Wednesday, November 24, 2010

100 Days In and #69 - blogging

It hardly seems like I've been working on this project for 100 days!  I've been reflecting over the last few days on where I'm at on my list.  I feel like I'm right on target to getting all of the goals completed, and, wow, some of the things I've tried have made me feel really empowered!

First, blogging ... I passed the requirements of this goal (20 posts) within the past month but didn't write a post at that time about it, so I'm adding some brief thoughts on it here.  I expected this goal to feel like a chore after the initial charm of the project wore off ... it doesn't.  I think of many more posts than I actually write about, and the main reason I don't post more is time.  And I'm touched that people actually tell me that they read the posts -- thanks!

So, what's going well ... hmmm, everything I've finished. :)  Seriously, I like that my tasks are so varied that I have many items to choose to work on.  Currently, I'm putting in the most time on one of the month-long goals (it's a surprise which one), folding paper cranes (since I found a charity I can donate them to if I finish by April), and listening my way through my iTunes library.  I'm finding myself zipping through the live theater performances too -- gotta love that! -- and I wish I'd put a higher number into my goal.  I've put a couple of things on the back burner for a while - my will (have it written out but want to give myself a breathing space period and look at it with fresh eyes in January before I get it notarized) and the walking time goal (I've switched to riding my exercise bike in the morning since the walking has turned slippery).

Of the items that I haven't started yet, I think the most difficult will be convincing my parents to let me take them on a vacation.  I've sent out some feelers and gotten the response that they are afraid they'll "slow me down".  The other thing that I'm spending time trying to figure out is the goal about celebrating my 40th birthday; I want to do something special but just can't come up with any good ideas.  So, feel free to give me suggestions in the comments.  (And, sorry, but I have no desire to jump out of an airplane which seems to be what everyone has suggested to me so far).

I'm finding that I haven't leapt into the goals that involve learning as much as I expected in the beginning.  So, I'm going to start making those memorizing, learning, etc. topics a higher priority after the holidays ... the cold days of winter sound like a good time to focus on thinking and I can save some of the more active things for when it warms up.

The biggest surprise of this project so far has been that I haven't had a favorite accomplishment.  All of the things that I cross off are teaching me, empowering me, surprising me, and occasionally frustrating me during the process.  I truly had expected some of the goals to feel like a let-down after they were finished, but they've all brought some lesson with them - sometimes not the one that I expected.  And perhaps that's the best part of attempting a list like this.

Friday, November 12, 2010

#14 - Under the woodstove

One of the big selling points of this house when I was looking to buy a home was the glorious woodstove in the living room.  The previous owners had it professionally installed, but they planned to finish the tiling underneath themselves.  Like many other projects, it still wasn't completed when ownership transferred to me.  I added it to my house projects list; however, things like updating the electrical wiring took priority over cosmetics.  The good part was that the fireproof pad for tile was already in, so I could have a fire without the tile being in.
My starting point ...

I had planned on using ceramic tile and making some sort of mosaic out of odds and ends.  However, when I went to Color Tile earlier this week, the ceramic tile they had in stock was almost all beige.  Beige is not my thing ... after years of white and off-white in apartments, I want to use colors in my home.  I wandered through the corners though and found some great stone pieces to work with.  There were even a few triangle pieces already cut that would help in the odd corners of my mat.  The price was right too at $2 per 12" square since I was shopping through their remainders.
Deciding how to lay out the tiles

I didn't have a specific pattern as I worked, but just worked things in.  One of the pieces I bought was much larger than the rest.  I had originally planned to center it under the stove, so it wouldn't be so hard to reach under and lay in smaller pieces, but I liked it so much that I kept sliding it around to see it.  One of the styles that had smaller pieces was hard to take apart, so I ended up using many of the same size squares.
All finished
I'm very happy with the result.  It really dresses up an area of the living room that was blah.  And now I think I'm going to go curl up with a book by the fire ... :)
Already in use

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Differences in grocery stores

Yesterday, I made my annual pilgrimage to Sam's Club.  I only go once a year to get supplies for my Christmas baking obsession (which I'm sure will be the subject of at least one more post in the coming month), and it always amazes me how much stuff is there and how large it all is.  This year, I noticed something new ... many of the other shoppers didn't seem to be buying as a major pantry restock.  Instead, they seemed to just be doing their weekly grocery shopping.  I didn't see anyone else working off of a list, but many couples were discussing meals for later in the week or saying things like "I know I saw it here last week." despite the fact that you have to buy a big quantity of each item.

