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Monthly Archives: February 2013

I’d like to thank City Rail for letting me know that the trains are running late and out of timetable order this morning. I was planning to catch a train a few stops to go to a small business course today. It was very helpful to be notified that there was a problem before I even go out of bed.

Actually the announcement was not for me but it wasn’t on the TV or the radio that I heard it. The announcement was for “Customers on plaform 1” but due to the still weather I could hear the platform announcements from my bedroom nearly 1km away. One of the advantages of living up high above a valley I guess.

It was strange to get up knowing that there was a problem with the trains without having been told. I guess years of train travel and subliminal announcement deciphering have made me very attuned to what City Rail have to say. Maybe I have become a City Rail announcement sauvant (Rainman for train announcements). Luckily for me, I can now plan to catch two buses instead of the train if I want to.

Unlucky for you, I don’t have time to write the deep, meaningful and fascinatingly insightful post that I had in mind. Such is life!

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I have been trying out a new approach to organising my time. Since I am working from home, the way I structure my day is up to me. At one stage I tried to be super-organised, but that backfired as I felt stressed by the artificial constraints I had created for myself. Then I tried to be free flowing; doing what ever felt right at the time. That worked well in some ways; at it allowed me to do what I felt interested in at any given time. However I found that I tended to feel restless and agitated from constantly shifting through the options. I was having trouble winding down at bed-time as there was no clear end to the work day, and no clear idea of what I was meant to have achieved.

One area that was not quite working out was in the area of maintenance tasks, including certain housework and grooming activities that need to be done regularly but not daily. I always felt like I should be doing this or that, but some tasks, particularly the ones I don’t like, seemed to miss out on the priority list. I thought it would help to do some things on regular days; on the other hand sometimes they might not  get done due to health, weather, or other commitments.

I decided to solve this by setting aside two days a week for certain activities so that I knew I needed to think about them on that day, but if some or all of the tasks were missed, it would come around again in a few days. Saturday and Monday are Bedrooms and Vacuuming; Sunday and Wednesday are Bathroom and Floors; Tuesday and Friday are Special Personal Grooming (Spend Longer in the Bathroom days). Thursday is for Projects and Catchups. This has been working well for a couple of weeks. It takes the pressure of feeling like I need to be doing everything every day. There are some jobs that I like anyway, and they don’t need days because they get done easily.

Based on the success of this strategy for maintenance tasks, I am now trying it for my other projects. Now I have Review Days where I am going to make sure I focus on progress in specific areas. I have two days for Professional Organising, two days for Photography, two days for Selling Online, and one day for Writing and Projects. Writing is really an everyday task, whether is Blogging, Commenting or background writing. This is not to say I don’t do other things on the designated days as well, but the ideas is that at least twice a week those activities will get focussed attention. This plan is only new, but I do already feel the benefits.

For example Sunday is a day to work on Online Selling, which is really just a hobby. Its a fun thing that suits the weekend. I like to work out what I am going to sell, write up an info sheet, take photos, set up listings and review activity. Also on Sunday I find it helpful to made a list of things that I would like to do in each area of activity during the week. It is not necessarily a To Do list, but its more of a Keep in Mind list, so that I don’t have to keep going over and over possible tasks in my head. It lets me feel that I can let go of some things on any given day day, because I know their day will come. Monday is Professional Organising day, and today I managed to do a few admin type tasks which I had been putting off.

Another feature of the plan it to spend time in the morning winding up, and in the evening winding down. I try to start and end the day with “personal time” with activities that are just for me, and not overly  goal focussed. I recently started writing in a journal morning and evening to gather and let go of thoughts at bed-time, and to re-focus my thoughts when I wake up. Today this was very fruitful, as it helped me to confront some underlying issues that had been floating around in my head but I had avoided pinning down.

Of course even the best plans are open to variation. Today was hot, humid and still, so it was very oppressive inside. My plan for the day was difficult to fulfill because it was just too unpleasant sitting in front of a heat generating computer. Nevertheless, I have managed to get in some writing time after dinner, so I feel like I am back on track for today.

I recently read Destination Simple by Brooke McAlary. She describes how life can be simplified by having a rhythm for the day. A rhythm is a nice name for a routine, softened at the edges. This is a similar concept to what I have been working on for myself, although I am working on having rhythms across a week, as well as with a day. Brooke has some wise words to say about simplicity; particularly in the way that we plan and make use of our time. She understands that simplicity is not about a complete lack of structure, but a balance between structure and flexibility. She has a great post on her blog Slow Your Home called ‘T’ is for Tilting: A-Z of Simple Living. Its about how its impossible to achieve balance in every area of your life on a daily basis. You have to favour -tilt towards- a subset of activities each day depending on the circumstances. I am attempting an exercise in rhythmic tilting.

I was walking down the street a couple of days ago and it struck me how much happier I feel in my 50s than I did when I was in my 20s. When I was younger I hoped that I would be able to find a way through my uncertainties and arrive at a place where I was more confident and comfortable with myself. It made me glad to think that what I hoped would be true, all those years ago, is turning out to be the case.

