Jul 5, 2015

Phase VII: The Home-ish Stretch...

OK, by my count we're at Phase VII of (this particular) Big Move. We are in Massachusetts. We are living on base. In temporary lodging. Until our house is available at the end of the week, and our stuff arrives at the beginning of the next. And then the unpacking will commence in all its glory. So we might be in the home stretch, or perhaps the not-quite-the-home stretch; I haven't decided...

...I have decided, however, that no matter how much fun one is having, a month is a long time to be without a home base. The Littler One, my guy with so many feelings, is having a volatile time of things, and during his more unpleasant moments I keep saying to him in my head "I know, transition is SO hard!" It's a bit of a trick I think, understanding how difficult it is, and yet needing to teach how to express his difficulty. Because you know, Mommy's right there with you, Kid...

...I will now take a moment to talk about a pet peeve of mine: slow drains. Over the past month we've stayed in a HomeAway rental, several friends' houses, no fewer than three separate hotel brands, and now government lodging. I'm not sure if it's some sort of relic of modern building codes, or the simple result of people like me (long-haired types) bathing all the time and clogging up the works, but every hotel tub drained slow and made me feel sad, and a little gunky on my feet. Let me recommend right now to all hotels to please install the strainer-type drain covers in your tubs. Yes, there's a bit of an ew-factor in watching one's hair pile up at the drain, but this means that the hair is not going down in the drain, getting tangled in the structures and creating blockages with, like, a 10-times ew-factor to deal with later, while people are trying to shower while the grey water is stuck at their ankles and the maintenance guy, after 10 trials of Draino, eventually has to suck it up and snake the thing, and pull out that blockage, dry-heaving as he flops it into the trash with his shirt over his nose, because there are no words for that ew-factor.

On that same note our particular government lodging, where perhaps a little vintage and practical in function and form, does not mess around with the drains. Don't take anything in the tub you wouldn't want to lose forever, because if it goes down the drain it is gone. My feet thank you, government drains...

...But oh Good Gravy, government lodging. The wireless. Something has got to be done. There are people who are professionals at knowing how to keep things up & running. Can we please find them? And have them take a look at things? (after the 3-day weekend, of course)...

...The Cat Daddy makes fun of all my loyalty club key-tags, but at least one is still useful here. To be fair, when I went to Shaw's I asked if they still used them and the cashier said, "We haven't used those in a long time, Ma'am." I said, "That's alright, I haven't been in town in a long time." The Stop & Shop one is still apparently useful, though. So there's that...

...The greatest thing about this move is going back to a familiar place. This is the first move where we've had such a privilege, and as we've driven around getting reacquainted, I've had many moments of "Oh, I remember!" It makes me think about heaven, and wondering if at least parts of it might be like that as we greet old friends, and maybe parts of it will look similar to things we love(d) about our life here. Who knows. I do know that six months from now I may be updating from under several feet of snow, so I feel like I need to mark this time in early July and remember that being with dear friends and among familiar places is a gift...

Jun 28, 2015

On Laundry and Relaxation...

At this moment we are on approximately Phase V of (this particular) Big Move. Phase IV consisted of buzzing thru Montgomery to grab the remainder of our possessions and visit the chiro for one last dose of back health before heading to Asheville NC.

It could be said that Asheville NC is the Portland OR of the East. It is lush and green, and one of the kids actually commented that it looked like scenes from the Goonies, which is set in Oregon. Asheville also has more than its share of crunchy-types and oddballs, and from my observation it could have the highest per capita incidence of dreadlocks in US urban areas, although I haven't been in Boulder CO in a while, so there's that.

Other than an amazing pulled pork biscuit breakfast downtown and a beautiful hike in the Smokey Mountains though, we have been spending our time hanging with our friends (The Pastors T and family, from days of yore) at their house. In an interesting twist of events, they too are moving, although they like to kick things up a notch and are moving in three days, and on something like a week and a half notice. 

