February 12, 2014
“I bought a wooden whistle and it woodn’ whistle.
So I bought a steel whistle, and it steel woodn’ whistle!
So I bought a tin whistle. Now I tin whistle.”
That’s from a very good scene in the four-time award-winning wonderful movie, Sweet Land. http://www.amazon.com/Sweet-Land-Story-Elizabeth-Reaser/dp/B000P5FH26/
The movie is billed as a love story, but it’s not a simple chick-flick. It’s more about life, work, prejudice, respect, and choosing to love.
I have a favorite line from the movie, but if you haven’t seen it yet, I don’t want to tell you the line because it’s best heard in the movie’s timing. I will warn you though, that you have to listen close to this movie or you’ll miss a lot of value. This is a movie which while slow at times, takes all of your attention—and maybe a second watching.
I hope you get to see the film if you haven’t already, but in any case, you can make people smile and chuckle with the above rhyme 🙂
February 2, 2014
Why were (or are) aprons seen as negative symbols?
Women once lived in aprons on farms, where they worked morning to night—cooking, washing, gardening, making soap, butter, and everything else the family needed. Aprons were easier to wash and cheaper to replace than whole dresses. Easy to remove a messy apron upon the surprise arrival of a visitor.
It’s understandable that women wanting freedom from their ancestor’s place in the kitchen might shun the apron.
It’s also understandable that men did not want to be caught in an apron at home, in order to avoid appearing either effeminate or too spineless to make their wives do the “woman’s work.”
Somewhat hypocritically, for ages men have had no problem wearing an apron as a chef, dishwasher, butcher, cheese maker or baker in the village or town. So it wasn’t the cooking or cleaning that was unmanly, it was the working in the home rather than outside of it. Even today, some men would be fine wearing an apron for barbequing at a backyard party, but not wearing an apron in the kitchen on the other side of the house wall. . . . But that’s a side point.
So how can an apron be accepted by women as a tool, and seen as a positive symbol?
The apron is a protector of our clothing. We don’t have to be stuck in stained and depressing casual wear. We can dress up or dress professionally, then don the apron as we enter the kitchen and remove it when we leave for the outside world—or for the home office.
Dressing well and using an apron part of the day can:
- Help us remember not to let the household chores pull us down or completely fill our days.
- Boost our sense of self by reminding us that we are more than household workers.
- Remind us that we choose to serve both the world at large, and our families at home.
When my son was a baby, an apron would not protect my sleeves or my back from his drool, slobbery hands, and unexpected vomit. It was more practical to accept that I should stay in cheap clothes that would all be stained. What difference would it make if the boiling spaghetti sauce splattered my sweatshirt, when my son had already stained it? An apron would have been a pointless bother.
But after years of being a stay-at-home mom, I am ready to move into broader work—even broader and more outgoing work than what I can do in my spare time from a home office. My son is a young man, not a messy tot. It’s time for new things.
While I refuse to remove the benefits of home-cooking from my family, I must squeeze housework into a smaller section of my day. Part of the process is planning and disciplining myself, but part of it is also pulling my mind out of the old rut. I have to transform my thinking from being a mom who wishes for more, to being a professional with a family. How I see myself–literally see myself in the mirror–affects my thinking patterns.
So upgrading my clothes is a necessary step, not only for my self-image, but also in order to be prepared for professional meetings. However, buying aprons was my first step, to be able to keep those new clothes in good condition while caring for my family.
Those aprons are exciting symbols of a transforming life. Symbols of being capable and active in the home and outside the home.
January 21, 2014
Being natural bodies, we fall under the power of inertia.
When we’re working, really working, we’re often energized and propelled by seeing progress, making small accomplishments, checking items off our to-do list, knowing that we’re finally moving in the right direction. We want to keep going to see bigger victories and reach the end of a project or mission. At least we want to finish something, some stage of work, so we can move on and not have to come back to it later.
