a year of living simply: week 9

Happy St. Patty’s Day, friends! Hope you are wearing green today so you don’t get pinched! ūüôā I’m excited to get together with Dana tonight to continue our tradition {started last year} of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with homemade Irish coffees, created by the talented Dana herself. I’m really looking forward to seeing her and catching up!

Photo from our St. Patty's date last year!

Photo from our St. Patty’s date last year!

Before heading over to Dana’s this evening, my plans for the day include a few hours of tutoring, making headway on a copyediting project, and some festive baking! I’m going to attempt to make snickerdoodles with green sprinkles mixed into the cinnamon-sugar topping. We’ll see how they turn out!

Now, onto the simplicity…

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge¬†was¬†to do something to simplify or improve your commute.¬†I did a couple things that were SO simple, but that have improved my car time a great deal!

1. The first thing I did was to clean out all the miscellaneous items and trash old Larabar wrappers that had accumulated in¬†the backseat of poor Charley, my PriusC. I was amazed at the difference it made! Even though I hardly¬†ever use the backseat to transport people, glimpsing a clean car as I climb into the driver’s seat just makes me feel good, like I’ve got my life in order.¬†Combined with my new¬†“arrive everywhere five minutes early” habit, my drive time has never been so stress-free! It’s crazy what a difference a few minutes can make.

2. I started listening to podcasts while I drive. I love music, but I was getting tired of my CDs and the same old radio tunes. Dana told me about a podcast she listened to at the end of last year called Serial, and after listening to the first episode I was immediately hooked. I stopped by the Verizon store and bought an inexpensive auxiliary cable so I can listen to my phone through my car’s speakers; all I have to do is load up the podcast, click “play” and I’m set to go! {Apologies if my excitement is lame — I’ve never really stored music on my phone, so this is a new experience for me!}

Listening to podcasts during my car time has opened up a whole new world for me. I love learning and I love podcasts, but I can’t ever seem to find the time to listen to many — that is, until now! Twenty minutes in the car here and fifteen minutes in the car there really adds up. I’ve finished all twelve episodes of Serial and today I started listening to This American Life. Now I actually find myself looking forward to my car time instead of being annoyed by my commute! If you have any podcasts to recommend, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

charley!

This week’s challenge is to get rid of some paper clutter in your life.¬†How you interpret this is up to you! Perhaps you want to sort through/get rid of one¬†of the paper piles on your desk. Or maybe clean out your desk drawer filled with old receipts. Paper is personally one of my major clutter weaknessnes. I’m planning to attack a certain shelf in my closet where all the pieces of paper¬†I don’t know what to do with tend to congregate in a big tall lilting stack.

Before I go, a couple updates:

  • This month my friend Julie is participating in The Minimalism Game {hosted by The Minimalists}¬†and invited me to play along! The game is to get rid of one thing on the first day of the month, two things on the second day, three things on the third day, etc. I’m doing a slightly less intense version where I am trying to get rid of one thing every day in March. So far I’ve donated 8 books, 3 magazines, 2 shirts, 1 sweater, and recycled 2 boxes I was hanging onto in my closet for I have no idea what reason. Not sure yet what I’m getting rid of today, but it will be something!
  • A few weeks ago I said that I wanted to continue¬†arriving everywhere a few minutes early, and I’m happy to report the routine¬†is still going strong! Setting my clock three minutes early was a BIG help {I usually forget it is early} and, generally, I’ve gotten into the habit of getting ready to leave about ten minutes before I *think* I need to start getting ready to leave. I’m feeling so much less rushed in general, that I’m definitely planning to hang onto this habit!

Questions for the morning:

  • Do you listen to podcasts? If so, what are your favorites?
  • What brightens up your commute?

a year of living simply: week 8

Hi there, everyone! Hope your week is off to a great start. I had a nice day yesterday… before tutoring, I met up with a sweet woman from my church who has been checking up on me since Celine died. She is a wonderful listener and a very warm person, and she brought me this beautiful Calla Lily as a little surprise. So thoughtful! When she had to leave, I stayed at the cafe for another thirty minutes or so, reading and sipping on an Earl Gray tea latte called “London fog” that was absolutely delicious.

calla lily

My grief process has been filled with shock, disbelief, sadness and anger, and yet I also feel intensely aware of all the loving people I am so fortunate to have in my life, who have taken care of me and checked up on me and sent me nice cards and notes and text messages. My profound grief is inextricably linked with profound gratitude.

year of living simply

Last week’s challenge¬†was to be five minutes early to every appointment you have. As I mentioned last week, while I always have the best intentions to be on time early, I had a hard time actually getting out the door when I planned. After some reflection, I realized this was due to my impulse to try to squeeze in “one more thing” before I left the house, and also my tendency to underestimate how much time I will need to get ready, make breakfast, etc.

