Fun for Friday

I’ll be honest. This week sucked a**.

Luckily, there are some good things that kept me afloat. In addition to stoicism, of course.

Netflix

Thank the Lord for Netflix. I was literally ordered to bed by my doctor on Tuesday. In between various feverish deliriums, I was able to watch:

  1. Russian Doll–Dark, but GREAT. I can’t get that song “Gotta Get Up” out of my head. If you’ve seen the show, you know why.
  2. Grace & Frankie–When all cylinders are firing, this show is a riot. Not all episodes are winners. But the characters are lovable, particularly Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Sam Waterston. (Weird unrelated tidbit–Brianna looks and acts exactly like one of my college friends; I will call her SK. To the point that I am wondering exactly when the actress actually met SK. Because, it’s an impression and it’s freaking me out.)

Brianna

Nordstrom

After decluttering and organizing my closet last year, I realized I had an oversupply of some items (mostly dresses) and some major deficits. Like slacks. I didn’t have any that weren’t under five years old. So I bought two pair online. One is a pair of black pleather leggings. I know what you’re thinking–random!–but my “meeting clients” outfits are classic, with an edgy twist. I also ordered a pair of Boden black twill slacks. We’ll see how they perform. Finally, I ordered a cashmere turtleneck (my office is COLD) and another pair of Uggs, because my work-from-home outfit consists of Uggs, turtleneck, vest and yoga pants, ha! My other Uggs, by the way, are from 2007, and still in good shape.

Go Fund Me

This one is serious. I’ve been amazed to see up close and personal how effective this platform is for helping those in medical need, especially those with insurance gaps. Yay technology, this time!

 Cold Refrigerator Water

I have to drink a lot of water to get rid of this virus, and it’s so much more pleasant from the spout inside the refrigerator. Somehow, cold water tastes better than lukewarm tap water.

My Daughter

You guys, my eleven-year-old daughter woke up early the last few days and made scrambled eggs, toast and waffles for herself and her brother so I could rest. This morning, she made Trader Joe’s chocolate croissants. She proofed them the night before, and glazed them with an egg bath, and got up early to pre-heat the oven, then baked them. I cried.

Any fun things keeping you happy during this cold and dark February?

 

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Final 2019 Goal Potpourri

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I’m finally done mapping out my goals for 2019. Here are the final categories.

Career

I co-own my own business, which I started with a business partner almost two years ago. The biggest advantage of being a business owner is quite a lot is under my control. But obviously there are elements–like the economy for example–that are not.

Because of this, I try to create one career goal that is under my control and one that might be a stretch. One of my goals is revenue related (sort of / not really under my control), and one is a goal that is pretty doable.

I won’t specify my revenue goal here, but for purposes of documentation:

xx Monthly Run Rate by End of 2019

Get one feature story in key trade publication about our business

Hobby

I want to write in this space regularly, and detail more thoughtfully the value of stoicism. This should take two forms: practical tips on managing the day-to-day and more philosophically, what stoic beliefs are particularly uplifting for women. I think many women are turned off by even the word, yet there are all these key concepts that are so useful!

The other portion is perhaps communicating the values of stoicism via an Instagram account. I don’t love IG, and stopped using it a while back. But I do think it might be a good vehicle for this.

Write on site twice a week, figure out Instagram

Politics

I keep up with politics mostly through the New York Times (which I subscribe to), action-oriented sites like Grumpy Rumblings and emails I’ve signed up for. I can’t deal with the 24-hour news cycles. All those THIS JUST IN bulletins make me feel panicky and helpless. I make my calls, send my emails and donate to causes. Last year, I focused my efforts on the Kavanaugh hearing and the mid-term elections.

If I had to name it, the single biggest global issue I care most about is global warming. The messaging around it is so dire, and the impacts threaten us all. This year, I want to focus my political action on making community-wide changes. While we can all recycle and try to use less fossil fuels individually, the truth is we need to enact big changes around the world to make a difference. So I am going to work with climate change organizations.

My focus will be on trash–helping more communities (like my parents community) to get curbside recycling services. 9 out of 10 people would recycle more if it was easier, and household bins taken to the curbside weekly is about as easy as it gets.

Help more communities get curbside recycling services

Phew, that’s it! I am curious: do you have your own recycling (and composting) bins provided by your city or community?

More about my 2019 goals:

 

 

 

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A Millennial and a Gen Xer Discuss Burnout

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This mid 90s Sears portrait demonstrates the generational divide between me and my brother. Yes, that was a “Rachel” shag and no, it wasn’t a good look for me.

