Dec 082010

I’m still thinking of you and the blog and everything, only it’s December, what can I say.

My ta da-list for today so far (that’s what you already have accomplished):

  • went to the health food store by car so I could get to the bigger one

  • bought a small loom for my son as a Christmas present

  • bought eyes for Sheldon

  • bought beer and juice

  • went to the post office

  • untangled my MILs cell phone trouble

  • ordered photo calendars for all the

  • ordered Christmas presents for my sister and my brother-in-law

  • taught two students (two canceled)

  • knitted on my husband’s mittens for half an hour

now all that’s left to do is:

  • teach two more students
  • somehow manage to make Star Wars-themed birthday party invitations
  • relax
  • write half a story for tomorrow’s writers meeting
  • get off overdrive
  • have a beer and knit some stockinette in the round
Oct 072010

That’s what being back to school does to you, all of a sudden you do things almost on time. I hope this goes on for a while, about a year would be nice, and then it could start all over again.

I find that these “happiness reports” depend very much on how a feel in the moment I’m writing them. Which is what everybody will tell you, that happiness is fleeting and can’t be fabricated. But I still think there can be a thing like lasting happiness, and no, I don’t mean contentment.

Yesterday I had one of those dreary teaching days where I felt that every student was slow, and clumsy, and a waste of time, and then I remembered one of Gretchen Rubin‘s mottos, “Act how you want to feel.”, and I was so successful in telling myself how much I enjoy teaching, and what nice and brilliant students I have that by the end of the day I was positively beaming.

Now you might say, “But those weren’t you’re true feelings!”. I have to confess that I’m not that sure about feelings being true at any given moment any more. With all those hormones racing around in my body, and with things like being hungry or tired making such a huge difference it might be hard to get to the bottom of a situation. Slowly I understand what buddhists mean when they say that feelings aren’t permanent, and ever changing. I have days when something tiny like taking a nap or reading something or deciding to act how I want to feel can turn my whole day around. So, since it’s possible to do that why not use it to my advantage. And in my case I had the additional advantage that my students are really lovely people, and so I know that it’s me when I feel like I can’t stand to hear another mangled version of a tune that’s not that great to start with. I don’t complain, I know that comes with the job. When you’re teaching people how to play an instrument you mainly sit there all day and listen to people play things they can’t play well yet. And every time they master something you go on to the next thing.

I only have to remind myself to sometimes listen to some music that’s played by a master to remind myself where we’re all going with this.

But back to my report. As you know by now I made yet another list of things that I want to change in order to become a happier person:

  1. Go to bed on time.
  2. Pick up after myself.
  3. Write 500 words of fiction at least six times a week.
  4. Think about the things I love about my family, students, and friends.
  5. Exercise three times a week or more.
  6. Play the piano every day.
  7. Wear clothes that make me feel good.

Usually I add something to this list every month. But this month I didn’t. I’m still thinking about the part where my mood is bad because of hormones. It’s now definite since my mood has been much more stable while I’m on chemical birth control. This is not a permanent solution since I have no desire to have a stroke in the near future but it helps isolating the problem.

  1. Now for the part where I tell you how I did. There’s no surprise there, I’m doing mildly blah again. Still I feel better for trying:
  2. Going to bed on time hasn’t happened much but as long as we were still in summer break I managed to get almost adequate sleep. It’s still the same, every day I have slept enough is much better than the ones I have after only six or seven hours. For the past few days I managed to go to bed almost on time, a step into the right direction. I’m also giving myself stickers for that again. (So far: 2 stickers in 8 days. There still is room for improvement.)
  3. I have been getting much better at picking up after myself, and my husband just told me yesterday that he has the feeling that housework is currently divided equally between us. That is great news, Finally some improvement. Of course, right now I’m sitting here typing while he is cooking…
  4. The writing of the fiction hasn’t happened. But again I managed to write today and on Tuesday. I’m hoping to get into the groove again.
  5. The exercise has happened. Not exactly three times a week but at least two times. I also have been going to the pool twice already so that my son can work on his swimming skills. The first time I even managed to swim a few laps in the kid’s pool. There have been an astonishing number of times when I did my walk/run-routine for an hour or more. And I can proudly tell you that I can now not only climb stairs again without getting out of breath instantly, I can even run them up if I want to catch a train, then jog about 50 meters, and all of that without keeling over or thinking I’ll die the next minute. That thing alone makes me very, very happy.
  6. There was no piano playing whatsoever apart from what happened while teaching, I’m sorry to say. But my husband and I played a couple of songs in front of an audience, and learning how to sing a new song and performing it with my husband made me very happy. I’d like to do a little more music with him in the near future. Without going back to trying to emulate a cover band if possible.
  7. Buying new pants has made dressing much easier. The funny thing is that I bought both pairs a size too big. They don’t really look all that great but the comfort of un-pinching waistbands is almost worth it. One of these days I’ll even make myself a new denim skirt. I love wearing my corduroy one. The only thing I haven’t solved yet is how to wear a skirt with leggings and woolen socks while teaching without looking ridiculous. I don’t wear shoes indoors and I have yet to find a stylish slipper-boot. Maybe I’ll compromise, buy a nice pair of Birkenstocks and wear tights. We’ll see.