In theory we are helping them pack and prep, which in this case looks like baking to use up the pantry...sending all the kids outside to occupy each other...talking about Jesus, antimatter, and everything in between...and napping on their couch when things get sleepy. We love them.

This morning I got to take a couple hours to do introvert things. It's always a bit of a surprise to me to find what can rejuvenate me and give me a happy morning. Internet articles talk about things like spa days, mani-pedis, long baths, and stuff like that. Which are all fine and good; just not my relaxation cup of tea. It turns out when I'm on the road, it is otherwise mundane, ordinary (and sometimes mind-numbing) tasks which make me feel like a whole and mostly-sane person, and very small gifts which give my heart that extra little smiley kick.

Today the things that made me feel calm and happy were: 
  • Running a 5K on the treadmill while listening to podcasts
  • Lifting little dumbbells to keep the old back strong 
  • Doing a load of laundry 
  • Asking for coins for said laundry at the front desk and being told "They're actually free now. Just push in the empty coin tray and they'll work." AND THEY DID.
The laundry is a particular surprise. I think it's less about actually doing the laundry, and more about staying on top of the task which is the closest thing I have to an arch-nemesis. If my family has clothes to wear, we're prepared to fight another day. Or something like that. Also, I'm ensuring that my Mount Laundry will be minimal as long as possible. Ideally until we move into the new house, where articles of clothing will again start reproducing until they reach the piles to which I'm accustomed. Some things just can't be explained...

Jun 17, 2015

Snippets From the Beach...

--At this moment we are what I'm calling Phase III of our Big Move, or in some circles, (this particular) Big Move, because it is our third Big Move in as many years.  Phase I was the extended-stay hotel mentioned in my previous post, and Phase II was a weekend with dear friends on the way down to Key West. I haven't decided how many phases to break (this particular) Big Move into, but over the next few weeks we will go back through Montgomery to pick up the Cat Daddy's car and our trailer o' stuff, spend several days with dear friends in NC, drive to MA, stay in temporary lodging for something like 10 days and, finally, move into our recently-secured base housing on or around July 10. So that's, like, 6-8 phases total? I'm not even sure what to call it. All I know is that I'm taking a lot  of deep breaths, and setting aside priceless time for introvert-ish things, and goodness me these children are beasts when they don't get enough rest.

--I'm not sure if I've mentioned it many times here, but Oh My Dear Heavens, do I love the beach. If my life circumstances should somehow change and I find myself without family responsibilities (heaven forbid), or maybe just someday once the kids are off & grown, I will have a cottage in a beachy town and become a beach bum (But a high-functioning one). I will wake early in the mornings and run places, and I will take up surfing (or stick to snorkeling, depending on the location), and the rest of the time I will navigate town on my beach cruiser, and be an eccentric and beloved local old woman. The Cat Daddy says he will miss me at the family farmhouse/estate, and I said no worries, he can visit me at the beach and I will come for big family holidays. I'm certain we can become snowbirds or make it work in some way. If one is going to be in transition for crazy timeframes like a month or more, may I recommend beach time as a way of preserving sanity?

--My friend Ruth and I talk about All the Things when we get together. I have just as many opinions as she does, but she's more outspoken than I am, and willing to put up with all the stuff that comes with sharing opinions online, so she writes and posts brave things. I'm not sure my exact reasons, but most controversial-type things I tend to save for in-person discussions. Sometimes I wonder if I ought to be bolder about sharing my OPINIONS here on the blog, and waaaaaay back in the archives you can find a few OPINIONS, but more recently I like the safety that comes from sitting with someone in person and sharing points of view. I very rarely see people storming out of coffeehouses mid-rant, is what I'm saying. I'm not sure that's the end of the story, because I think there's also something to be said about entering the broader discussion, or "the arena" so to speak, but this is where I am at the moment. We can all use more kindness, laughter, unicorns, and kittens (and Jesus), and those are the things I'm about these days.