If you were writing a report or email when someone yelled “quitting time,” would you stop in the middle of a word, or say “okay, just let me finish this sentence”? (And you’d probably keep going at least to the end of the paragraph!) If you were wiping a counter and saw food dribbled down the cabinet front, you’d wipe that too, and then seeing some on the floor you would clean that up too, which would lead you to see the pet’s empty water bowl which happens to be in need of washing before filling. While you might be thinking “when will I ever be done!?!” you would keep going because you are in motion and one thing leads to another.
When we’re at rest, we feel like staying at rest, either because we’ve worn ourselves way down with our overly long work sessions, and/or because it’s easier to dream than to act. It’s easier to worry and procrastinate than to get the blood flowing through our muscles and brains. Just thinking of all the work we have to do makes us feel tired and lost. We want another hour of rest before facing what feels like a loosing battle with life. (Hint: when we have a schedule, we don’t always have to think about all of our work—usually only the next thing on the schedule.)
When we are working there are always more things to do. When we are resting there are always other positions to roll into, limbs to stretch or retract, dreams to be watched.
But we are not only natural bodies. We are also spiritual beings inhabiting our bodies like exosuits. And it is supposed to be our spirits in control of our bodies. We are supposed to choose what’s wise and make ourselves enact wisdom. Wisdom doesn’t rely solely on willpower—it adds strategic management.
One of the delights in being self-employed is supposed to be the freedom to work when we want to, and not when we don’t want to. But that is only viable once we learn to value work and know how to motivate and schedule ourselves.
If left to my own tendencies I would probably have a 34 hour day/night cycle, but God only designed a 24 hour cycle for us. I believe He had reasons.
I’ve discovered that working to the end of one project, while other things pile up, collapsing in exhaustion and resting until bed-ache or an outside force (or family member) demands wakefulness, and then tackling another mountain of work of one sort other until that pile’s cleared away, is NOT efficient—or healthy.
You might think for instance, washing dishes only once per week would be more efficient than washing after every meal. That not thinking about laundry until you had a washer-worth of each type (lights, darks, reds, whites) would let you focus on other things for a week or two. That piling up unsorted receipts, and sorting out accounting and taxes all at once annually would be most efficient. Wrong, wrong, and wrong.
While there are sometimes real advantages to grouping work into batches, cutting down on time required to get things in and out and switch mental gears from one task to another, this definition of efficiency has to be kept in check. There can also be a disadvantage we should examine—the ripple effect on life flow.
Cooking and serving in the second half of the week may take longer and be far more frustrating when the most appropriate dishes are in the dirty pile from three days before, and are filling up half of the available counter space. Picking out an appropriate outfit for your day may also take longer and be less satisfactory when most of your clothes are dirty and waiting for that one big laundry day. Finding time for several days of sorting, categorizing, and adding up income and expenses can not only be hard, but it also means pushing a week’s worth of everything else off track every Spring.
You’ll also find that you work smarter, think clearer and faster, and feel more cheerful and creative when you go to sleep before you’re on the verge of illness, and get a sensible amount of sleep at least several nights per week.
So we need a schedule where everything gets done when it’s best for the flow of everything else. A little of this and a little of that, to keep every department of our lives running well. If you don’t believe me, try imagining the only grocery store in town saying that it’s more efficient to restock everything at once. What if they didn’t care that half of the shelves were empty and you couldn’t buy what you wanted, because there was still half a store’s worth of something for sale? And then what if everyone had to wait outside in line for three days while the whole store was restocked at once? This is an example of the ripple effect “efficiency” can have on the rest of life flow. It can be very inefficient for everything it touches.
The surprising part is that we will find that we seem to have more time–enough time–when we both have a good plan, and stick to it. That’s because we won’t be wasting time in confusion, frustration, and depression. You probably don’t know how much time those negatives take until you free yourself from them.
If your life is complex or you have many responsibilities, you may find it hard to make a plan or schedule which you can stick to. It takes thought over a period of time, and trial and error. Be willing to adjust when you find what won’t work.
I think my biggest problems with scheduling were being unrealistic with how fast I could work, not planning bumper time (for interruptions, bathroom trips, switching between tasks, etc), no allotment for the unexpected, and leaving no time for catching up when a project or chore didn’t fit it’s time slot. For years I refused to make a realistic schedule because I refused to accept it might take years to do as much as I wanted to accomplish in months. But I’ve found a time saver—a magic way to get more out of each day.