Like other Americans, I have been watching one article consume many media cycles this month. If you haven’t read “Burnout Generation” by Anne Helen Peterson, here you go. She has clearly touched a raw, pulsating nerve.

Her essay notes that student debt and the changing economic landscape have altered the trajectory of people in their 20s and 30s from previous generations. Millennials are waiting longer to have children and putting off buying homes. 30% of Americans used to have union jobs with pensions, healthcare and guaranteed time off; now only 10% do.

My brother is a millennial. I am a Gen Xer, and the differences between us are pretty stereotypical. He has debt from college and graduate school he’s still paying down in his thirties. He went to graduate school to distinguish himself in a crowded job market. I did not go to graduate school because I was able to find a good job without it–and my debt from college was paid off in 5 years. My brother is unable to buy a home in our expensive area, so he and his wife moved to Portland where real estate is cheaper. My husband and I bought a home many years ago when this insane market was easier to crack. While we don’t live in that same home, the equity we gained helped us to afford our current house, which we bought at the very peak of the Great Recession.

In other words, because I was born earlier, I am better off in many measurable ways. Is this fair?

Clearly not.

So I asked what he thought of the article, as his opinion is way more relevant than mine.

Me: So, you are a bona fide millennial. Although I know you would prefer to be a Gen Xer, since you love Rancid so much. Joking. What did you think of this article?

Brother:  I think systemic disadvantages do exist for millennials. College debt is higher than ever before, and millennials are facing a job force that is more hostile to workers’ rights than boomers (unions are shrinking, many fields face an uncertain future). All the while, cost-of-living increases are raging out of control, and starting wages are as slow to react to this as a snail in January.

Throw in the fact that all things look like the world is hurtling toward eminent destruction, it’s all a lot. Millennials aren’t making it up: s*** is f***** up.

Me: Do you agree with Peterson’s argument that these disadvantages cause burnout, and more specifically, errand paralysis?

Brother: I don’t think that these disadvantages mean we can’t run simple errands.

I think the reason why we don’t like making phone calls or doing things face-to-face is because we came of age in a world with easier, softer ways around those things: email, text, etc.

Even Gen Xers, who’ve all texted and emailed most of their adult lives, they had more practice doing that before alternate, more passive forms of communication came around. Take yourself, for instance: you don’t like talking on the phone, but you’ll call your insurance provider at the drop of the hat if such an act is required.

Me: True story.

Brother: I get why some errands are exhausting. I’ve made dumb mistakes like Peterson’s boyfriend, who lost out on about $1,000 because he put off jumping through s***, confusing bureaucratic hoops.

But, exhaustion simply can’t be an excuse to not exist in the world.

Also, all of the systemic disadvantages I mentioned before are multiplied exponentially for women, non-binary folks, and people of color.

Me: Very true. Speaking of which, do you think it’s worth it for millennials to challenge the status quo? Peterson indicated that burnout should excuse those infamous millennials who didn’t vote because they couldn’t figure out how to send in the darn form. Student debt is an institutional issue largely out of one individual’s control, and the way to change it is via legislation. Do you agree that millennials should make their voices heard–calling legislators, donating money to campaigns if we can and volunteering? That seems to be the only clear path to real institutional change.

Brother: I think Peterson’s defense of the infamous millennials who said voting is too hard is wrong, and I think that’s far from the reality of what most millennials are doing. In the age of Trump, millennials are learning how to make themselves heard through their legislators really quickly. In the past two years, I’ve never seen so many of my peers call on others to get in touch with congress/representatives/etc, march for what’s right, even fight white supremacists in their streets.

Some have even decided to go into politics themselves. It’s been really inspiring. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, perhaps the most famous millennial in politics, is a great example of this. She’s trying to save the world for her generation and all those coming up behind her.

Action is the answer, and the antidote for exhaustion. That’s our only hope.

Me: What tips would you provide for millennials dealing with errand paralysis?

Brother: Resist the temptation to do nothing. I fail at this one all the time, but if we do nothing, we’re all dead meat.

Make the phone calls. Send the forms. Take the little actions you think you just can’t muster the energy for. Something that gives me some strength is this line from the late Mary Oliver poem “The Summer Day”: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ with your one and precious life?”

Amen, brother.

Other perspectives:

The Altantic: Millenial burnout is being televised

Laura Vanderkam: On errand paralysis

What do you think about millenial burnout? Are you burned out? 