--In Key West I have seen people carrying around coconuts, drinking stuff out of them with straws. My intent today is to find out what is in said coconuts, and perhaps procure one for myself before this afternoon's informal snorkeling practice.

Jun 3, 2015

Lucky Number 500...

It turns out that, if my Blogger stats are correct, this is my 500th blog post on this site.  So, happy 500th post to us all, and thanks for reading my blog!

These days we are in transition, which I feel like I write about a lot.  Probably because we do a lot of transition, and because we've been going through more than usual lately--this is move #3 in 3 years. I haven't figured out yet if I'm learning new things each time we move, or if I'm re-learning the same things and due to my mom-brain it's all just shiny and new to me each time.

At this moment we are in the extended-stay hotel until we leave for a vacation in Key West. We are (varying degrees of) beach people, so we are all very much looking forward to it. I'm pretty sure this will be the farthest south I've ever been, and even though I'm not a drinker, I'm seriously considering a mai-tai or some other adult umbrella drink to mark the occasion. After vacation we will make our way north, arriving in the wonderful Boston area during the warmest time of year, which I think is quite valuable for feeding my continuing denial of the severity of winters to come.

If there's an upside to all this moving and transition, it is that we are veritable experts at the logistics of moving and transition. We can work around moving ourselves or being moved by a company. We can plan for long-term displacement or a door-to-door excursion. With or without kids and/or pets. Seriously, I could have a reality show on HGTV where I help people organize themselves for moving, because each time I have moved I have learned something new to make it go a little smoother the next time.

The "internal" aspects of moving are a little more complex, I think. Because it is familiar, this part does go more smoothly for me these days, but I haven't yet found a way to both do it well and make it painless. In fact as you would probably guess, it seems to me part of doing transition well is letting it be painful, and feeling the feels, and all that. Sometimes I get caught off-guard though, and I get surprised by what stings.

The other day we were checking out of our house, and I took a moment for some mental snapshots. I remembered how empty it felt when we first moved in and how, after a year of placing and arranging, and filling it with the things of our lives (and vacuuming the ever-loving granola crumbs again and again), it was again packed up and emptied, looking identical to the first time we saw it.

I think it's one of the great paradoxes of life, about opening up and risking to love something/someone, but still holding it "loosely," as they say.  I don't know what it was about that house--perhaps the layout and other particulars, which I was particularly fond of--but I loved it right away, and it felt very home-ish to me almost immediately. I remember consciously allowing myself to enjoy it fully for the time we had it, even knowing it was a rental, and a short term one at that.

Still, I was surprised by how sad I felt to leave a house of under 11 months. I thought back to all our previous houses and places, and what was hard (or maybe not so much) about leaving each of them, and I decided it is hard for me to leave what the house represents. Memories, yes. A wonderful "summer camp" year of whirlwind friendships and seizing the days, and making the most of things, yes. But somehow it's even bigger than that.

I love the scene in Castaway where Wilson the volleyball floats away, and Tom Hanks just cannot rescue him without compromising his own safety and hopes of rescue, and he is undone with grief as he lets Wilson go. That scene stuck with me more than any other. That silly volleyball represented so much more than a toy or keepsake, or even a conversation partner. It was the last remainder of his life on the island, and stood for everything he had to let go of in order to risk being rescued.

So I think for me, this particular house represented the whole of my experience here in Montgomery.  I am so excited to be back in Massachusetts, and I know I have a lot to look forward to, but the first part of getting there is setting free the things that keep me here. And risking a few tears in order to tell people what they've meant to me.

Believe me when I say, if you haven't weighed this choice before, that it is worth the tears. It is worth feeling a little bit silly as you try to find the words to say, and it is worth the pang in the gut to leave well.

It is also worth noting that now, a couple days after the fact, I don't feel weepy about my house anymore. Friends of ours are moving into it, so I know it's in good hands, and I like feeling good about the fate of my inanimate objects.

I have a couple weeks of (people) goodbyes left though, so please pardon me if I get a bit of a faraway look in my eye. And maybe slip me a little chocolate...