This was a huge contrast to visiting London grocery stores last month.  Wandering through "locals shop here" stores when I'm traveling is one of my guilty pleasures.  (In fact, I make a point of bringing home foreign candy bars for my family when I travel just to have the excuse to look at all of them and love to ponder local slang in signage in other parts of the U.S.)  Most London grocery stores are small ... about the size of a convenience store in America and have three staples:  prepackaged sandwiches, bakery bins, and veggies.  Fruit and meat sections are considerably downsized in proportion, and frozen, canned goods, and pantry items (all staples of the US stores) are minuscule in terms of both shelf space and the size of the packaging.  (Convenience stores, in comparison, have the square footage of mall kiosks and carry sweets, prepackaged sandwiches, and bottled drinks.)  I did visit larger grocery stores in the outer areas of London on my trip in 2006 - as I was on a quest for packaged crumpets to bring back - and found that the stores were still smaller than I expected based on what locals had told me.  The largest package of flour I saw was five pounds.  Do Londoners shop that often?  Do they live on prepacked sandwiches and restaurant meals? 

The one thing that I never saw in a London store was plastic containers to store leftovers.  Maybe that's the trick to decluttering your cupboards - never cook more than what you'll eat in one meal, never buy more than what you need to make that meal, and you'll be able to dedicate your shelf space to heirloom china that you use regularly rather than a mountain of cheap, ugly plastic boxes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

#77 - No complaints!

"Complain - to express grief or distress; to lament; to express dissatisfaction; to make a formal accusation" - from New Expanded Webster's Dictionary 1988 edition

It sounded really easy when I wrote it down - not to complain about anything verbally or in writing for a week - I found it was more challenging to actually do.  I started my "week" for this goal on four separate occasions, and, on the first three tries had to start again when my tongue moved faster than my brain's edit function!  However, I'm very glad that I had it on the list because I spent quite a bit of time pondering why it's so easy to be negative in daily life.  (And the fact that it was more difficult than I expected makes me prouder of being able to cross it off my list).

The only day that felt easy was the first one (Sunday) - probably because I was not working and only talked briefly on the phone to one person.  Then the challenge set in ... minor irritations at work, a funky schedule including a meeting on my day off, the tail end of my cold making me crabby, a plumbing project on Saturday that had a few glitches, etc.

I also realized on Monday that I needed to give myself a clearer definition of complaining.  There is a large grey area between the whining of "I'm tired.  I'm cold.  I don't want to be here." and legitimate critiquing that may be required to get through your day - for example, I often am asked at work my personal opinion of books and movies by patrons who are trying to decide what they might like to borrow.  I decided that specific criticism in the line of work that was kept impersonal was okay (ex. "there was a lot of violence that didn't seem to add to the plotline") while vague potshots were not (ex. "it was disgustingly bloody").

Then there was the dilemma of commiserating with someone else who was complaining.  If I agree, does that make me a complainer too?  I decided that smiling, nodding, and interjecting supportive comments was okay.  That may be sophistry, but it's what I went with.  And, I was glad to have made that decision on Monday afternoon because there were two occasions on Thursday where I was in that situation.

The biggest eye-opener of this whole experiment was how much everyone is unhappy in their daily lives.  I spent four of my five work days this week at a public service desk, and I think that somewhere between two thirds and three quarters of the people I talked to complained about something - mostly the weather (both too cold and too hot) or something related to the election on Tuesday.  Of the literally hundreds of complaints that I heard this week, only two were something that I could do something about directly (noise level and a favor for another city department head on a matter concerning both of our departments).  Wow!!!  Should we all just suck it up more and put on a happy face or does something really need to change in our society?

I had wondered, during the week, if I would feel the need for a major venting session with a friend today.  I don't.  I can remember some of the irritations of the week that I probably would have complained about at the time, but only one is still annoying me.  And, I'm sure that one will fade in a few days too.  As the week went by, it became easier to tell myself to stop the negative cycle and just go with whatever was happening.  I'm hoping that this week set the habit of personally complaining a bit less about things I can't change and accepting them as they are instead.