Sunday, July 13, 2008

On Why I'll Always Need My Own Room

Manager Mom has a blogapalooza up that asks her readers to share their workspaces- or rather, their intellectual sanctuaries. She asks, What's your intellectual sanctuary? Where do you go to do your thinking, working, and writing?

This is my office. It’s the before/messy version, but the clean version looks pretty much the same. Sometimes I sit at the desk, but usually I get under a blanket on the couch, even in the summer. I wake up, stumble to get coffee, then plop on the couch, read my RSS, start the day’s blog post, do emails, check my daily websites, etc. It’s hard to get to work on time, but I do my best work in the morning; I always have.

The tall bookshelf holds thinking/artsy things: creative books, old journals, my old college writing and books about poetry and linguistics, colored pencils. That's a purple yoga mat, but I never do yoga; I was just doing sit-ups where no one could see me.

This room is definitely less office and more sanctuary. Almost everything that is purely mine in this world is in this room. Ever since high school, I have always needed a place to be alone and think and read and write. I’m social, but I also need time to decompress, which consists of this routine: sit on my bed, stare at my bookshelf, think, maybe write a little in my journal, stare some more, pick up a book and read, sleep a little, then go back out and be social. I need at least one day a month to recharge like this. If I don’t get it, the whole show breaks down.

I still have time in my life to do this, although I rarely read because I blog so much. (These little posts actually can take a lot of time. The Bartlett Farmers' Market post took almost an hour and a half because I had to put up pics on flickr, find links, etc.)

Now that I’m married, I can’t make my bedroom my intellectual haven, but we have an extra room I turned into an office. It has a little couch, a big desk, a bookshelf, 2 short bookshelves, and, unfortunately... a dresser and clothes rack full of clothes. There’s not enough space in our bedroom to store both of our clothes, so mine are in my workspace; that's why you see sunscreen and a razor to the left; this office is also a closet. That’s a bother because the office is prone to clothing explosions, but that’s OK. I’ve said before on Manager Mom’s site (when we had to list random things about ourself) that I like to have all my things in one place where I can see them, because if I don’t, I forget about them.

I do have one bookshelf of photo albums and favorite books in our bedroom, which is fine, because that falls into the “old sentimental stuff” category. That does not overlap with the “stuff to do” category that all the office stuff relates to: blog, pay bills, read cookbooks, ponder life.

Speaking of stuff in categories: my brain is somewhat... busy, so my physical space needs to be organized. Things have to be with related stuff so my brain can keep track. On the 2 short bookshelves pictured to the right, I have a shelf of blog stuff, a shelf of workout/cookbooks, a shelf of teacher books, a shelf of writing books. Those 4 things are very separate for me, and having them on separate shelves reflects the way I think. The bulletin boards above the shelves also reflect categories of my brain; to the left are scraps of colors I like, plus a practical article about how to achieve goals. On the right are pictures of my niece, nephews and husband, along with the kookier drawings my nephews have done. Basically, this office/sanctuary is the physical representation of my brain.

And that’s why I’ll always need my own room. I don’t like my stuff spread out all over the house because I forget it exists; then, what’s the point of having it? I like it all where I can see it and use it. If I don’t use it, it’s in the way, so I throw it away. That’s good management, if you ask me. For so many reasons, it’s best for all the people in my house (me, husband, dog) if all my crap stays in one place. That year we lived in Norwalk, my stuff was in the basement room we never used... and my life was terrible. I couldn’t function without all my writing materials in one place. Not just writing materials, but all the thinking and organizing materials that you now see in this office.

This is the first time I’ve ever had an “office,” but in a way, it’s like all of my old dorm rooms and post-college apartments. Even if you have a common room, all your stuff stays in your room. I often nap on this little couch, so it feels a lot like I have my own “room,” not just office.

I’m actually not satisfied with my workspace right now; even after I cleaned up all the clothes and yoga mat you see in this pic, it still feels cluttered; this place is going to get a major purge sometime this month, but it will take time... most of this stuff I do use, and what I don’t, I’ve kept for years, so I’ll have to think hard about what to get rid of. I like doing that, because it's a way to stop and reevaluate my life. I have to think about what I realistically do nowadays (tutor the SAT) vs. what I'll probably never do again (knit). I have to ask myself, Should I keep all this old choral music? Will I ever sing Bach and Faure again? (Maybe.) Will I ever read the book Procrastination that I've had for years? (Probably not... but I'll probably keep that one anyway, because it just feels right.) Dealing with this room is really a way of dealing with myself, and I adore myself, so it's a lot of fun for me.
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Monday, July 7, 2008

Fancy Pancakes of Summer 2008

I made fancy pancakes twice on my Mississippi trip; these pancakes on right make up for the crappy ones I made a few days earlier. Can you identify the six figures in these fancy pancakes? (Answers at end of post. Hint: top left 2 are from a children's book.)

The crappy pancakes were made with my 10 month old niece on my hip and my nephews bickering nearby. Even after I turned on Nickelodeon for them, it was tough to create American flags, trees, horses and airplanes while carrying my niece. I didn't take a picture of the bad pancakes because I was trying to fairly distribute the pancakes while monitoring the baby playing on the kitchen floor. Plus, I was flustered at my poor baby-sitting skills.

Read below for 7 fancy pancake-making tips:

  • A tablespoon is the best tool for pancake art.
  • You have to have confidence to make fancy pancakes. When the batter starts dropping, you have to go for it. Have the image of Clifford the Big Red Dog in your head so you can make the front half, then quickly dip the tablespoon in for batter to make his back half. Save just enough for his tail.
  • You've also got to keep your designs fresh. Think outdoors, think TV, think holidays, think letters, think shapes, think astronomy.
  • The batter can neither be too think nor too runny. Skim milk is fine to use.
  • I prefer a higher-heated griddle, close to 400 degrees. The griddle is essential; its large size keeps the pancakes flowing in copious amounts..
  • For fun, add food coloring to batter.
  • Blueberries and chocolate don't work well for the complex shapes, but you could puree blueberries and mix them in.

Answers: Back, L-R: Max and Ruby (bunnies from a book with the same title), Clifford
Front, L-R: Dinosaur head, star, monkey Click here to read full entry.

My Friend's Husband: Not a Scottish Folk Singer

I'm not sure if you have to know my friend's husband to find this funny, but I smiled when I saw on her facebook page that she was "now laughing that the local paper thinks Pete is 'Scottish'. It's the persistantly red beard. Well, and he did perform Scottish songs this weekend." Her husband is British.

Do you find that funny? I do. I think if you know any Brits, you know how they might react to being called Scottish. Are you laughing now?

The line in the local paper says, "Music was provided by Scottish folk singer (and Ashland University professor) Peter Slade and the Mansfield Dulcimer Players." I actually covered my mouth and laughed when I read that. Scottish folk singer!

I love thinking of people having a hard time with Pete's accent. Pete is not exactly what I'd call easy going, so I giggle when I imagine how irritating it must be to have no one be able to properly identify him.

Another case of misidentification: At church, Pete said, "Hi, I'm Peter." (Phonetically: Pitah.) A woman shook his hand and kindly said in a Southern accent, "Nice to meet you, Pizza."


I swear, an English accent wreaks havoc in non-cosmopolitan areas.
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