The other thing I have been doing is to think about the way I eat again. I have been starting to re-read “Outsmarting the Midlife Fat Cell. Of course I did remember most of what Debra Waterhouse wrote about in that book but seeing it again was very good for me. I found that some of my new habits that I started in order to lose weight were quite counter-productive. Also that I don’t exercise enough. And that my portions are way too big. The thing is, I have been going to eating frequent small meals, and drinking like a camel that reaches an oasis after weeks in the desert, and all of a sudden my weight seems to creep downwards again. We’ll see how that goes in the long run, especially since I still tend to counter exhaustion with too much food, but I’m optimistic.

So eating like a sane person who enjoys food is my new goal for October.

The other thing that I started, and you surely have noticed by now is my knitting podcast. It’s in German because there is dire need for a German knitting podcast out there. Doing it makes me ridiculously happy. Especially since people seem to like it. I have plans of doing a sort of “best of”-edition in English at some point, we’ll see when that might happen.

Phew, that was a long one, wasn’t it? Anybody else out there striving for more happiness by making rules?

Oct 052010

because I have been given a blog award. Winterkatze kindly presented it to me weeks ago, and only today did I read her post. As I usually did back in the days I tried to see where the award originated but I had to give up after being unable to find the relevant posts on several blogs. See, I was wondering why an award presented to me by a German book blogger had all these pictures of nail polish and shoes:

Well, I managed to follow it back to a couple of fashion bloggers but was unable to find it’s origin, sorry. Nonetheless there are of course rules to this award which are to tell you about ten things I like, and to name ten more bloggers for the award. I will gladly show you ten things I like but I won’t be tagging anybody, sorry, I have this feeling that I have done enough tagging for the moment.

Because I’m sadly behind with the posting of my daily picture I thought I’d combine the ten things I like with that (for the rest of my daily pictures please visit my flickr):

  1. 070:365homemade tortillas with guacamole
  2. 069:365 watching my son sleep (this was a picture he wanted me to take, he is actually posing)
  3. 068:365blue skies
  4. 067:365knitting a new hat for my husband
  5. 066:365roses
  6. 065:365beer
  7. 064:365me
  8. 063:365watching my son read
  9. P1010626fiber
  10. 062-365books

Sep 262010

Last weekend I had a case of Computer! Emergency! Panic! It came to me after a week of regular “first week of school”-panic, and on top of “first live performance in five years”-panic. Really, it was lovely.

So, Saturday morning (more than a week ago) after breakfast I went over to my studio to “just check my e-mail” which usually is code for “plop down in front of the computer and lose myself in the depth of the webs for an hour or two”, and when I tried to turn on my laptop all I got was the grey screen of doom. The second attempt got me as far as the “grey screen with blinking question mark”. Bad sign, not good at all.

That was the beginning of 2 1/2 days of me sitting in front of the machine, trying things, doing research on my husband’s computer, rushing off to get spare parts, and dismantling and re-assmebling my computer. I didn’t sleep properly in days and found that there is indeed one thing in the world that makes me lose my appetite, and that’s a computer emergency.

Now, I am a bit embarrassed that my computer is that important to me, and I have indeed contemplated going analogue again, I’m not sure – for example – if my electronic calendar is really worth the hassle; but it was my husband who got me to ponder this question even further.

Let’s face it, we might think that computer emergencies are the exception, and fortunately they are, but I find that there are enough of them to warrant a plan on how to deal with them. This past hiccup caused me to spend about a week thinking about not much else, and I had to spend quite a bit of money as well.

Granted, not everybody has three hard disk failures in four years (and I won’t get another re-furbished machine, that’s for sure) but I had them. And there are quite a few more of the smaller crises like software updates going wonky, or user error, or mysterious ailments that cause half your calendar to disappear.