What’s important is to accept when you’ve found a workable schedule or plan, and then “just do it!” Know when to stop thinking thoughts like, “I wish I had a plan,” “I just don’t know how to get it all done,” “I’ll have to give up some sleep.”
“Just do it” saves time. I’ll explain.
When you hear “stick to the plan” I’m sure that triggers the protest that our plans can’t take into consideration the unknown future, so we’re bound to have to go with the flow and that means we’ll get behind again, so no schedule is going to work. That’s what I used to think. However I’ve learned that the best defense here is to swap. For example, if you’ve scheduled an afternoon at the computer and your spouse invites you out on a date or your kid gets sick, tend to the family today but make sure you reschedule (and accomplish) that afternoon worth of computer work on the next day where you had intended family time. But only swap when it’s wise to, not when your whim dictates.
So I’ll say it again: once you have a workable schedule, just do it! Whether you feel like it or not, you can just do it. Do what your plan calls for, when it calls for it. If you’re scheduled to load the washer tonight, do it. Don’t say to yourself, “oh I know I’m supposed to wash laundry, but I have clothes for tomorrow and I just want to go to bed. It will be okay.” You could have done it in the same time it took you to debate and excuse yourself. Stay on track and you’ll feel incredibly energized! Telling yourself “Just do it!” is like revving your own engine—you’ll go farther faster. You’ll rest better knowing you’re on track, and wake up happier knowing your not starting the day behind on your chores.
Once you have a good schedule, you won’t have to constantly waste time thinking about what you’re forgetting to do, trying to figure out where to start, calculating what will happen if you put something off, and wallowing in negative thoughts.
Every time you “just do it” you find out you can do it, which makes you feel like you can do anything. And you can. Without wasting energy and time thinking and rethinking the routine and mundane, you’ll have more time and energy for bigger and better things. After a while your schedule will become habitual, and that will free up even more time and energy for whatever you choose.
ANOTHER TIP: Once you have scheduled time periods for each type of work, be thoughtful to choose the most important or forward-moving activity for that category. For instance, if you’ve allotted one hour with your child, which adds most to the quality of your relationship: passively watching a TV show together, or interacting imaginatively with action figures? If you only have an hour per week for social media, decide which will move you closer to your goal: to write a blog post, browse other people’s FaceBook pages, Tweet encouraging responses to other people, search for an ezine which might publish your article, or what? Accept the length of time you have for a type of work, and focus on using that time slot wisely.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3). It’s our job to discipline ourselves to do the right things at the right times.
November 10, 2012
Do you tend to grumble because you have a spouse, sibling, coworker or friend who can never seem to manage to do their fair share of whatever it is in which you are both involved?
Somewhere in the world there are some really lazy, selfish, or stubbornly incapable people whom you might want to avoid, in order to keep your sanity and not be prevented from accomplishing an important goal or your life’s purpose.
But, I propose quite often the problem with one person’s unhappiness in an “unfair” relationship (working or familial), has more to do with one’s own perception and intrenched assumptions, than with the other person’s shortcomings. Let me explain.
Imagine you have twelve hours to drive to some place unfamiliar. You have this other person on the trip with you, but he can’t drive. He falls asleep in the passenger seat.
Eight hours into the trip you’re feeling tired and wishing he would do his share of the driving, to let you do some of the happy dreaming over there in the other seat. But no, he doesn’t even have a driver’s license because he’s always been afraid to try, even though you think his poor vision isn’t all that bad; after all, he doesn’t have trouble doing anything that else he really wants to do.
You come to a fork in the road which isn’t on the map, and you’re not sure which way to go. You pull over, wake your friend, and see what he thinks. You take his advice because it makes sense, and forty minutes later you see a sign which lets you know you are on the right track—your friend had been right about which way to turn.