This week, I did a few things that all combined to helping me actually arrive not just on time, but EARLY, to my various appointments and responsibilities–even during my crazy-busy Saturday, and even with some unplanned traffic.

  • I set the clock in my car three minutes fast {and am trying to forget that it is fast and act like it is the correct time!}
  • When I determined what time I would need to leave the house to get somewhere on time, I set my “goal time” to leave a full ten minutes before the actual time I needed to leave. That way, even if I was running five minutes late… I was still five minutes early.
  • Instead of trying to cram in “one more thing” I forced myself to step away from the computer and get ready to leave. I realized that I used to neglect to build in time for little things I need to do before hitting the road: brushing my teeth, filling my water bottle, and going to the restroom. These things only take a couple minutes, but still–that’s a couple minutes I need to build into my schedule so I can leave on time!

This week’s challenge is to do something to simplify or improve your commute. I am fortunate in that I don’t have to drive to work each morning and home each evening in rush hour traffic, but between driving to teach and tutor — not to mention to see my sweetheart or meet up with Dana — I do spend quite a bit of time in the car.

charley!

My poor PriusC Charley can quickly become a bit of mess, especially the back seat. I usually just drive myself, and hardly ever have passengers in the back, so it is mostly used to store various things I am taking somewhere or bringing home… and a few things that I just haven’t bothered to do anything with. So this week, in addition to thinking up ways to make my driving time a bit more fun, I am also going to simplify my car environment and get rid of the nonessential clutter!

A timely reminder from my Yogi green tea bag! Happiness comes from being contented with what you have.

A timely reminder from my Yogi green tea bag! Happiness comes from being content with what you have, rather than always wanting more.

Bonus challenge: this month my friend Julie is participating in The Minimalism Game {hosted by The Minimalists}¬†and invited me to play along! The game is to get rid of one thing on the first day of the month, two things on the second day, three things on the third day, etc. I’m doing a slightly less intense version where I am trying to get rid of one thing every day in March. We’d love for you to join us!

Questions for the morning:

  • What helps you leave the house/arrive to things on time?
  • What brightens up your commute?

goals for 2013

Happy New Year! Wow, I can’t believe it’s 2013 already. I vividly remember driving around town with my parents and brother on New Year’s Eve 1999, when it seemed like all the radio stations were constantly playing Prince’s “I’m Gonna Party Like It’s 1999” and everyone was worried about Y2K… Crazy that was 13 years ago!!

Before I get into my goals for the year, here’s how I did on my goals for the week:

  • revise and update calendar and syllabus for the upcoming semester
  • read & respond to all the workshop stories for the Key West conference {almost done with this!}
  • finish getting email inbox and computer desktop cleaned out and organized
  • write goals for the upcoming year
  • work on short play to submit to festival
  • finish reading¬†The Zero¬†by Jess Walter
  • prepare for my new “Act of Kindness” blog initiative for the upcoming year!

Pretty good way to end the year and gear up for the new year!

Here are my goals for 2013. I organize them into multiple subtopics because it helps me feel like I have more of a handle on the different facets of my life.

Writing Goals
1. Write! 400 words. Every day. No excuses.
2. Revise thesis manuscript and send to agent.
3. Complete YA manuscript.
4. Resubmit story collection to prizes & small presses.
5. Write a new one-act play.
6. Write a full-length play.
7. Finish Verna novella & put out as an ebook.
8. Write three blog posts a week.
9. Read three short stories a week.
10. Read 40 books by end of year.

Write On! For Literacy Goals
1. Send out a newsletter every other month.
2. Teach a summer writing camp.
3. Teach a winter writing camp.
4. Teach a college essay writing camp.
5. Speak to 10 classes/orgs/radio shows.
6. Make Pimple an ebook.
7. Hold a Holiday Book Drive.
8. Compile writing camp ebook/online program.