So I’m making some rules for computer emergencies for myself. And I’ll print them out and put them somewhere I’ll find them again. Before I write about those, though, there is something really important to remind you (and me) of – you’ve probably heard it before – BACK UP. OFTEN. When my first hard disk crashed I lost about half a year’s worth of family photos, digital music, and some other stuff. This time I was fortunate: the computer broke the morning after my regular Friday backup. I’ve been using ibackup, and that has been the only reason that computer failure didn’t turn me into a small ball of whimper. My new computer comes with time machine, and I really hope that works. So, the rules…

… when I get to my computer and something is wrong the main rule is: remember real life first

  1. Do I have any pressing things to do like feeding my son or being somewhere else?
  2. Have I taken a shower already? Chances are that fiddling with the computer will let me lose my sense of time completely. Yes, fixing the problem might only take twenty minutes but what if it takes two days? Which it usually does.
  3. Do I have something to drink nearby? Have I been to the bathroom? Last Sunday I got so mesmerized by working on my dead computer that I only drank my morning tea and a small glass of wine with lunch. Nothing else.
  4. Is it past six o’clock in the evening? Wait until the morning.
  5. Tell my family that there is a computer emergency and ask them to come and look for me once and hour or so.
  6. Don’t panic. It’s just a device, it’s not my life.

The other thing I did was that this time when I bought a new computer I got an extended warranty. So for the next three years whenever anything goes wrong with my computer I’ll go to the nice computer shop, bat my eyelashes and say, “There is something wrong with my computer, please fix it.” And I actually bought locally because of this for once.

I could have fixed the computer in the end but I would have needed a new hard drive (which I already bought), and on top of that a new keyboard/trackpad/top case-part because I managed to break that while installing the new hard drive. And yes, one should be able to install a new hard disk in a Macbook without opening the whole computer but you can only do that when the guys who installed the last hard disk (after the first one broke) put back everything including the white tab that you use to pull the broken drive out. So I would have ended up spending another 130 € on a four year old laptop with a broken optical drive.

So in the end I got a new shiny computer which I really love and have wanted for quite some time now. But it took me almost a week to restore everything, and there are still about three programs that won’t work. Of course, I bought those years ago, and now with the shiny new computer, of course, comes a shiny new version of the operating system.

Next thing I’ll have to get my audio interface work with the computer. Wish me luck.

Sep 122010

As you might remember I made a list of projects I wanted to do during summer break. Well, summer break is over now so it’s time to look at it again, don’t you think?

  1. Actually go on vacation for about a week.
  2. “Spring” clean the whole house.
  3. Prepare knitting classes for fall.
  4. Relax.
  5. Teach my son to swim.
  6. Edit my 2007 NaNoWriMo-first draft.
  7. Paint kitchen.
  8. Learn background vocals for songs to be played at friend’s birthday party in mid-August.
  9. Learn how to bake bread.
  10. Take a picture every day and post it on the internet. For details on this you might want to check out Sue Snaps.
  11. Play the piano every day.
  12. Sing every day.
  13. Play the guitar every day.
  14. Finish spindle spun sock yarn.
  15. Spin yarn for Vine Yoke Cardigan.
  16. Try my hand at doing a knitting podcast.
  17. Renovate my blog so that it looks nice again.
  18. Meditate every day.
  19. Exercise.

Out of these 19 projects I did – eight.