May 25, 2015

Pretty Braids...

Today I would like to talk about beauty and bada$$ery.

"Pretty" has historically been kind of a tricky term for me. Growing up I wasn't really interested in being pretty in the same way as a lot of the girls I knew. I was more of a tomboy. I pretty much hated wearing dresses and dress shoes, and wasn't interested in spending a lot of time in front of the mirror. I wanted to be presentable (usually...), but not at the expense of the other things I wanted to do, such as pretty much anything other than standing in front of the mirror. I didn't give too much thought about what this meant for my future, but I definitely felt out of place about it all, and wondered if at some point I would undergo some sort of transformation whereby I would suddenly start wanting to wear more feminine things, or stop wanting to be so dang comfortable all the time, or something.

Well, back troubles pretty well permanently destroyed my desire to wear heels, except in rare circumstances, and otherwise over the years my philosophy on dresses ebbs and flows along with my fashion sense motivation. Somewhere along the way I decided that maybe I just didn't care. Except when I did. It wasn't too terribly disturbing, just a little confusing. And I still married a good man, and built a family, and am living what I consider a full life, so it worked out alright.

A friend of mine in grad school said something that brought things into better focus for me, though. One of three sisters in her family, she told me something she thought her dad had done really well. From the time they were wee little sisters, whenever they'd get dressed for an occasion they'd go parade around for their dad and he would ask them if they felt pretty. And over time they developed a saying in their family: "A girl's gotta feel pretty." So when I would compliment her fashion sense she'd respond with "A girl's gotta feel pretty."

I love that because it doesn't define a "pretty box" for all girls to fit into. It leaves the individuality to the girl. If she wants to take the time to be more conscientious about her appearance, and wear accessories, and product in her hair, and heels, and whatnot--bingo. A girl's gotta feel pretty. If she's more like, say, me and prefers to wash, scrunch, throw on a tee and go--bingo. A girl's gotta feel pretty. And of course all the girls on either end and in between--bingo. Gotta feel pretty.

I'm not sure if it's because of my previous hangups with the word, but if I'm being honest I never cared all that much about "pretty." What I really wanted, even if I didn't have the words for a long time, was sassy. Or edgy. Or bada$$. I could say I wanted to be like a rock star, but I'm not quite that punk. Plus I'm part hippie, and I don't know any true hippie rock stars.

Besides, the number one adjective I've heard to describe me is Cute. I'm pretty sure I also have hangups with "cute" as a description of me...but as time goes on I think it's probably more that perhaps I define "cute" differently than a lot of the world. Because pretty much the only thing I'd call cute about me is my adorable petite stature. But whatevs.

After all of this, at the age of 37, my hair has finally grown long enough for braids. I mean, I've braided it before, but the ends were always kind of short and wouldn't really stay up in anything but a single French braid. Now my hair is at its longest ever, and the tails actually hang down properly. So when I'm in the mood I put it in two low side braids. And on the weekends for my long runs, I go all out and do two French braids, and as I'm trotting around the neighborhood with my two braids, and my sock-less feet in my zero-drop running shoes, and I think "Man, I'm bada$$."

I'm pretty sure I also define "bada$$" differently than a lot of the world as well. I mean, my hairstyle is closer to Laura "Half-Pint" Ingalls than Amanda (effing) Palmer, so I really can't explain how that translates to bada$$ instead of cute. But I can tell you that when I have those adorable braids, I feel taller, faster, sassier, and like I'm sticking it to the man in some greater way than my messy bun or boring low ponytail. Maybe it's something inherent about being a grown-up wearing braids, I dunno.

So now, our family has adopted "Do you feel pretty?" for Tiny E, and "Do you feel handsome?" for the boyz. Because regardless I think it's a good thing to encourage the young'uns to go for the look/feel they're hoping for. Most of the time, anyway (we did have to implement an underwear rule).  And for the moment, Tiny E's favorite look is to put on a twirly dress so she can be "bood-ful."

