Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Developing Longterm Policies Instead of Making Annual Resolutions

January is almost over and it's time to check in and see how well you are doing with your New Year's resolutions! HAHAHA, no, I am totally kidding. It's not time for that at all. Please don't do that. In fact, I don't really make New Year's resolutions any more. As I've blogged about before, turning over the calendar year doesn't mean as much to me as my semester schedule does. That's why I keep lists of major and minor things I want to accomplish each semester rather than things I want to do "this year."

I also take advice from fortune cookies. And a band-aid.
Yes, that  fortune on the bottom left really does say "Do onto others as you wish others to do onto you."
Excellent advice, I find. 
I do, however, take the occasion of the New Year to revisit my POLICIES list, which contains aspirational items such as I do not waste food, and I take at least one day off from work each week. Ladies and gentlemen, I am not always able to abide by these policies, but I do my best. And at least annually, I reassess. For instance, due to a changing teaching schedule, I might decide I am done with work by five each evening should more realistically be I am done with work by six each evening.

In The Great Gatsby Jay Gatsby had his list of RESOLVES back when he was still James Gatz. I do not want to be like Gatsby. Things did not turn out well for him. So I thought pretty seriously about my phrasing and decided that RULES, RESOLVES, ALWAYS, and any number of similar list headings would make me feel too discouraged whenever I slipped up. I decided on POLICIES precisely because one can negotiate them. I can think of myself as a person who is done with work by six each evening even though I might need to work until eight at particularly busy times during the semester.

This might get to a fundamental personality issue. Just as some people on a diet do better with food restrictions - "I'm not allowed to drink ANY soda" - while others do better with portion control - "No seconds for me, thanks" - so too will some people do better with absolutes in terms of behavior modification - systems such as Don't Break the Chain - while I, personally, prefer policies with wiggle room.

My POLICIES list has evolved recently, too. I have started adding things I already feel good about in addition to things I want to improve. It's nice to have a written reminder of what I feel I'm doing well and what I want to keep doing well. It reinforces that much of my energy is already directed in the way I want it to go.

Next up, I will work on making my POLICIES list beautiful and placing it somewhere visible. I find these examples inspirational.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Crackpot Theories about the Cold

Earlier this month, I left New York for a week and visited my parents in California. It was 27 degrees while I was there, and in the mid 40s in NYC. At the time, I felt cheated! How dare it be colder in California than in New York? Clearly, the universe was being unfair to me in a very specific, temperature-based way!

Well, now I'm back in New York. My semester started this week, and we've been having truly mortifyingly cold weather for it, with highs in the low 20s and lows in the mid teens. I am very thankful  for the functional heat in my building, and on the commuter trains. Waking up to 27 degrees now seems like a fond hope rather than a cheat.

And I think it's possible my mind is slightly addled* from the cold? I have certainly been developing a lot** of THEORIES about it.

  • Crackpot theory the first: The "half your age plus seven" rule for dating age also applies to temperatures to be tolerated at different ages. The rule states that the cut-off for dating someone younger than oneself (and not being creepy about it) is half one's age plus seven. I propose that as a general rule, half one's age plus seven is also the minimum temperature one will be willing to tolerate on a regular basis.

    My boyfriend points out that this would certainly explain why so many elderly people move to Florida, but that babies are not particularly well suited to surviving extreme cold. To which I say, babies should not be dating. Basically, once one version of the rule is in effect, I think they both are.
  • Crackpot theory the second: Wearing horizontal stripes feels warmer than wearing vertical stripes. Trust me. Try it. 

* Sorry, students. 
** two. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Haircut song

I'm growing out my hair. It's about jaw-length now, and surprisingly, I need to get it cut just as often as I did when it was a pixie cut. This means that I have returned to my (apparently lifelong) goal of getting haircuts that make me look slightly more like Harriet Vane from the Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. 

Growing out my hair also means that I need to use a shower cap again.
My mom got me this jaunty number in black and pink for Christmas. Note the rosette. 
Remember a while ago when I mentioned that I write doggerel? Well, for the past three and a half years, I have combatted Haircut Nervousness by singing this song. It is meant to be yelled. I envision it as a screamier version of "Everybody Wants Some"  -  the Better Off Dead version, naturally. 

I’m going to be fancy. 
I’m gonna look so good. 
First I’ll get a shampoo. 
I’ll be smelling so good. 
It will swish around my ears.
It’ll feel so good.
The back of my neck will be so prickly: 
So Prickly! 
So Prickly!
The little brush thing never helps.
It’ll be okay.
It’s a small price to pay...
For a Haircut! 
I’m going to be fancy. 
I’m gonna look so good.