  1. We went on vacation for three days instead of a whole week because those there never were more than three consecutive days without rain. We made the most of what we had. Next year we might want to pitch our tent abroad, we’ve had enough of rainy Augusts for now.
  2. There was quite a bit of cleaning and tidying of the house but there was no “spring” cleaning as such. Still, it looks much better than before.
  3. I did start preparing my knitting classes, then I got distracted, there is still one book I want to read – maybe I should just accept that procrastination and mad-dash improvisation is my style and go for it.
  4. I did relax. Yeah me!
  5. My son knows how to swim! With the bad weather I didn’t know if he’d ever learn it but then I took him to a gorgeous indoor pool twice, and he did paddle several meters without help. He still looks a bit like a poodle while swimming but he’s clearly getting there. Yay!
  6. Editing my first draft? What first draft? Oh, that draft – oops – that must be some where in that pile over there on the desk that’s buried in other piles. I didn’t even take it out once. Don’t know if that’s ever going to happen.
  7. The painting of the kitchen was only a faint hope when I put it on the list. We have to have new wiring in the old part of the house, and we don’t want to paint the rooms before that, but we still don’t have the money (or time) to have the wiring done (or even to ask how much it would cost) so we might live in these unpainted rooms for decades. Who knows.
  8. I did learn the background vocals, and performed them at said birthday party. For most of the songs I did not have a microphone because the percussion player hijacked it while I wasn’t looking, and so I could have sung anything, nobody heard me anyway. It still was fun but brought back memories of all the bad gigs I have played in my life *shudder*.
  9. Bread didn’t happen as well. I wanted to make the famous “No-Knead-Bread” but the thing is you have to make the dough about 24 hours before you want to bake it, and that means planning, and having two days in a row where you have time for baking at the same time of day. That didn’t happen. I still have the flour sitting right there on the counter, and one of these days … I did make cinnamon rolls for the first time, though. They were delicious.
  10. I did indeed take a picture every day, and posted it on the internet (not every day). I only forgot once.
  11. Not much piano playing.
  12. Not much singing either.
  13. No guitar playing at all. Teaching on Monday will be great, Mondays it’s almost nothing else but guitar. My fingers will hurt like hell in the evening.
  14. Spindle spin sock yarn is done. And it might even be fine enough.
  15. I started spinning the yarn for the Vine Yoke Cardigan even though I’m still not that satisfied with it. I spin it to what I think is the right thickness, then I ply it, everything looks great, then I wash it and – bang – it’s twice as plump as before. I think I’m getting it right this time but I’m afraid I will spin it all up and then won’t be able to use it for the cardigan.
  16. Knitting podcast is up and on the way.
  17. Blog layout is still wonky, sorry.
  18. Not much meditation happening but I did write morning pages most days.
  19. I did quite well with the exercising, have been running and walking and riding my bike.

I might have to re-think my lists and goals approach one of these days. I still have the feeling that making lists is a good thing but then looking at them to see that most things didn’t happen – not so nice. I might have to check them off more often. Or something. The summer does feel like a good one. Despite the rain that fell most days.

A thing that wasn’t on my list but that happened is that we as a family did a lot of nice things together. We had barbecues, and bike rides, and we went camping and all. That was great. And we all had quite a bit of time puttering around the house as well. That was great too.

Jul 282010

This year I will be prepared. I will have a list:

  1. Actually go on vacation for about a week.
  2. “Spring” clean the whole house.
  3. Prepare knitting classes for fall.
  4. Relax.
  5. Teach my son to swim.
  6. Edit my 2007 NaNoWriMo-first draft.
  7. Paint kitchen.
  8. Learn background vocals for songs to be played at friend’s birthday party in mid-August.
  9. Learn how to bake bread.
  10. Take a picture every day and post it on the internet. For details on this you might want to check out Sue Snaps.
  11. Play the piano every day.
  12. Sing every day.
  13. Play the guitar every day.
  14. Finish spindle spun sock yarn.
  15. Spin yarn for Vine Yoke Cardigan.
  16. Try my hand at doing a knitting podcast.
  17. Renovate my blog so that it looks nice again.
  18. Meditate every day.
  19. Exercise.

Sounds all very reasonable and do-able, doesn’t it? [Insert mad laughter here.]

Summer break starts next week.

May 242010

There are two reasons I’m thinking about packing right now: 1) I’m about to visit my parents for ten days com Wednesday, 2) through the Unclutterer website I found an article on minimalist packing last week or so.

I like to travel light as much as the next person, and I’m always making fun of people like my mother who always takes about three times the clothes I do, and ends up bringing things home that she didn’t even wear on the trip. Of course, the secret to packing light is not to mind if you look the same every day, and to have comfortable shoes that you can wear day in and day out. (Sometimes I think wearing shoes like that might be one of the secrets of happiness but this is not about shoes.)

Still, when I’ll be getting out of the door to travel my luggage will be quite a bit heavier than the one described on the minimalist blog. Why is that so?


Well, for one I’m not staying in a hotel so I will bring shampoo, and soap, and a hairdryer (a tiny one but still), I will bring an emergency travel towel (something that really comes in handy more often than you think), I will take a second cardigan, and contact lens solution, and my cell phone charger, my camera charger, my ipod charger, and my PDA charger.

Why do I need all these gadgets? Well, I won’t bring my laptop, and my PDA with its foldable keyboard is my means to get my 500 words a day in.

I will also bring more clothes than her because while I could wash my clothes while away I don’t like to do so when I’ll be only gone for a little more than a week so I’ll bring four tees, a cardigan, four pairs of socks, and four changes of underwear in addition to what I’m wearing the first day. Depending on the weather forecast I might also bring a pair of sandals in addition to my grey walking shoes, and I’m contemplating to add a pair of slippers since we will be spending quite a bit of time sitting around indoors.