 

 

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11 Ways to Keep Your Home Organized and Functional

Kitchen corner

Updated to add: The following post was inspired by this discussion, which I thought I linked to, but NOPE!

The topic of household organization seems to be currently dominated by the narrative that people need to tackle both the decluttering and organizing of their whole house ALL AT ONCE. The people who do this spend large amounts of precious time and energy, and it’s very emotional. The entirety of a person’s stuff so often symbolizes a whole life–lost loved ones, unmet expectations, the past. Once this painful process is completed, the story goes, you are done with organizing and decluttering, forever.

But some hard-won lessons have shown me that:

Having an organized and functional home doesn’t require staying up all night or crying

Caveat: being neat comes easily to me. I can’t stand seeing clutter and chaos. However, until recently I was not necessarily that organized. My style featured clean surfaces, no outward clutter and pretty rooms. But if you opened certain cabinets or my closet, it was kind of a hot mess.

My husband would rather have visible clutter than disorganized closets and dysfunctional organization.

So instead of fighting, we teamed up over the last year, and focused on making the storage areas work for our lives and needs. Eventually, there was a place for everything, and everything was in its place. We now save time and energy, for real. There’s no more looking through some pile of stuff for a karate belt, or a mad search for an iphone.

Here is our common sense approach:

1. Approach organization first and foremost as a way to improve your functionality

Don’t bother with organization systems or approaches if they are targeted to just women, if you are part of a couple. Husbands and partners should be equally as involved, invested and part of this process. After all, the home is filled with half their stuff! Skip methods that focus on closets looking twee, rather than actually improve the way you live your life.

Think about what is causing your household to waste time. Can you never find your keys or phone? Does it take you forever to pick what to wear each day? If you have kids, are they late to school because they can’t find their shoes? Do you have to wade through paper to find bills to pay?

2. Organize and declutter room by room (or closet by closet)

Keep your goal of making life easier in mind, but start in one small space, like a closet or the kitchen cabinet with your dry goods. Just tackle that one space in an hour or two, on a weekend. If the area has stuff for multiple people, handle this with your partner. Discuss the uses of each item, or category of items, as you go through. Decide what goes, what stays. Have a bag (or bags) ready, to make it easy to donate or discard. This process of removing stuff that you don’t need is called decluttering, by the way. I’m not sure that is clear sometimes!

Once you are done with that one space, you will probably feel a rush of accomplishment, and that is a pretty addictive feeling. Move on to another space another weekend, and so on. We organized most of our areas in one year.

3. Solve for the way you actually live, not the way you want to live

We all have of ideal versions of ourselves, and it can be tough to let them go. Maybe we think we’ll take up painting again, or refine our collection of baseball cards from 1996. Maybe we don’t want to give up old clothes that don’t fit us (and never will).

This is the emotional part, and it can be hard to let go of past selves. However, handling this process of letting go in a small way, as opposed to in a huge, emotional, traumatic whirlwind, is MUCH easier to bear.

3. Keep a few select items from your past that mean the most

Hardest of all when going through the kids’ closets was deciding what to do with the baby clothes. I have given most of these away to friends and family at this point, but I also kept a small, pretty mesh box with select items that I cherished the most. I see that box when I open the linen closet, and it makes me smile.

4. Don’t even bother trying to have an organized play area if you have kids under 5

We had one area of the house that was just the kids’ for a long time, and we resigned ourselves to the fact that it would be a disaster. In terms of our time and energy, that area was a black hole. If I organized all the Legos (Which takes a ton of time! There are so many different sets!) inevitably 15 minutes later they would be all over the floor again.

I actually think that a disorganized play area can lead to more imagination. Our son built complex towers and figures out of different Legos, Playmobils and blocks and my daughter staged intricate plays with the random toys scattered about. Or maybe that’s just a rationale. Whatever. 🙂

5. Use drawers as little as possible, if possible

You can’t see what’s in a closed, solid drawer, which makes what is inside somewhat invisible to your eye and mind. For clothes, I prefer open shelving to drawers. I can stack like items together, and it’s easy to see what’s what. Long sleeved shirts are stacked with long sleeved shirts, t-shirts are stacked with other t-shirts. Exercise clothes are stacked with other exercise clothes. Drawers also can get messy, and you often have to re-fold stuff. For things like underwear and socks, I prefer drawers that are somewhat open, like these wire mesh containers.

