December, 2015

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Planners and Practices – Changing Perspective

Monthly view calendar filled with stickers

Though I have been using the Planner Pad for a while now and I like it, I generally feel bad because I do not follow the Planner Pad system.  So, I love the lay out, and it keeps my information where it needs to be, but it doesn’t help me get things done like it should.

As with many other systems, the Planner Pad worked for me, until it didn’t. Some of the problem is my own lack of discipline. Some of it is that there is always one aspect of a planner that works great for me, but some other aspect that requires me to develop a personal work around. Some of it is my intense love of getting organized (searching for new planners), and my perpetual inability to stay organized. Yes, I am a bad Virgo. I love the big clean, and hate the daily  maintenance.

You know where this is going, right? Of course you do.

About a month and a half ago, I ordered a new planner.  Actually, it is a note book, The Spark Notebook.  There are no dates printed in it, and it is built for six months at at time. New for this year, the company is doing a planner as well, but I wanted to try out the system on a shorter basis first. Before I start this little review, I should note that I paid for my notebook and am not receiving any type of compensation for this.

Part of the reason I opted to try the six month notebook as opposed to the planner is that the Spark Notebook focuses heavily on goals. In spite of all appearances to the contrary, I have never been much of a goal setter.  I’ve been content to walk the paths life sets me on, because it has always seemed that when I try to make my plans too specific the universe comes along and sets me down somewhere else.

The notebook starts out yearly planning by inviting you to develop a theme for the year.  Perfect for me since I started determining my word of the year. After the yearly planning pages come the monthly pages that include goal setting, a challenge, and a monthly view.

Monthly goal setting page and 30 day challenge page

After the monthly pages comes the weekly pages. Opposite each weekly goal setting page, is a page with a writing prompt and blank space.  Where you can either answer the prompt, or use the space as you need.

weekly goals

The next two pages are for the weekly view.  (I LOVE this weekly view.)

weekly view of a blank planner

The reason I love this weekly view is it gives me the structure I need, but also  the freedom to do what I want within that space. In fact, this is the primary reason I am currently so happy with this notebook.

At the end there are also notes pages, which you can use for whatever you like.

After using this planner for a full month, I think you can tell that I like it more than just a little.  I still need to work on my goal setting skills.  I didn’t quite accomplish everything I’d hoped in December, mostly because I am patently terrible at working from home. I love the monthly challenge part though!  I set myself three challenges this month, and then used the monthly view to track my progress.

  1. No coffee – round flower-style sicker
  2. No candy – star stickers
  3. Be nice to the DH – heart stickers

Monthly view calendar filled with stickers

Okay, so I wasn’t perfect at all of them.  We all have our cranky days, and I was pretty good about the candy until people started sending it for Christmas presents. Just go ahead and count those flower stickers though, yeah – you got that right.

31 days with no coffee!

Don’t worry, I didn’t go completely mad.  I’ve been drinking tea, so I was getting caffeine from somewhere. My primary tea has been Twinnings Lady Grey, which has a pretty mild caffeine level. Why would I do such a thing?  Partly, it was just to see if I could. Mostly though, it was about really enjoying coffee again when I got done. Yes, I am making myself a cup first thing tomorrow morning. Yes, I will be enjoying it like Ally McBeal. (Go watch that video. Sorry, for the weird sped up dialog. I couldn’t find a better version.)

The funny thing is that the no coffee this month has been the easiest challenge, though I expected it to be the hardest – even with the tea to help me. The only time I really wanted a coffee was when I would go shopping.  I usually take a cup with me, or pick on up at our Target Starbucks, to sip with I wander. The other surprise is how good I felt after only a week or two. Sure, some of that was from the no candy thing too, but to be honest I did a lot of filling in with muffins, cookies, and donuts. I was still getting way too much sugar. (Can you guess one of my January challenges?). My few days of eating candy again in the last couple of weeks have left me feeling pretty lousy.  Apparently, not lousy enough to stop again after one day, but still not good. I am planning to continue with that for the time being.

Without coffee though, I have felt good enough to consider a full time switch for a while, or just bringing coffee back as a weekend only affair.  I am still not sure.  It will depend on how I feel after that first cup.

There are still five more months of this trial to go. Who knows if I will still love it by then?  If I will get better at goal setting?  What kind of challenges will I set for myself? I don’t have any of those answers, but I am looking forward to finding them out.


On Roxane Gay and learning to be bad …

LIttle blond girl smiling and looking mischievious

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay had been lurking around my consciousness for a while – something I knew I should read, and should want to read, but couldn’t really find the energy for. On some level, I expected to see too much of myself called out in the book. I expected too much finger pointing about the ways I am not committed enough to the movement. As someone who tries her best to do the hard work, to look for the gaps in her thinking, to own and learn from her mistakes, and to make sure her feminism is intersectional and inclusive, I worried that Bad Feminism would be about the failings of White feminism, which as a a white woman always implicates me. I couldn’t face the thought of an entire book about how I’m doing it all wrong.

Then, I watched Roxane Gay’s TED talk. Then, I went home followed her on twitter, and put Bad Feminist on my Kindle to start reading. I saw myself in nearly every chapter, and not in the way I expected. Our experiences are fundamentally different, but the places of connection were so strong for me: the early resistance to feminism, the tension between the popular culture we consume and the intellectual values we hold, the commentary and critique of film, television, and current events I wished I’d written, the escape into books (Trixie Belden was my Sweet Valley High). By the time I got to “Typical First Year Professor,” I was in tears.  This semester, man, I can’t even describe it, but if you really want to know what the last few months have been like read that chapter. I shot an email to Ouiser, who of course had already read the book, and her first response back was something about how that chapter made her think of me.

Don’t worry, I’m not trying to put Gay on the Feminist Pedestal she decries, nor do I mean to overwrite her stories with my own. It has, however, been far too long since I read a book that energized and moved me in the way this one did. Bad Feminist makes me think about the other aspects of myself where I feel a tension between who I am and what I think the requirements for that label are. In the introduction Gay says:

“I openly embrace the label of bad feminist. I do so because I am flawed and human. I am not terribly well versed in feminist history. I am not as well read in key feminist texts as I would like to be.  I have certain … interests and personality traits and opinions that may not fall in line with mainstream feminism, but I am still a feminist. I cannot tell you how freeing it has been to accept this about myself.”

Though I hadn’t labeled it as bad feminism, I also have made peace with the differences between mainstream feminism and my own feminist thought. Now I wonder, how else might it be freeing to accept a label of bad ____ in my life. What are the other ways I attempt to define myself, yet feel inadequate when I think about the expectations of the label?


I am a bad writer.

Though I don’t put “Writer” on my business cards, it is something that is central to what I do, and I’ve been struggling to claim it as an identity marker. I wrote a dissertation, but am mortified at the thought that anyone has read it. I write academic things, but I don’t ever send them in for publication. I supposedly write this blog, but am lucky to manage one post a month. Don’t tell anyone, but I even have the seeds of some fiction pieces floating around my computer in Scrivener files. I know the rules about writing everyday, about shitty first drafts, and about revision, but I don’t follow them consistently.

As I thought about my goals and set my theme for this year, much of my brainstorming had to do with the ways I needed to be a better writer.  I need to submit that article to that journal. I need to write another article for that other journal.  I need to post more frequently to this blog.  I need to give those fiction seeds some attention to see what grows from them.  But, what if all those things I need to do to become a better writer aren’t the goal.  What if instead my goal is to embrace the way I am a bad writer?  What could accepting that about myself free me from? What would it make me ready for?