I will bring a bathing suit because we plan to go swimming, I will bring a lace shawl or two, and I will bring a bottle of wine and some dark chocolate as presents for my parents.

I will bring a notebook for my morning pages, and another one for just general notes, I will bring my best pen, and a book to read, and I already bought three new books for my son to read, and I will bring a pack of Uno cards to play with my son. Last year I took three books for me but this year I decided to only take one paper book, and I have a couple more on my ipod. But I can think of a lot of situations where you don’t want to bring an electronic reading device, or where you can’t charge your ipod, or just imagine what if it falls to the ground and breaks, and then you’re stuck without a book to read.

We will have two eight hour train rides to fill, and a whole week’s worth of evenings sitting in our rented apartment while out son is already asleep.

I will also take a bottle of water or two, and sandwiches and cookies, as you do when you’re traveling with a child, and a husband who is lactose and fructose intolerant. We will also take tea, so that my mother doesn’t have to buy some that she’d never drink anyway.

And of course I will bring knitting. You didn’t think I would forget that, wouldn’t you? I already started a pair of socks who’ll come with me, and I will start another lace shawl, one that’s intriguing but not as complicated as the one I’m currently working on. I also will bring a spindle or two and 100 grams of fiber, and if everything goes according to plan I might have a nice pair of socks made from that fiber upon our return. If everything doesn’t go according to plan I will have lugged around 100 grams of fiber, a 15 gram spindle, and a set of double pointed needles.

I will also take some sheet music since my husband plans to bring both an electrical guitar and the violin with him, and since the guitar is already there I might finally get around to practice the songs I’ve been teaching my students lately. (That’s the “so you’ll have to play it this way, only much faster, and as you can see you have to look out to not make this mistake I just made”-school of teaching. In my defense I have to say that they are playing quite well.) So. Sheet music, picks, guitar tuner, and a capo.

And two yoga DVD’s. I’m not taking my running shoes though. See, I’m sensible. And I will exercise in my pajama bottoms.

And before you think I’m totally crazy I might have to add that when my husband and I went to Brazil for two months all the luggage we had were our two backpacks (one is about the size of a carry-on, the other is a bit bigger), and each of us had a second backpack in addition to that. We could easily carry all out stuff around. So, the clothes I take for ten days would be enough for any amount of time, I only would have to wash them.


We didn’t bring a guitar, though, we bought one there.

So I can never decide if I’m a light traveler or not. I try to be prepared (sunscreen, water, a hat, an umbrella, a pocket knife) but not overloaded. It’s a tricky balance. What about you? Do you travel light or not? How many pounds of knitting do you usually take? Or books?

May 192010

In my last post I entertained you with yet another one of my endless to-do-lists. Tini was kind enough to ask how far I had gotten that weekend. Well, I knew I’d not be able to do everything on that list, that was kind of the point of the whole thing. Faced with a tiny sliver of time I always make big plans to fill it. That list, last weekend’s list was big enough to make me think I’d maybe get through it by the end of this week. I would have been okay with that if it weren’t for the fact that life keeps on happening and now I have a new list that’s even bigger.

You know, there are people who do “100 things to do before I turn 40”-lists but really, I have a “100 things I absolutely have to do until next Tuesday”-list. It comes with an attached “list of things I wish to do with my life” that’s enough to keep me busy for the next two or three decades, and that has such nifty points as “write and record an album of original songs”, and “write a novel”, and “edit the first draft of a novel I have sitting in my file cabinet and get it ready to be read by other people”.

I have heard of people who are bored, I’m usually not one of them, unless you make me sit and listen to small talk for more than thirty minutes in a row. But even then I usual take out my knitting, and then I’m fine.

Back to the list:

  1. Sew a bag to hold my two new spindles: I solved this by buying two zippered pouches that are intended to keep bottles cool. They are neither beautiful nor particularly suited to the task but they are better than ziplocks and already assembled. I tested them on Sunday, and yes, they hold the spindles and fiber, the spindles didn’t break.
  2. Weave in ends, sew buttons on, and block every single piece of finished knitting that’s on the “knitting to be finished”-pile: I did sew the buttons on my new Tappan Zee cardigan. It took me all of five minutes. I didn’t want to show up at the spinning meeting with a cardigan lacking buttons.
  3. Darn socks, and other items of clothing: Very funny. I almost feel like my mother-in-law when she was getting rid of her old bedroom furniture in 1995 and there was a pair of jeans in need of mending in there that had fitted my husband some twenty years earlier. I have to say, though, that I cull the mending pile on a regular basis so that all clothes in there still fit someone in the house. Well, apart from the pair of corduroy pants that belong to me, and that are now two sizes too small. But I’m working on it.
  4. Clean the house including windows. Again, very funny. I did keep the kitchen in pristine condition throughout the weekend, though. I just didn’t cook.
  5. Sew a skirt. Nope.
  6. Finish knitting clues 4 to 7 of the Alhambra-Shawl. Knit eight rows of clue 4 on Monday morning. Haven’t touched the shawl ever since.
  7. Get enough sleep. Partial success, I did sleep enough one day, not nearly enough the next. I’m on a new, improved, and very strict “get ready for bed at 9.45 pm”-routine though. Already managed it once. (Pat on the back.)
  8. Go to spinning meeting on Sunday. And I did. And it was a lot of fun. And I spun, and spun, and talked, and spun.
  9. Bake a cake to take to spinning meeting. Did it. Just barely in time but it was a huge success, I didn’t take any of it home again even though there were only four of us.
  10. Exercise. Well, I took a long walk.
  11. Do something special with my son. We went to the toy store where he bought himself a new toy, and we went to the farmer’s market and got some greek food. We don’t eat that any more because my husband can’t have it. Since he was away it was the perfect treat for my son and me. After eating that he spent the rest of the weekend with my mother-in-law.
  12. Take pictures of all the finished knitted items. Again, very funny. The sun still has only been seen from afar in these parts.
  13. Write a story for the next writer’s group meeting. Still have to do this one, has to be finished by tomorrow. Fun.
  14. Finish doing taxes. And again, taxes are sitting here, mocking me.

All of this is not much of a problem. The problem are all the things that were on my to-do-list before, that have gotten on the list since then, and my brain going on overload because of all that.

One of my problems (and I told you about that, I know) is that every problem immediately creates a set of sub-problems and -tasks. Like my son got invited to a birthday party next week. There is:

  1. Talk to mother who invited him, tell her that he would love to go.
  2. Tell her that she can give my number to another boy’s mother so that only one of us has to make the half hour drive.
  3. Think that it might be nice to make a family outing of that. To go there by train, and spend the afternoon in a café while my son is at the party.
  4. Talk to my husband about that. He agrees.
  5. Think about the fact that we will have to bring birthday presents for the twins, think about when to get them, and what to get.
  6. While out doing errands today, go to toy store and buy presents (that was very efficient of me, most unusual).
  7. Make a note that presents will need to be wrapped but only after my son has seen them.
  8. Look up trains for getting to the party and back, and look up ticket options.
  9. Write a post-it note for my husband to put date into his calendar.
  10. Put date into my own calendar.
  11. Put date into family calendar.
  12. Hope that there is still suitable wrapping paper in attic.
  13. Make note to look for wrapping paper before going to the grocery store next time.
  14. Go and look for wrapping paper.
  15. Put wrapping paper on shopping list.
  16. Buy wrapping paper.
  17. Wrap presents.
  18. Get ticket.
  19. Get family to station on time.

And I’m sure I have forgotten something. Like telling my mother-in-law that we will be going there so that she doesn’t make plans for my son on that day.

One part that makes organizing this household such a big task is that every single thing has to be talked through with three other people. Often repeatedly. Everybody has to have every information. I should make hand-outs. Like the sheets of paper you get from the school. You know what, I think I just had a perfectly brilliant idea.

One part is that the flow of information heavily relies on a seven year old. He said to me that he needed some brown or green clothes to wear to a school event. Then he told me that he had already chosen the right clothes with the help of his grandmother. I didn’t ask her about it but just today when he was on his way to the event my husband found out that the particular pair of pants he had planned on wearing were not in his closet. That’s because they have been to small for more than a year. My husband didn’t know that. I’m the only one who has any idea what clothes my son owns, and I was busy teaching during this particular crisis.

And so it goes on and on. Tell somebody about an event, then remind that somebody about the event. The writing group I attend is organized through a yahoo group. We meet every second Thursday of the month, except when we don’t. Keeping track of dates seems to be really hard, so I’m using the group’s calendar to send out reminders for the meeting. Three days before, and one day before. But then there’s one member of the group who is not on the yahoo group so I try to remember to send her the dates through e-mail. And then there’s another one of us who sometimes doesn’t check her e-mail for ages, and so if I haven’t heard anything from her I text her.