6. Display your clothes like a retailer

You want to be able to SEE your clothes, so you can quickly and easily identify them. This makes choosing an outfit more fun and makes your clothes more appealing. There’s a reason Anthropologie and Nordstrom display clothes either folded on open shelves or tables or on hangers. Again I prefer open shelving, and I like hanging clothes. Especially pants.

7. Fold your clothes so you can see them

I don’t get the Marie Kondo folding method. If you have a bunch of white T-shirts with different prints or logos, how do you know which one is which? We (the whole family) fold our laundry using the folding board method. We don’t actually use a clip board but rather imagine it is there. It’s easy once you get the hang of it, and is much more efficient. We rarely have to re-fold our clothes once they are put away. We can easily identify each item from the open shelf system we employ.

8. Kids’ closets don’t have to contain just clothes

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In a well-organized closet, everything is visible so you don’t have to waste time searching. Our son has lots of interests and activities, and we wanted to make sure his closet was optimized for them. So he has a see-through drawer for his karate gear, and a great shoe area that is super visible and holds eight pairs of shoes. There’s room for his golf bag, and he has shelves to store his coin collection binders and his D&D books. His drone has a dedicated spot.

This closet system is adaptable so we can update as he gets older.

9. Store things you love but use infrequently in something pretty with closed doors

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As opposed to clothes you want to see, and everyday items you want to easily grab, there are items that you use, but not often. For us, that is our wedding china and other family heirlooms. We used to keep that stuff in the linen closet, but it was a big huge pain in the butt to get out, and then store again. We like this buffet, which is a nice piece on its own, but also functional. And it’s near where we eat.

10. Open shelving is great for dishes, bowls and glasses

I love that we keep the dishes and glasses we use every day in open shelving. I know where everything is, and it looks tidy and orderly.  I don’t like upper cabinets with closed doors. Where is everything? You have to memorize what is in each cabinet.

11. See organization as a regular process of life

I think it’s a false narrative to claim that people never have to organize or declutter if they do it right in one go. Kids grow, and need new sizes of clothes. Every time you bring groceries into the house, the new items need to be put away. If you buy new clothes, they need to go somewhere. New hobbies attract new gear.

I think it’s better to approach organization as a habit that we keep in our lives. Maybe you tackle one area a month, like we did.

By the way, our garage needs some serious help. But we’ll get to it.

How do you stay organized? Would love any additional ideas

 

 

 

 

 

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A Stoic’s Take on How to Be Functional in a Chaotic World

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I started reading seriously about stoicism around 2013, and began applying it to my life. Last year, it really gelled.

Stoicism has made me a much more functional person, able to complete tasks and take pleasure in my day-to-day life. Some people refer to this as “adulting.” I mostly successfully navigate all my different functions: wife, mother, business owner, friend and family member.

Here are the key tenets I use every day, taken from my reading of stoicism, to be as functional as possible:

  • I think about how to be the best me I can be, rather than compare myself to others
  • I control what I can control, and I let the rest go
  •  I think about worst case scenarios–loved ones being gone, losing our home–when the day-to-day seems overwhelming. This helps put into perspective how great my life IS at this particular moment.

Our World is Chaotic and Life Can Be Hard

There are obviously real issues in our time like global warming, student debt and income inequality.  These are complex institutional issues largely out of one individual’s control, that need to change via legislation. We can and should make our voices heard through action–calling our legislators, donating money to campaigns if we can and volunteering. That is the only clear path to real institutional change.

So, yes. These major issues cause stress. But that doesn’t mean burnout or unhappiness are the end result. There are things we can do as individuals to adapt to our environment.

Stoicism was invented by ancient Greek philosophers, who lived during a pretty terrible time. Disease was prevalent and mortality rates weren’t great. Political instability was a given. The only real belief system was a fatalistic religion that consisted of gods and goddesses treating humans like play things.

Stoicism was developed to help people in ancient Greece and later Rome deal with their hectic, chaotic world. Former slave Epictetus famously taught his followers that it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.

How does this apply today? Well, we can use stoic concepts to help us control what we CAN control, and let go of what we can’t control.

Here are my stoic tips for a functional life:

  • Strive to be your best self. Use goals to keep yourself accountable.
  • Don’t waste time worrying about things you can’t control.
  • Work with others to produce action, and try to make needed change.
  •  Don’t compare yourself to others. Not your parents, not your friends and certainly not celebrities.
  • Create good habits to help you be your best self. The best technique I’ve seen is to know your tendency and use it.