Suddenly he wakes up again, and just before a freeway exit he asks if you know you are just about out of gas. You would have passed the exit and run out of gas because you were too tired to think of checking your gas gauge. Thanks to your friend, again, you are on your way with a full gas tank and no time lost.
When you arrive at your destination, you are so happy to be on time that you are no longer angry about having to do all the driving; you’re not even tired because you’re psyched about getting on with the purpose of your arrival.
Now of course by normal thinking, it certainly sounds like the work of the trip was unfairly divided. But consider your assumptions.
- You assume that your friend was happily dreaming for 12 hours. But what about the fact that your friend often wishes he could drive himself about, without having to depend on others? What about the headache he had all the next day because he slept uncomfortably in that car seat, instead of home in a bed, where he could have been if he hadn’t wanted to be along with you? What about the nightmare he had about you falling asleep while driving?
- You assume that you did all the work of driving. What about your friend’s two major contributions, without which you might have been several hours late? Don’t you think knowing which way to turn and when to get gas is just as important as controlling the car, as far as arriving at the correct place and time?
- You assume that your friend could actually drive just fine, if he weren’t too lazy to take responsibility. Maybe that’s true; maybe not. But even if that were true, it’s actually his loss, not yours. If he won’t learn and use a skill, he’s that much less capable and less experienced. But if you can manage to do more where he does less, than you are that much MORE capable and MORE experienced. You might even thank him for affording you the opportunity to stretch yourself.
So the truth is, you did what you could do, your friend did what he could do, and together the trip was a success. Remind yourself what matters.
If life were meant to always be “fair” as defined when we are acting like children who complain, “That’s not fair! I did it last time; it’s his turn now!” then we would all be identical in every way.
While sometimes we feel afraid of standing out from the crowd for fear we’ll make a mistake and be ridiculed, or for fear of being a bit lonely, truly everyone wants to be unique, special, better, needed, appreciated. We’d be so bored if somehow everyone’s life could be just like everyone else’s, so why ridicule or resent someone for not having the same skills or personality traits we possess?
An important key to finding happiness in any relationship, is to look for the virtues and utilities of the other person. Whether they are greater or lessor as compared to yourself or anyone else, does not mean they are not valuable. Appreciate the valuable, and it will appreciate in value.
Now reconsider that person in your life who can’t or won’t do his or her “fair share,” and see what there is about him or her for which you can be thankful and happy. What is his or her valuable contribution, whether great or small? Appreciate it. Build on it.
January 7, 2012
Long time, no post. Nice to be back.
Last year went off the track I planned, but turned out to have a valuable impact on numerous people I know, including myself.
NEW YEAR: I have no “new year’s resolutions.” What I do have is a determination not to let my writing, the promotion of my writing, and making a living from my writing, all repeatedly fall to the end of my never-finished to-do lists.
NEW HOPE: Last year’s chores and mistakes are behind me, and I’ve grown from them. Every day is a new chance for what I could not do before.
NEW EFFORT: Determination is not enough—it’s just choosing a heading. I need action—like stepping on the gas and steering in the determined direction.
I need reminders to act—like back-seat passengers who yell “we’re gonna be late” every time I slow down and stare at the scenery. So, I’m clearing clutter and filling my field of vision with some reminders of what I need to do and why I want to do it.
I need to continually ignore unproductive distractions, while being open to unexpected beneficial opportunities. So, I’m planning time to frequently hush my own usual mental/emotional processes, in order to hear more of God’s promptings and to notice what I’ve been too busy to notice.
NOTES TO SELF:
(Remember that “frog” tasks* usually seem like “chicken nugget” tasks once begun.)
(Remember that at every moment I’m taking a step somewhere—so make sure it’s going in the right direction.)
Focus! Focus! Focus!
Eat today’s frog* and get on with making the right things happen!
Get it done! Move along!
Thank God at every step.
*(“Eat That Frog”, by Brian Tracy, is all about how to gain momentum from tackling your hardest task first, rather than letting procrastination drag you down.)
…Okay, enough already! Let’s get this post on the net! I’ve got more things to do tonight 😀 🙂
© 2012 Noname Porter-McShirley