I also talk about the meeting with my mother-in-law because I can only go if she’s free to take my son, and I talk about it to my husband, and I mark it on my calendar, and on the family calendar that’s hanging in the kitchen. I remind my husband about a week in advance, then again three days before the event, and on the same day. In between reminders he will forget all about it because he likes his head nice and uncluttered. Just like me.

And in all of this the thinking about the things I have to do takes more energy than the simple doing of the things would do, only you can’t do all the things at once, and so you have to think about them, and make lists and stuff.

I might be doing something wrong, though. What do you think? Are your lives and to-do-lists feeling as overwhelming as mine?

May 132010

This weekend is very special because – my husband is visiting friends. He’ll be actually away for 2 1/2 days. This happens about once every two or three years, and so, of course, I have made special plans. Now, a few days before he’s traveling I still hope for a blissfully empty weekend where I’ll do everything exactly as I like. Experience tells me that usually I just sit around and wait for him to come back because I’m not used to this, and I can’t sleep when he’s not in the house. But for now: hope. So I made little list:

  1. Sew a bag to hold my two new spindles.
  2. Weave in ends, sew buttons on, and block every single piece of finished knitting that’s on the “knitting to be finished”-pile.
  3. Darn socks, and other items of clothing.
  4. Clean the house including windows.
  5. Sew a skirt.
  6. Finish knitting clues 4 to 7 of the Alhambra-Shawl.
  7. Get enough sleep.
  8. Go to spinning meeting on Sunday.
  9. Bake a cake to take to spinning meeting.
  10. Exercise.
  11. Do something special with my son.
  12. Take pictures of all the finished knitted items.
  13. Write a story for the next writer’s group meeting.
  14. Finish doing taxes.

That’s pretty do-able, don’t you think?

Mar 122010

Yesterday I went to M.unich again because of my monthly writer’s meeting. I went early, as I’m wont to do, to get some errands run. I was totally set on spending money, and I had a list:

  • iPod cover
  • yarn
  • paper to print business cards on
  • pajamas
  • pants
  • map?

You know what I brought home with me? A bottle of wine and two bags of chips, and this is why.

I had added the map at the last minute because as I was looking up the way to get to my meeting (new location this month) I found that our current map of the big city had a price tag that still read “DM”. It’s been Euros for nine years now, a whole new highway has been built since then, also about a dozen new train stations.

The one thing that I didn’t put on the list was “bottle of wine”. I forgot to but I still had to buy one because I had promised to bring one, then found that for reasons I can’t fathom we had only one bottle of red wine left in the house which – while very tasty – looks like a cheap bottle of wine. And while I can tell people to “Just go on and taste it, it’s really good.” at my house, it just doesn’t look good as a gift.

So I left the house with a full wallet and the intention to pick up a bottle of wine on my way to the train station at the local health food store. Which hasn’t gone out of business, woohoo, though it had been a close call. I went in there, looked for wine, couldn’t find the one I wanted, found that all the other brands were wines we had tried and found inferior and decided to just get a bottle of wine in the city.

I hopped on the train, and made a plan of how to buy everything on my list without having to go into too many stores, and without crossing back. Just like a puzzle, like you do. First thing I went to the yarn shop. I knew what I wanted, two balls of yarn to knit my husband another hat because he accidentally felted the one I made him before. (Our son is very happy with his very cool new hat, though.) I also wanted another ball in the same color and some turquoise or so to make matching mittens. I went into the shop, looked at the shelves, found two balls of the light grey I wanted, and then I started looking for a contrasting colorway. I stood there for about ten minutes, pulling out balls of yarn and reading labels because their yarn is sorted according to color which makes finding the same yarn in different colors really slow. In the end I didn’t find a color that I liked, there were only two balls of the grey though I need four, and so I left the shop without buying anything.

I briefly thought about going into another shop for the yarn but then I came to my senses again, and remembered that that’s always what I do, and inevitably the other stores have even smaller selections of yarn.

To relax a bit I then went on to find myself a bottle of wine, and succeeded, and then – because I was so frustrated already – the two bags of chips somehow found their way into my bag. I’m really proud that I didn’t buy any candy, though, I’m trying to go candy-free at the moment, and I thought that would be a bit counter-productive. (Whereas buying potato chips is entirely reasonable, of course.)