Which of course I can totally get behind. After all, everyone knows twirly dresses are bada$$...

May 22, 2015

Thank You...

The boys' school year is winding down this week. They've brought home grimy crayons and pencil/marker boxes, and piles of papers. One had a little container of grape jelly smushed in the front pocket of his backpack; the other a pile of crushed acorn shells.

For the most part, the papers went into the recycle bin, but they had something that caught my eye and made me pause. Each had his own grade-level equivalent of a journal in one of those mottled-cover composition books.

His Highness had a second grade writing/drawing journal. Each entry contained half a page of handwritten words with half a page of illustrations. There were several that were obviously started by a teacher prompt, several relating to dinosaurs, and, I assume, several teacher prompts which were expertly finagled into dinosaur-related entries. Because, dinosaurs.

The Littler One had a reading journal. There were some handwritten words, but mostly colorful worksheets that had been cut out and colored and glued into place. Little matching games connected words to pictures. Flaps lifted to reveal words, pictures, and drawings. The progress of the school year, new papers being carefully glued in each week, doubled the thickness of the book. I could see what my boys had learned; how they had been engaged and thoughtful in their work (some days more than others).

Look, I'm no Common Core fanatic; at best my feelings are neutral about the whole thing. What I want to point out, though, is that amid a lot of controversy and argument and OPINIONS about how kids should learn, about how things are SO different than when we went through school, and a lot of what's going wrong (and yes, there's plenty to work on), there are things going right too. There are lots and lots of caring, gifted teachers who are teaching these children like a BOSS, and there are lots and lots of kids doing hard work and learning well.

I offer this up gently, knowing friends who have struggled mightily to provide their kids with the right educational options for them, and public school was not it. People failed them and "the system" didn't come through for them when they needed it. It is real and true.

But still...for others, it works. I read an article about a sad tale of a kindergarten where the children sit at desks and write all day, and I think definitely we should go storming into that school and shake things up a little, because it doesn't have to be that way, and it ISN'T that way in many many places. In kindergarten this year I watched kids sit and write a little. I watched them move around the room to different learning centers, working with their hands, advancing those fine motor skills with cutting and gluing and folding and painting while they learned about numbers and reading and writing. I had the immense privilege talking with them as they sat on the alphabet carpet, bursting to tell me ALL THE THINGS about the story we were reading together. I helped them take reading quizzes about stories they chose themselves. I watched them dance and sing and move. I also got to chase a group of them running like banshees on a scavenger hunt through the hallways before we worked out the logistics of how not to do that.

In second grade I got to take them to lunch a few times. I got to read to them in funny voices. They showed me how to work the smart board so I could show them the pictures on the projector. I got to give them reward points due to compliments from other teachers about hallway behavior. I got to see how their teacher taught them to care for one another, and how their teacher cared for them. She sent them home with a memory book of the year. They wrote entries about their field trips and projects, and she added photos and bound them into real, actual books using donations and her own funds.

In both cases, the kids oogled over Tiny E, showing the little visitor how things worked in the big kids' classes. I saw two young teachers caring about their students, pushing them to do hard things and cheering for them the whole way. I saw them correcting and being strict, sometimes with humor and always with an underlying gentleness that said, "I am FOR you, and you need to stop this nonsense right now." Because these children are capable of a LOT of nonsense.

You know what else these children are capable of, though? These children are capable of doing hard things. They are capable of building reading and writing journals over a school year. They are capable of attending 3 schools in 3 years (not ideal, but reality sometimes), making good friends, and thriving as they grow and learn. It also turns out they are capable of catching actual fish using some twine tied to a paper clip with a piece of hot dog on it (who knew??).