What are your tips for being functional? How do you “adult”? 

 

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Couple Goals 2019: Trips Away

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Any excuse to post this picture, hands down my favorite photo of 2018. 

Last year, my husband and I vowed to do weekly date nights. We tried to do something more exciting than just dinner, so we attended concerts, movies, plays and even a wine-tasting event. We also met friends for dinner on occasion. It was fun.

We make a yearly goal together. When we sat down to think about how 2018 went, we realized that while the date nights were enjoyable, we didn’t really REMEMBER them that well. What we did remember was the few times we traveled alone together.

One weekend the two of us decamped to our local city and played tourist, staying in a nice hotel, eating in fun restaurants and attending the pretty great modern museum. We even went shopping in the fancy downtown area. Even though my husband works in this city every day and I have work meetings there regularly, it felt different to play tourist and actually STAY there.

We also went to Peru for a week without the kids (I wrote about it here). That was definitely a once in a lifetime trip that I honestly didn’t think we’d be able to manage until the kids were out of the house. But we did!

Finally, for my husband’s birthday we went to Chicago for the Laver Cup. Attending a sporting event didn’t sound very interesting to me, but the tennis was genuinely thrilling. Watching world-class players like Roger Federer play their guts out in tense nail-biting matches was one of the most fun things I did in 2018. Who knew? Our seats were all the way at the top, but it didn’t matter, as you could see everything pretty well.

2019 Goal: Go on 4 trips together

We are planning to attend the US Open, since we had so much fun at the Laver Cup. I love New York, so I will take any excuse to go there. We will probably do one local trip, maybe to wine country.

The other two, we’re not sure. Maybe we’ll visit Portland, where my brother lives and neither of us have been. Open to other ideas!

The best part about this goal is my husband is a world-class trip planner. He loves to spend time searching out deals, restaurants and unique places to visit in different cities. He’s an extremely effective maximizer when it comes to booking vacations, which works well for me.

Do you make couple goals? If so, what is your goal for 2019?

Read more about my 2019 goals:

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Friendship Goal for 2019: The Dinner Party Revival

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The friendship sphere of life is a weird place to assign goals, yet I do it anyway. Last year, I focused on broadening our connections to school parents. We hosted a number of families (both parents and kids) for get-togethers. I also organized a class-wide social event and was a room parent.

This year, I’m focusing on a different kind of social event.

Goal: Host 4 Dinner Parties

We already knocked one out, on New Years Eve. The party ended at about 12:30 AM, so yes, I am claiming it on a technicality. The theme was “Auld Lang Syne” as this was a group of old friends. We planned an old school Americana menu: shrimp cocktail, caesar salad, roasted potatoes with rosemary, London Broil and Ruth Reichl’s caramel glazed gingered applesauce cake (see photo above). My husband made “old pal” cocktails. We split the cooking and cleaning duties evenly.

What I like about dinner parties is you don’t have to worry about making restaurant reservations and if you are the host, driving and parking in a crowded urban area. With this particular group of friends, who are parents, all of our kids are also friends. So the kids watched “A Series of Unfortunate Events” downstairs together (no babysitter needed – score!) while the adults enjoyed our evening upstairs. When the ball dropped on TV, we all came together with noise makers and sang “Auld Lang Syne” poorly.

There is something lovely and satisfying about entertaining people you like. The downside is obvious–lots of cleaning, cooking and it can be stressful (what if your meal is a disaster?). But, there are also lots of ways to make entertaining easier. You obviously don’t HAVE to cook. With the current options for delivery out there, you can order all kinds of cuisine. You can also host a potluck, to ease cooking pressures. We scheduled our cleaning service for the day before, which helped us make the house presentable.

My parents threw dinner parties frequently when I was growing up, and I have pleasant memories of sitting at the top of the stairs in my nightgown, listening to the lively chatter. My mom made fantastic food, like Steak Diane and chocolate mousse–she went through a major Julia Child phase. I remember helping to set the table with fancy plates and linen, and helped prepare some of the dishes. My in-laws entertain a lot as well, and my father-in-law is the cook for those events. They have perfected a system over the years so that they can easily entertain for groups of 40 (holidays) or 4.

Other than book clubs and things like kids birthday parties, I do feel like entertaining has gone out of style for most people, at least where I live. So I’d like to do my small part to revive it.

Do you entertain or throw dinner parties? Why or why not?

Read more about my 2019 goals:

 

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