Next I went to the apple store where I had never been before in my life, and tried to buy a case for my iPod touch to use when I’m exercising. I wanted something with velcro I could fasten on my arm or some such thing. I entered the store, and thought, “Where is all the stuff?” I only saw a lot of computers on tables, and a lot of people playing with them. I started looking around for the accessories. I also would have bought a nice little cheap lightweight external hard drive if I had seen one that had caught my fancy. After a while I gathered that maybe what I was looking for was upstairs. So I went up, and right there were things to buy. And I have to say I even did find a case just like I had wanted but, sadly, about double the price I had been willing to spend. So I thought to myself, “I’ll just buy some velcro and make myself a case out of leftover fabric.”

I didn’t really want to go into the paper store after that so I tried to find what I wanted somewhere else – and failed. And I thought, “I’ll just use that old orange paper I have lying around, who needs fancy business cards anyway.” (I know the faulty thinking in that but I thought it anyway.)

Next the dreaded clothing store. I need to replace both pajamas and pants because of the two functioning pairs of each that I have one is falling to pieces. Literally. Both my comfortable jeans and my not-as-loved pajamas have big honking holes in them, and are not really fit for wearing anymore. What bugs me the most are the jeans because I bought them only about a year ago, and they were quite expensive. Now, I don’t mind spending money on pants, especially if they fit, but this amounts to 12.9 € a month I spend on jeans. And that’s not considering that I have been wearing this pair of jeans with holes in it for a couple of months now. They are my “home jeans”.

So I decided to buy some cheap jeans instead. Nothing fits me right anyway. One thing that quickly wears out on my pants these days is the place where I always grab them to yank them up. I’ve seriously considered wearing suspenders. It’s annoying. I get up from a chair – yank. I sit down – yank. I walk a bit – yank. It’s completely automatic right now but sometimes I wonder what it would be like to wear something that doesn’t threaten to expose my underwear. So, this time, cheap jeans.

I really tried. I looked at everything. I wanted this to work. Black pants would have been fine, jeans would have been fine, pinstripes, no matter, something that fit me. You know, in the end I didn’t even try anything on. I looked at the cut of almost every pair of pants they had in there and instantly I could see why I had started buying more expensive jeans.

Next to the pajamas. Pajamas are easy. They can be baggy, they don’t have to look particularly smashing, I’m content with everything if it has long sleeves and pants, is made from a stretchy, jersey material, and is not pink or has any cute animals on it.

I’m sorry to say I didn’t find pajamas either. Everything was pink or with bows or beige or had horrible things printed on. So I thought to myself, “I’ll just buy some jersey and make myself some pajama bottoms, and use the top that I have from the pajamas I bought last time where I didn’t bother to try them on first, and now I have pajama pants I can’t even pull up properly.”

The only thing left on my list was the map. I already felt quite dejected by the consumer culture, and so I thought the book store would cheer me up. One can always find a book, right?

Well, I went all through the store, I went to the section where they keep the maps, I looked into self-help books, and novels, and life style and whatever, and I left with – nothing. Of course, this might have had something to do with the two dozen or so books I bought in the past months but then it also might have had something to do with all the heaps of “I’m a bestseller, buy me!”-books there that I don’t have any interest in reading. You can’t really browse because the things they have in stock are mostly “the book of the day”, and that’s it. When I complained to a saleswoman at my local bookstore about how few books they had there she said, “But we can get every book within a few days.” Yeah, you can but I also can get every book through the internet in a few days, and then I don’t have to leave my house (twice, once to order, and the second time to pick the book up), it’s faster, and I don’t have to spell the title for somebody, or have a debate on whether this particular book exists or not. I was polite that time (that was a long time ago), I didn’t say, “I know it exists. I could have ordered it on the internet and have it here faster and cheaper but I wanted to support local business.”

It’s also worth noting that with all the time I spent in shops clearly looking for specific things to buy not one sales person talked to me. None. No one asked me if they could help me, or what I wanted or anything. I just wandered around on my own, getting more and more frustrated.

So, what have I learned through this? I really should never expect to find anything I need in the city. Or at most local stores. I used to love to go shopping with enough money. At least for a bit. But these days I always seem to come back empty-handed.

So now I’ll have to make another list. It’s titled, “Things I have to sew:” I hope I can get around to it before my one pair of pants, and one pair of pajamas wear out as well.

Oh, and an interesting fact: I couldn’t find a map of the city in the city. Well, not the one I wanted anyways. There are very small ones without some of the suburbs, and I found one of those. (Not in the book store, not next to the other maps, though. I could have bought one of Madrid, or Hamburg, or a travel guide to Siberia. All great things to have but a map of the city? Much more practical for me.) I won’t give up though. One day I’ll have everything on my list, plus a fabulous bottle of wine.