This is all to say thank you. Thank you, teachers of my kids, for those little journals, and for all the things this year. Thank you for letting me in and sharing a little of the process with me.  Thank you, friends of mine who are professional teachers, for staying in this hard profession and offering up your gifts to our benefit. Thank you for managing them well, so that you can spend more time teaching. Thank you for putting up with the nonsense of standardized testing, and conflicts, and paperwork, and all the extras that drain the joy out of the good parts. Thank you for challenging them, and for doing more than what is required to make learning more interesting, and sometimes even fun.

May your summer include lounging poolside with umbrella drinks...

May 20, 2015

Ankle Deep...

I read this really great article today, which of course got me thinking about my own family because it fits us well.

I also read a comment by the mother of a kid who has indeed found a passion at a young age, and gets herself ready for practices and commitments and whatnot, even while her parents have kept options open for taking breaks or trying other things. I think it's totally cool when that happens, and I'm all for supporting kids' talents and such; but my experience has been closer to the article. Historically, we Skerribs are generalists. We dabble in many areas, and our knowledge is widespread and ankle-deep.

These are my big 3:

--The closest thing I have to a passion is running, and I didn't catch onto it until eighth grade or so. It didn't earn me any money for college (or ever--thanks for nothing, running!), and I devote at most a few hours per week to it. Still, it is the thing that has stuck with me the longest; the thing that I do regardless of our location or circumstance, and will keep on doing as long as the good Lord lets me (Please God let it be until I die, sharp and feisty, at age 85. Amen).

--I love playing the drums, and I enjoy being part of a music group...but I wouldn't call it a passion.

--I love keeping this blog and writing out my thoughts and ideas. I like playing with words and reading about grammar and stuff...but I wouldn't call myself passionate about it.

These are the things I am currently dabbling (or considering dabbling) in:

--Learning Dream a Little Dream on the ukulele

--Learning Spanish via Duolingo on my phone (and OMG I just learned that I can sign on to the website and my progress is there too!)

--Piano (sometimes)

--Geocaching (sometimes)

--Doodle Stitching

--Bullet Journaling

These are the things I have pursued (or dabbled in at least a teeny bit) before:

--Teaching high school math, and all things learning/education

--Sewing baby slings

--Painting basketball court-sized maps on school campuses


--Motorcycle riding

--Knitting (which I should never do again)

--Crocheting (which I will leave to those more capable than myself)

--Playing the flute (ugh, that was not for me)

--Cross stitch



As a friend of mine once said, there's a lot going on "in there," meaning my head. I love learning and trying new things. I watch Dirty Jobs and, with the exception of the episodes involving snakes, think "I could totally do Mike Rowe's job!" Sometimes I wonder, had I picked something earlier on and stuck with it, what that might have looked like. Sometimes I wish I could narrow things down a little, because I can get a little overwhelmed with all the things I still want to try out there.

I try not to get too worked up about it though. I've found that for the most part, if I take things a day at a time and be aware of opportunities as they float by, that I get to be part of some pretty amazing, if random, happenings. For example, when I have been talking about taking Spanish for years and then suddenly it turns out there's an app for that. Crazy.

That's all to say, if you or your kid has a passion, then I say go for it. I think it's a beautiful thing to love something enough to put your heart and soul into it. If not though, neither the above article or I think you should freak out about it. I'm not sure if there's some great conspiracy out there, but if you're not bent on only one certain college, it turns out there are plenty of quality schools that don't require a professional resume of achievements by the age of 18. Seriously, admissions will take care of itself (tuition, on the other hand, is a little more complex).  Go and enjoy what you enjoy.

After all, there's so much to explore, why not take in as much as you can?

May 12, 2015

We Interrupt This Post...

I'm working on a post which involves an indirect mention of Mama Cass Elliot, and I found this video of Mama Cass and Julie Andrews doing a duet medley of Simon & Garfunkel songs.

Mind. Blown.

Aaand...now the question is how many more videos to watch before I cut myself off and go to bed like I should if I want to get a good sleep and kick this cold sooner than later.

The struggle is real, people.

Apr 30, 2015

Wave Quick, Before It's Gone...

