out entire house day, so everybody adds one chore on Thursday. I write the chores on slips of paper, fold them, and let everybody draw – a DIY scheduling that relieves me of that thankless grumble-inducing task.

To sweeten the pot, I institute weekly challenges. This week it’s water intake. Whoever drinks the most water (measured in 8 oz increments) between Monday morning and Saturday night can hand off their 2 Sunday chores to the person of their choosing. (Even though I’m putting much back into their hands, I have a feeling I’ll be real busy on Sundays.) Another week it will be walking – whoever walks the most steps wins the challenge. That’s all I’ve been able to think of so far.

Small art quilt blocks

Small art quilts, lifelines during former dark days

Monday, Day 20 ~ 3.30.2020 ~ Cashiers, NC

I am cranky. I don’t want to be, and I try not to be, but I’m cranky, and I can list you reasons. I vow (again) to be kinder and friendlier, and even as I write that, I know that despite my best efforts, it won’t last. There’s simply not enough chocolate to carry me through. Should a chocolate shortage develop, you’ll find me eating bark and vines and howling at the sky from atop our chimney made of gravestones.

Today while trying yet again to bring order to The Dissenter’s Chapel & Snug (my studio) (I believe physical environments enkindled and/or support emotional and mental environments, and I need all the help I can get!), I find the small blocks I made during some dark days I lived through in the Way Back When. Funny how many of them I remember. I immediately envision ways to bring them together in one art piece, but my heart settles on nothing yet. It will come, and I think it involves rope. That’s all I know for now.

Supper is at 6 p.m. every day, and for dessert, I stitch as we binge watch episodes of Downton Abbey. (We’re on season 6 and planning to watch the movie next.) Then I think we should make a list and watch movies featuring people who find themselves plucked from their normal everyday life and marooned in a new, surreal existence. Who knows? Maybe we’;ll find them motivational, maybe educational.

Maybe I’ll gift myself a couple of just-stitching days and that’ll be just the ticket I need to get me in productive motion again. Shoot, maybe I’ll even spend some serious time on that book I’m itching to write.

I Am Here . . . Even When I’m Not

I’d always heard that the older you get, the faster time flies.

It’s true.

2014 was the year I wanted days filled with making (stitching); marking (writing); moving (walking), and laughing (enough said). I assigned each a color: orange for making; aqua for marking; red for moving; and purple for laughing. I kept my journal in a big 8.5 x 11 sketchbook, one for each quarter. The paper was most excellent – no bleed through at all – but it was big and it was heavy.

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My haptic and visual tracker for 2014, a cloth called Evidence, is not yet finished. It’s big and bulky, and I’m using my sewing machine for a change. Maybe one day soon I’ll be home long enough to finish it. Fingers crossed.

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Last week, I came across a 1959 desk diary. Unused. Because it’s for the food industry, the first 50-100 pages are shiny, glossy pages filled with recipes. I love the look of this book – filled with possibilities. Love the pebbly texture of the red cover. Love the quote at the bottom of each page. Love wondering about the person who owned it . . . and didn’t use it after the first 3 days. I wonder if I could fit my do’s and done’s on just one wide-ruled page.