ASIDE: Ladies and Gentlemen, I have had several reports of Blogger eating comments. I am not in favor of this. I am against it. I will look into it and possibly switch to Facebook comments. Of course if you are reading this on Tumblr, you may disregard this aside.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Cleaning house

One of the reasons I like UnF*** Your Habitat so much is that the UFYH lady often provides step-by-step instructions on how to clean things. As someone who only recently realized that one should rinse the kitchen counters with water after applying cleaning solution, step-by-step instructions are nice. Plus, they allow me to budget my cleaning time more effectively.

My boyfriend and I share cleaning duties for the apartment. When it's my turn to do the kitchen, bathroom and laundry, I know exactly how long it will take (2.5 hours) because I've developed a step-by-step method. This is that method:

1. Gather laundry; sprinkle Comet in wet bathtub.
2. Start laundry in the basement of my building. This means I can do several loads at once.
3. Kitchen:

  • clean dining table. 
  • remove all items from kitchen counters and stovetop. Clean items and place on dining table. 
  • clean counters, stovetop, sink, and fronts of appliances and cabinets. 
  • move all items back to their places. 
  • run dishwasher if necessary. 
4. Empty trash bins from all rooms of apartment; take trash down on the way to get laundry. 
5. Transfer laundry to driers; take up line-dry items. 
6. Hang up line-dry items. 
7. Finish up any lingering kitchen tasks. 
8. Bathroom: 
  • remove all items from flat surfaces on bath, counters, etc. Clean items and place on dining table. 
  • clean flat surfaces.
  • clean vertical surfaces, including shower curtain, tile and walls.
  • scrub tub; rinse. 
  • move all items back to their places.
  • do all the mirrors in the apartment. 
9. Get laundry from basement; fold, put away and make bed with fresh sheets. 

This might look like a marathon, but it has built-in breaks in the elevator rides, and enough variation in tasks that it is at least an over-all workout and not, like, 2.5 straight hours of scrubbing or something.

Note the first: the blog One Good Thing recently posted a similar method for daily bathroom cleaning.
Note the second: I am sure we all agree that it would be inappropriate to post "before" pictures of a dirty bathroom. That will not occur.


Remember when I posted about hosting swaps and exchanges? My friend Holly has just posted about the same thing over at her blog Life and How to Live It! I think her post is a nice companion piece to mine since my methods are based on having a small apartment and hers are based on having a big house.

Plus, it's worth a read for the vicarious thrill of someone BRINGING FLUEVOGS IN HER SIZE TO HER SWAP. I have given away Fluevogs at a swap, but never been on the receiving end. If this ever happens to me it will mean I have won at life.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Know how to accept party help when it is offered

Happy New Year! I spent the night with an 80s Prom theme, wearing a giant royal blue dress and dancing with my date, Devo. It was all fun and games until, in True Prom Style, another woman arrived wearing the same dress as me. We obviously had to have a screaming hair-pulling fight, especially since it was clear she had accessorized better than I had.
Heidi's belts are bodacious; Emily has no belts at all.
Way before any of that royal blue drama, however, yesterday afternoon (LAST YEAR) as the party was being set up, I marveled at my hosts' party prep. They have a three-story house and that means that party prep for them is very different than it is for me in my small one-bedroom apartment. For instance, their kitchen exists on a different floor from where the party food would be set up. They've been throwing these parties for years now, though, and they have the party prep down to a science. A couple things really stood out to me:

  • One of the hosts, the excellent Theo Black, assembled first aid kits before the party started. This is a great idea. 
  • The other host, the equally excellent Holly Black, made pairs of post-it notes. One would say I am the Cheese Board; one would say I am where the Cheese Board goes. This meant that all the serving platters could be taken to the food tables, arranged in a logical manner, and then their spots on the table marked. After that, anybody could take the platters back up to the kitchen, fill them or refill them, and then replace them where they should go. 
Because Holly had those table spots and platters labeled, it meant that when people asked how they could help, she could tell them. My home is much smaller so that's not a strategy I need to employ, but it is certainly an effective one. Similarly though, in 2012 I realized how to say yes when people at parties ask if they can help. Here are two things I routinely tell people when they ask how they can help at parties: 
  • I show people how to buzz guests into my apartment building, and then I enlist their help in doing so. I can't spend the whole party standing by the front door. 
  • In the middle of the party, if people ask how they can help, I ask them to do a tour of a specific room and pull any empty beverage containers - recycle recyclables, put glasses/mugs right in the sink. 
Both these requests are finite, easy, and a huge help to the hosts. 

NOTE: My friend Sasha has an entire blog about party planning! It's called A Sasha Party