Being a military family we see life through military-specific challenges (duh), but I think it's pretty universal that life is in constant flux. Even setting aside crises and big events there is NO WAY to take it all in. You could try to video-record all of it, but then the science says that if you're recording all the time you're actually not fully experiencing the thing, so then we're back at NO WAY to take it all in.

One of my favorite moments in The Office was during the episode where Pam & Jim get married.  They've received the advice that it will be impossible to take in and remember everything from their festivities, so they should take mental snapshots of their favorite moments along the way. So of course in their own nearly-cheesy-but-still-endearing way, they signal to each other with fingers and a "Click" when they are each taking their own mental snapshots.

I think this is a smart approach to a lot of things in life. Not that I recommend going around making camera-like gestures and clicking sounds all the time. Unless you really want to; I mean, whatever floats your boat. But I have made a practice of making note of little instances of gratitude and beauty and whatnot. Because this life flies by, and it's easy to miss. So you've gotta catch it.

This is all to say that a couple of mornings ago I caught the sunrise just right on my jog. My warm-up goes along a tree-lined road, and then I turn a corner into a wide open space before I duck behind a bunch of houses again, and that particular morning through the trees and cloudy skies I caught a sliver of brilliant pink and purple. Only, more like hot fucshia and electric violet, or some such crazy color names. What I could see was gorgeous, and I so badly wanted to get to the corner to see the full view of that piece of sky.

The only thing is, even though it's nearly imperceptible, that big old sun moves quick, and I suspected that the colors were diminishing as the sky around them brightened to a hazy grey-blue. I held my breath a little, and took a mental "Click" of the part I did see, and I told God "Wow, those are some really cool colors," just in case I didn't make it to the corner in time to see the whole picture.

Well I rounded the corner just in time to see the last hints of pink & purple waving to me as they faded. Kind of like when I have to say good-bye to friends just as we are getting to know and love each other, and we have to take in what is, instead of holding off for what will be. Kind of like when I send my kids off on a new milestone and I swear they have little baby-ghosts of their smaller selves, waving back at me as their more grown-up selves venture on just like they're supposed to. Kind of like when we wind up one location/season to move on to the next, and those hazy last few moments shout a cheerful goodbye and root us on toward our destination.

That pink & purple didn't have time to stick around & chat, but I knew enough to wave and take in the moment, and it was beautiful...

Apr 25, 2015

Skerrib and the Bullet Journal...

I've been messing with my journaling/planner system lately. Last winter, I found myself having to keep track of several things for keeping track of all my things, and I wanted to use only one thing to keep track of all my things, so I ordered a Monopoly Smiley Diary.

About three days (not really, but that's what it felt like) after I ordered the Smiley Diary, I saw a YouTube Video for the Bullet Journal (via the Art of Simple), and I was totally intrigued, but since my Smiley Diary was already enroute I decided that I wouldn't pursue it any further. I was committed to the Smiley Diary.

Overall, the Smiley Diary has been very good. I love the slightly-whimsical but still clean design, and it has given me both calendar space and daily pages to write down what I accomplished (incredibly interesting stuff such as back exercises and miles run).  The main drawbacks for me are the tiny list-making spaces, and the lack of scratch paper. So in addition to my teeny written list of main points, I've been using my Tasky app for ongoing and multi-step tasks.

Well, here we are a few months into 2015, and I couldn't get the Bullet Journal out of my head. It was just so mesmerizing, and I kept wondering if it would work better than my Smiley Diary. The best thing about it is that it's customizable, so I could see myself very easily setting it up similar to the Smiley, with added list space and pages dedicated to doodles, Brain Dumps, and other things I like to keep track of but don't necessarily have a set space for.

In a moment of weakness I went on Pinterest and searched "Bullet Journal," and of course it turns out there are a zillionty folks out there who have already taken the plan and run with it. Creative-types have added plenty of great ideas, little doodles and stickers, and Washi tape for texture and emphasis. Many of the ideas didn't interest me, but a few were just right to try.