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Then I spied this little jewel, a 1955 diary from Westinghouse Electric Supply. It’s possible my father-in-law was given one of these, seeing as how he was an electrical contractor. I wish us all a life that’s far bigger than this space allows for documentation.

~~~~~~~~~

I seem almost obsessed with creating a tangible legacy, with leaving some track of my existence. The more I am away from writing and stitching, the smaller and more insignificant I feel. The more time I spend tending to others, the more I disappear. I dread dying and having my tombstone say “She helped a lot of people”, leaving my kids to wonder who I really was. And then again, maybe I overestimate their interest in me. I keep a journal – be it digital, written, or stitched – to prove to myself I’m here. You can just call me Kilroy.

the engineer and the artist: obsessions, planning, devotion

BenFranklinsDaypage

Ben Franklin’s Daily Planning Page

I am a list-making, task-and-project oriented kind of girl who likes to get things done.

The Engineer likes to get things done, but not in the same way. He doesn’t make to do lists (though he does, I’m happy to say, check things off mine when I, in preparation for a big event, create the “kitchen sink” list and lay it out on the kitchen counter, along with a pen for marking through and checking off).

I sleep better if I’ve laid out my tomorrow before bedtime. He likes to get up and see where the day takes him.

I enjoy the feeling of announcing what I intend to do, giving myself a start date, clearing the decks, then devoting myself to the project. He is more of a get-up-one-morning-and-feel-like-building-that-shop-I’ve-bee-thinking-about-building-for-years kind of guy.

I like having deadlines. He prefers getting around to it eventually.

I still have the term papers I wrote in high school – even the math term paper I wrote in 7th grade. I LOVE the deadline, the planning, the gathering, the pulling together. I love the A+’s. Him? Not too big on term papers.

The Engineer is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. Standing next to him, I can look for all the world like a short do-whack oddball. I can’t help it – I just love having a project I can lose myself in. Once upon a decade, it was my life. Now, it’s a way of life I want to recapture and reclaim. I want to put the blinders back on and focus. Back Then, it was the way I lived. Life went around a bend, though, and it became harder and harder and harder to devote myself to any project bigger than cleaning the toilet. (Somehow the world opens way for that, you know? But writing a book? That’s different. That’s harder to claim uninterrupted time for.)

Back Then, my brain could handle and hold Big Projects in the context of my life, but now . . . now my brain feels scattered, like it’s turned into a bag of birdseed somebody just opened and dumped into my skull. Like I told the Engineer late last year, I miss that feeling of (and the end result of) devotion, that immersion, that focus. I miss that satisfying, exhilarating sense of accomplishment.

So you know what I’m gonna’ do? I’m gonna’ get it back.

I have a Big Project that’s held a sizable chunk of real estate on my heart for eons, and before I can push up my sleeves in dedication to it, before I can immerse myself like I need to and long to do, I need to devote myself to a few other projects first so they won’t bang around in the background distracting (and guilting) me:

  • put the spit-polish on two books that have been languishing in the corner for several years
  • write the third book of the trilogy
  • as always, stitch Hymns of Cloth
  • and

  • offer that online Keepsake Writing Trellis I’ve wanted to do for who knows how long.

“What are you really doing when you devote yourself to a month of productive obsessing? You are learning how to extinguish distractions so that you can concentrate; you are accepting the hard existential fact that if you intend to matter, you must act as if you matter; you are retraining your brain and asking it to stop its pursuit of fluff and worry and to embrace its own potential. In addition, you are announcing that you prefer grand pursuits to ordinary ones; you are standing in solidarity with other members of your species who have opted for big thinking and big doing; and you are turning yourself over, even to the point of threat and exhaustion, to your own loves and interests.” Eric Maisel writes.

This is just what I’m talking about, and I tell you what: this really revs my juices and gets me going. So I’m sitting with my calendar this very day, plugging things in, scheduling my productive obsessions. The Keepsake Writing Tribe (you’re the Tribe, I’m the Trellis) is a series of three monthly productive obsessions that I’m gonna’ lead . . . The first month, we write about self; the second month, we write about others; and the third month, we write about things. So if you’re the kind of person who has always wanted to capture and preserve your stories and if you’re the kind of person who longs for the satisfaction of dedicating yourself to a productive project, perhaps you want to join us. Or maybe you just need the structure (the trellis, I call it) for three months of productive obsessive writing. That’s fine, too, cause really, whatever you write is your story, right?

Now I’ve had some very good questions asked by some folks who are already signed up and ready to go, so I’m going to share them here in case they’re questions you have, too. Should you have other questions, just drop me a line in the comment section or shoot me an email by tapping that cute little envelope in the upper right-hand corner and if all goes according to plan, it will magically open up a SASE email.

If you’re not interested in Keepsake Writing and just want to talk about productive obsessions, that’s fantastic, too. Tell me how you work best, what kind of planning and creative/work style keeps you going forward. I’m all ears.

[ ::: ]

Keepsake Writing questions asked and answered:

Q: Will there be daily writing prompts?
A: No. There will be kindling, though, that you can draw from if you run dry. If you’ve already registered, thank you and maybe you want to go ahead and start jotting down notes of stories when something triggers a memory.

Q: How will we know what to write about during the second month when we write others?
