Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Disorganization Principle

Eloise stakes her claim.
Only three weeks ago I was so confident I had at last gotten a handle on my office organization. No sooner had I finished that blog post than the forces of chaos mounted their attack in the persona of my cat, Eloise.  Every empty book shelf I proudly created, she immediately claimed as her newest roost.

I'm not defeated, just delayed. I am not so weak that I would permanently keep empty book cases for the amusement of one cat. I'm not. I'm not. I'm not.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What's In a Space?

Jack and Eloise lounging in the office window on the day bed.

If you have a home office or studio you might face this same dilemma: can I justify the extra overhead of a "real" office or can I make my home space work as I grow my business. This week I've been reminded of the importance of work space when I determined to tackle my dysfunctional home office before deciding if I can stay or if I must go.

  • The first thing I had to do was re-establish the primary use of this room of mine: Office, not pet retreat, not daughter's online retreat, not husband's extra library space. I might be a book designer but that doesn't mean I want my office crammed with books that have nothing to do with my business. Everyone else in the household had to remove their belongings or risk me doing it for them. I channeled my inner-tyrant and shockingly it worked.
  • The next thing I did was figure out what wall I wanted to face. I sat in my chair and turned in every direction until I felt most at ease and--voila--I had my furniture arrangement. One of the advantages of a small space is you have limited options once you place your desk. I'm calling this an advantage because I believe in the old adage of making a virtue of necessity.
  • I also realized I could make due with a smaller desk and so freed up some just plain open space to make me feel more comfortable. Ah, the widening horizon...
  • I further realized that while I didn't have time to clear away all the clutter in a permanent fashion, I could at least banish much of it to the attic or basement. OK, out-of-sight-out-of-mind isn't the best adage in most situations but in a pinch it can work for home office dwellers. I'm much less oppressed by boxes of paper up in the attic than surrounding my desk. Filing be damned.
  • Next up is a new coat of paint, but for now I've simply decided on the color. I want the weather a bit warmer before I spend a day with open windows while I paint. But at least I can imagine painting this room and I think I know the color scheme.

I'm feeling MUCH better and more productive. Now I just have to decide if home and work can continue to mix as easily as they have in the past. Right now the allure of separating work from home is about as strong as the compulsion to keep work at home.  I'm so accustomed to designing with a cat on my lap and a dog at my feet maybe I'd become dysfunctional if I moved. up psychological clutter. Anyone have a spare attic...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Too Many Hats

Suddenly, the film score to "The Dark Knight" came on my Pandora feed and I realized—officially—I am wearing too many hats. I'm not sure what it is about that melodramatic orchestral music that brought about this epiphany, but there you go.

I suppose what finally made me snap was when they followed it up with the James Bond theme. Who do they think I am? For that matter, who do I think I am?

My official to do list for this week (when I am not teaching because it is Spring Break):
1. invoice clients (well, duh)
2. finish 3 e-books
3. figure out once and for all  (there's a week's project on its own)
4. get teenager through standardized test week at her high school
5. finish up 3 other small press projects for Mudminnow as well as Thimbleberry Press (I know, being a partner in two small presses is just asking for it)
6. get back to work on that long-put-off third issue of Further North (I know you thought I'd given up but oh no, not me)
7. prepare to go back to teaching next week (when it is no longer Spring Break)
8. make more useless to-do lists that will go uncompleted...

but ahhh...the tunes just switched to The Temptations "The Way You Do the Things You Do." That's more like it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What's that a key to?

Every key I found in my kitchen what-not drawer.
Without going all metaphysical on you, what becomes of all the keys in your life? If, like me, you've moved a lot, bought and sold vehicles with abandon, never thrown a key away for fear you will need it the minute you take out the too might have a bowl like the one pictured above.

This is such a common human frailty it must be psychologically significant. Fear of being locked in? Fear of being locked out? I simply thought I was tidying up when I pulled this mass of metal out of the drawer next to my stove, but once I'd done it I couldn't bring myself to throw any of them away. In fact, the bowl is still sitting on my counter (so much for tidying up).

For me it's a question of physics as much as metaphysics: Keys are so much more substantial in my hand than a ticket stub or a rubber band that I can't cavalierly toss them out. Weight equals value, at least in my domain.

So I'm thinking I'll relocate these keys to the basement where they can join the cans of nuts and bolts we inherited when we bought this house. Eventually, I might have a critical mass of metal worth salvaging.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Watching the Bird Watchers

Bird watchers outside the Portage Lake District Library on Dec. 23.
A young snowy owl paid Houghton a visit last Friday. I never would have known except for my impromptu visit to Portage Lake District Library where a small group of dedicated bird watchers had gathered to witness a natural drama playing out. People inside the Portage Library had seen the animal fly in and the call went out: An immature snowy owl had migrated south and landed on the frozen canal where it was being relentlessly pestered by crows.

An overpopulation of snowy owls this year has caused more young birds than normal to migrate down from the tundra in search of food. Whether this owl was exhausted, starving, or simply unflappable I can't say but it held its ground (actually, ice) no matter what the hopping, swooping and noisy crows did to scare it off.

It was a gorgeous animal and it was a thrill to watch it through the powerful viewing scope one of the bird watchers had set up along the Portage Lake Canal. With the unaided eye the bird would have been overlooked as a small mound of dirty snow. Viewed through the high-powered lens its white and speckled feathers looked soft and ruffled slightly in the wind. One librarian told me earlier that same day she had watched otters crossing the canal from the Hancock to the Houghton side, sometimes frolicking over the ice, sometimes diving in the water. Apparently, the library is a great place for animal watching of all sorts.

I know owls are predators, but seeing one lone creature surrounded by four, and sometimes more, excited crows was unnerving. The wind was cold and the snow was getting heavier when I left, turning my attention back to Christmas errands and letting nature take its course.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Be What You Are"

I really don't know what made me pull this album from the shelf and put it on the turn table today but it was an inspired choice. Nostalgia has taken me back to the Staple Singers 1973 album, Be What You Are. Despite racial strife, the Vietnam war, and the "Cold War" the mood I remember from my childhood was largely upbeat and optimistic. Not sure how much of that is due to personal circumstances, and how much is due to musicians like these.

It's hip to be cynical because it's safe. Afterall, people always disappoint. No surprise there. But the art, whether literary or musical, that drew me in as a girl and still does today is never about tearing down. A poet I knew in graduate school once told me she couldn't do that "epiphany thing." Apparently, I can do nothing else. To each her own.

My epiphany of the day is that even though I'm about as far from a gospel singer as you can get, when I'm writing poetry one of the voices in the back of my mind is Mavis Staples. I couldn't ask for better company.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Spend the New Year with Jack!

In time for holiday gift-giving, we've created a charming wall calendar filled with images from the first 4 issues of Adventures in the U.P. Kids (and any dog lovers on your list) will love it.

Click on the image below to preview the calendar and if you'd like order it directly online to be shipped anywhere in the U.S.

Have a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year.