Professional Goals
1. Apply to fellowships & Ph.D. programs.
2. Submit to a literary magazine every other week.
3. Submit a query for a freelance article every month.
4. Apply to at least 3 conferences/workshops.
5. Submit to Literary Awards.
6. Update & expand teaching website.
7. Put 10% of every paycheck into savings.
8. Put $1,000 into Roth IRA at end of year.

Healthy Life Goals
1. Exercise at least 3 days a week.
2. Do core work 6 days a week.
3. Stretch every day.
4. Continue with meal planning & healthy cooking schedule.
5. Clean apartment every weekend.
6. Chronicle weekly acts of kindness on blog.
7. Send a card/letter to Gramps every other week.
8. Call Grandma & Grandpap every other weekend.
9. Count my blessings every night.

What are your goals for 2013?

school paper organization

Happy Wednesday! Hope you’re having a great week! It’s been sunny and gorgeous here. I have been eating lunch outside whenever possible. There’s a grassy quad outside of Heavilon Hall, the main academic building for the English department where I spend most of my time, and it’s so nice to sit under the trees, soaking up the warm sunshine. Hard to believe it will all be covered in snow in a few months! As a California transplant, that is one thing I still can’t get used to — the extreme change in seasons. When it’s summer, I can’t imagine it ever getting cold. When it’s winter, it seems like summer will never come again!

{Or maybe I just need to stop being so dramatic…} ūüėČ

At the beginning of a new school year, I always start off with such great organization intentions. I’ll buy a new binder or notebook. I’ll print out my schedule of where I need to be and when. I’ll redouble my efforts to keep a daily planner. {Something I tend to be good at for a while, and then forget to write things down for a few weeks and get off-routine. Does that happen to any of you guys?}

Organization is certainly important to being a successful student, and it has become extra-important for me since I’ve started teaching. I want to model good organization habits for my students. In previous years I’ve never been supremely disorganized — in fact, from the outside, it probably looks like I have everything together pretty well. {At least, I hope my students think so!} But it’s been something I’ve wanted to get an even better handle on. I hate carting around old papers I no longer need. I hate having to rifle through papers to find a handout for a student who was absent. I hate that sinking-stomach feeling when I realized I didn’t make copies of an assignment sheet I’d been planning to go over in class that day. Etc, etc, etc …

In previous semesters teaching, I tried to use a 3-ring binder to organize everything. It worked pretty well, but was a little bulky and cumbersome to carry around, and the cover started to fall off after about a year. It could also be a little tedious to have to 3-hole punch all my papers, and as the semester progressed I would always accumulate a pile of papers hanging out in the front pocket that I hadn’t gotten around to 3-hole punching and organizing into the proper divider.

This year, I decided to try a slightly new tactic and use an accordian file folder instead of a binder to organize my teaching papers:

I found this one in the $1 section of Target. Look familiar? Yep, it’s the same style I used to organize my stationary stash, only this one is clear instead of blue. I like that it’s made of a durable-feeling plastic, has an easy-to-use elastic clasp, and folds up pretty narrowly to easily slide into my bookbag.

I am teaching two classes this semester, Freshman Composition and Professional Writing. Most of the assignments and grading for Professional Writing are done online through a course website, so I only needed to use one section of the accordian folder for that course. I put that section in the back since I teach Professional Writing directly after I teach Freshman Composition. The rest of the file folder I used for my Freshman Composition course. I organized my papers as follows:

– First section: Attendance sheet, class calendar, and handouts for the day.

– Second section: Copies for the upcoming week.

– Third section: Papers to pass back.

– Fourth section: Papers to grade.

– Fifth section: Professional Writing.

This new system is working really well for me so far! It’s forced me to purge all my unnecessary & old papers, stay organized week-by-week, and keep everything in one place. And it’s easy to carry around with me, allowing me to get a lot of grading and responding to student work done in small snippets of time throughout the day. I find it a lot less overwhelming to grade in little-by-little chunks instead of in one big block of time on the weekend.

How are you getting organized this school year? What helps you stick with an organization system? I’d love to hear your tips for organizing the tons of papers that inevitably pile up during the school year!

Always,
Dallas

————————–

-Time spent: 15 minutes
-Cost: $1