Money held me back, or rather the fact that I didn't want to spend any money on something that may or may not work out, and a good Bullet Journal tends to use one of those fancy little Moleskine notebooks (or the Leuchtturm 1917, as I am learning about) made of graph paper. The graph paper alone makes my nerd-heart beat faster, but it also comes in, like, 20 colors. Colors and graph paper turn me into a puddle of goo on the floor.

Well, I didn't have a fancy little graph paper notebook, but it turns out I had a Moleskine lined journal that I'd gotten as a gift. I had started it a few months back, and then set it aside when the Smiley arrived, so I figured Hey, what better choice for a trial run than a notebook very similar to the very one suggested for such a task. Plus I figured I could keep two journals for a couple weeks and see if I gravitated toward one over the other.

It's not graph paper, but there are colors involved.
So I sat down with a ruler and pen. I folded a page to mark where I was beginning, and made my index page. I numbered a few pages and drew a calendar. I made a short list of symbols I could use to simplify entries. Then I thought of other reference pages I wanted to have and drew those in. Then I started making lists I wanted to keep. Then I started doing some daily pages. Then I bought a four-color pen (The black ballpoint did the job just fine; I just wanted to add some fun).

Within a week I'd stopped using my Tasky app, and by the end of Week Two I had set aside the Smiley Diary. I feel mildly guilty about this, but I keep reminding myself of two things. First, that these are notebooks, not people. My cute little red Smiley is not actually lonely in my nightstand drawer, particularly because certain small children still swipe it to doodle in. And Second, I can always go back to it if the excitement of the Bullet Journal wears off, and either way it gets recycled when 2015 is done.

The only remaining drawbacks are that a) it doesn't fit in my favorite purse, and b) my Bullet Journal interior is not as cute and eye-catching as those I have seen online. The Smiley doesn't really fit into my favorite purse either, so that issue is a bit of a wash. As for the latter, I'm not as artsy as some to begin with, and my system needs to remain very low-maintenance (to me). It's fine if I add little doodles and a few colors along the way, but if I make things too intricate, I'll never stick with it. So I've been looking for little ideas that would be easy to pull off. Mine will not have the quasi-scrap-book look that some do (not that there's anything wrong with that).

May Calendar with experimental not-quite-Washi tape on the corners.  It'll have page numbers by Thursday (long story).
Still, somewhere I have some cute little sticky doodads I can throw in to liven it up a bit. And in Office Depot today I saw (what I thought was) Washi tape, and grabbed it. After I opened the package I realized it was just colorful patterned regular tape, but I decided it would be workable since it's a practice journal and I'm still forming my system anyway. So Tiny E and I spent some time this evening playing with tape and putting it on pages in different ways to see how it could be visually appealing and/or even useful.

I love the Bullet Journal because it is relatively cheap. Fancy planning systems can be pretty spendy; even my cute little Smiley was around $30. Assuming I stick with it, once this notebook is full a new one will be $20 or under. And if you want to go super-cheap, you could grab the simplest spiral notebook at the back-to-school sale. The do-it-yourself approach is a bit of a tough call. Obvs it's nice if you find a system that has everything you need already printed out because, duh, there it is. But for customizability, you can't beat a pen and ruler or home-printed paper sized to fit in the notebook. Plus, if you're a creative, visual-type, you can putter with pens, highlighters, and paper-crafting products to your heart's content, making your journal awesome and fabulous.

At the end of everything, sometimes I feel a little silly talking about my planning system, like some sort of organizational guru who has lots of official appointments and meetings to keep, but again that's what is so great about the Bullet Journal. It tracks what you want it to track, which for me these days is home-running tasks and the Moving List of DOOM, and my strengthening regimen to keep my butt (and everything else) in line.

In conclusion, if you are into organization, or planning, or even just graph paper and colorful notebooks, go check out the Bullet Journal intro and see what you think. Then go make as many lists as you want--they'll be there waiting for you (as long as you enter them into the index)...