A: About midway through the first month, I’ll start sending you information – specific information about equipment to use should you desire to interview people; questions you can ask; how to keep the interview going; etc. BUT you don’t have to interview anybody to write about others. You might write preserve family lore that’s been handed down orally. You might write about pets. You might write stories about your children (I’ll tell you how you can turn these into treasured gifts.) You might write about teachers, good and bad, and how they shaped and influenced your life. What I’m saying is that writing others does not mean you have to interview somebody. You can, but you don’t have to. I have a whole bunch of tricks up my sleeve . . .

Q: What if I already have some stories written – can I use them?
A: Of course. We’ll just add to those stories. Maybe you feel like taking one out from your stash to polish instead of writing something from scratch. Or maybe you want to use one of those on a busy day when you simply don’t have time to write. (Yes, I will be taking roll, and I will be taking stock, and I will be handing out gold stars and dunce hats.)

Q: What if I’m not a good writer?
A: I’ll bet you’re a better writer than you give yourself credit for, and we’ll deal with that later. This first step is about gathering. Only gathering.

Q: Is this a writing class cause I’m kinda’ scared of sharing my work with a writing class.
A: While I will be sharing specific how to information about writing, this is not a writing class. This is about capturing your stories, your memories, on paper (digital or otherwise). If you sign up for the Torch Toter Tribe, you’ll send me 6 pieces on assigned weeks, and I will read your pieces and offer feedback. If you’re in the Path Whacker Tribe, you might want to share your work with others in the tribe, but you don’t have to. So breathe. And go sharpen your pencil.

breadcrumbs 2: the paper part of it all

Evidence1a

in the timeless classic Gift From the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes:
“What a wonderful day, I think, turning it around jun my hand to its starting point again. What has made it so perfect? Is there not some clue here in the pattern of this day? To begin with, it is a pattern of freedom. Its setting has not been cramped in space or time. An island curiously enough, gives a limitless feeling of both. Nor has the day been limited in its kinds of activities. It has a natural balance of physical, intellectual, and social life. It has an easy unforced rhythm.”

yesterday i told you about Evidence, the visual and tactile log i’m keeping of this year. what i didn’t tell you (because i couldn’t find a way to insert it seamlessly) is that the inspiration for the design of the cloth came from this moment of sky spotted while walking one day when i was trying to sort all this out:

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Evidence1b

i’m after the same kind of day anne writes about. and because i’m on the finite side of infinity, i recently devoted a great deal of time to determining what i want to do with whatever time i have left. being a systems girl of the first order, and preferring color coded systems for visual delight as well as facility, i’ve been using color as a sorting system since dirt was a child.

my first color coded system went like this:
red = family (blood)
green = finances (the color of money)
blue = reference, factual, retrievable information (i just like blue)
yellow = opportunities, fun (sunshine)
i used these colors throughout my life – in my day planner, on file folders, on the calendar.

last year i matched what i wanted to have to show for my life to the colors of the chakra system, using the color biographies provided by my friend bridget. it looked like this:
red: movement
orange: creative pursuits, time spent in the throes of creativity
yellow: moments of spontaneity, the unexpected
green: shipping and producing
aqua: blog posts, storytelling, journal writing
pink: relating to others
violet: memorizations, reading poetry and other good books, living and creating by moon cycles

Chakracolorcode

i started keeping a book of amazements last year in which i documented each color’s contribution to that particular day. it was fun to keep, and it did keep me more focused, but there was still tweaking to be done*, so this year, i tightened the focus and streamlined the colors, allowing space for that “easy unforced rhythm” and that natural balance while still enjoying a daily sense of accomplishment:
red: movement
orange: making
aqua: marking
purple: laughing
these colors always appear in this particular order on the Evidence cloth to distinguish the days.

RED: moving
as in moving my body through space. last september, i quit wearing the fitbit (a gift from my son for Christmas 2012) as jewelry and started taking it seriously. i now walk a minimum of 12.5k steps (or 5-7 miles) every day. every. single. day. i also do the occasional yoga, and whenever possible, i take dance breaks. my goal? i want you to see less and less of me.

ORANGE: making
as in stitching or creating assemblages and collages. i log in the hours spent stitching every day and note the particular project worked on. i like to do a collage every sunday to close out the week (it’s something i can start and finish in a couple of hours), and am slowly gathering bits and oddities that i’ll use in assemblages. my goal here: building a legaSEE. we’ll talk more about this later.

AQUA: marking
as in writing, be it in a journal, a blog post, a book, or a notecard. doesn’t matter, i just know that if i miss a day of writing, i start all over when i pick the pen up again – even if there’s only a day’s gap. that’s just the way it works.

PURPLE: laughing
as in surprise, wonder, chortle – anything that ignites a sound from me that ranges from “hmmmmmm” to “oh!” to a full-body guffaw. anything that makes me giddy. for this, i make more detailed notes in purple ink in my books of amazements.

* like not having to carry 14 pens around with me (2 of each color in case one runs out of ink along the way), for example

Booksofamazement

two important notes:

1) i change, so this year i’ll keep quarterly books of amazements to give myself room to move around.

2) of course i also want an accounting of accomplishments – written testament to the annual accumulation of accomplishments – so i’ll be keeping a log of things like books read in their entirety (and reviewing them over at goodreads), projects completely finished, and miles put on my new shoes.

and, i have specific notions about what i want to turn out/produce/accomplish this year. but we’ll save that for another day.

[ ::: ]

Jeanne Hewell-Chambers is a planning, productivity junkie. She just is.