I used to know someone who thought that your 20s were your best years, and the richest part of life was pretty much over by 30. He wasn’t a happy 29 year old. Youth is a special time of life, full of possibility. But for many people its not the carefree and easy time represented in the Coke ads.

Its only natural that your time of life will influence your priorities and concerns. We all have to face the hurdles presented by different phases of life. We are also influenced by the social context in which we find ourselves at each age. There are aspects of being 20 now that are different to being 20 three decades ago. But there are still many factors that link us across the generations.

I like to think that my peers are likeminded people who have similar values, regardless of age. Of course I feel an affinity with people of my generation, but there are plenty of people in my age group with whom I have very little in common. Age does not guarantee wisdom.

When I was younger I thought there was nothing more annoying than people giving me advice based on experience, or using the age card to trump my opinion in a discussion. I used to get very frustrated when I put a point of view that I knew was supported by intelligent thoughtful well educated adults only to be shut down because of my youth. I still stand by those feelings. Age and experience, of themselves, are not enough reason to believe what a person is telling you.

I don’t think its necessary to create barriers between the generations, or preference one time of life over another. We can change and grow and learn throughout our whole lives, if that is what we want to do, and put effort towards that goal. We can develop over time, and learn things that we didn’t understand when we were younger, and I guess thats what maturity means. Maturity is about how an individual expands into a fuller and more rounded version of themselves over time.

If I was reading this 30 years ago, what I would have wanted to hear was that I was on the right track. Despite the confusion and uncertainty that I was experiencing at the time I was right to hope that I would be able to start making sense of my life, and work out how to handle being me. I had good insights and instincts, but I lacked the skills and confidence to identify and use them. Good intentions and good teachers have gradually allowed me to mature as a person so that being me is much easier than it used to be. I feel grateful to my younger self for believing it was possible. I hope to keep ripening until I fall off the tree.

I have just spent about an hour trying to choose a new thumbnail image to represent me on my various online activities. I have been exploring a number of different projects which are split across a variety of websites and I feel like my internet presence has become too fragmented.

The fragmentation was intentional, to give each activity a distinct character, so that you know what to expect when to go to that website or blog. It also allows me to manage the different levels of personal information required for different activities. On the downside, I feel like I am missing out on the benefits of people knowing who I am, that its me, or how to find other things that I am doing. For example some of you are very consistent blog readers that have made a connection with me, but may not realise its the same me presenting something in another forum. If you wanted to buy greeting cards, or use my professional organising services, you wouldn’t know how to do that.

In the interests of greater cohesion I am working on having a single thumbnail and public name that I can use across all venues so that you can know its me. I am aiming for distinctive and appealing image that looks good in thumbnail, and a unique and recognisable name. I don’t have a photo of myself that I really love, so I am going with an image that I have taken myself. That way I don’t need to feel stressed about my picture being everywhere.

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The image I have chosen is of colourful tulips which I took in the gardens at Niagara Falls last year. It relates to the image I have been using as a header on this site. It doesn’t work all that well as a large image, but as a thumbnail, it becomes a splash of colour which I think is bright and appealing.

There are a lot of Linda’s out there so  the name I am going to try out is LindaMay. For you mayandseptember folk, the May will be a little clue that its me!

I am planning to revise my personal organising website, and also possibly set up an Etsy store, so I will be able to have a unified identity across all these avenues.

I really love the images of flowers that I took in the Niagara Falls area . It reminds me of a special time on my overseas trip last year. It was Spring and there were tulips everywhere. The gardens around the Falls are beautifully tended.

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There is something very joyful about tulips. Whether they are in a formally sculptured and ordered setting, or a more relaxed and casual planting, they have a bright and open quality that makes me feel happy. I used a part of this image below, also from the Niagara Falls area, for my ImageChest Photography business card.

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I hope that whatever I am working on, it will have a bright, open and joyful quality, like the tulips. Using the tulip image will help me to remember that.

I have been quiet in the last couple of weeks due to being unwell. My health has been very good since I stopped work nearly a year ago, however this past few weeks I have been under the influence of some kind of virus that has given me low grade fevers and general lethargy. I suspect food intolerance was involved too, but you don’t get a fever from food intolerance, so there must be more to it than that. I can’t say it was too unpleasant, as the symptoms have been fairly mild, but its been enough to need frequent rests and not too much challenge.

Its strange being sick when you work from home, because its less of a dramatic change. I didn’t have to check in and explain my absence, or go to the doctor for certificates to authorise sick leave. I didn’t miss the constant need to assess whether I was “well enough to go to work” and estimating (wrongly) when I would be going back.

Being sick was a more subtle experience as it meant I spent even more time at home that I normally would, as I wasn’t able to do the many of the things that would take me out of the house. I tried to keep my hand in with a few projects, and was able to progress a few things, although I tired very quickly, and didn’t have very good stress tolerance when I encountered obstacles and difficulties. I still went through the “am I well enough” conversation with myself on a micro level, about particular projects I wanted to work on. Am I well enough to make some cards? Am I well enough to write my blog? Am I well enough to list this for sale online? I did struggle a little bit with wanting to push myself to do things when I really needed to rest and relax.

The weirdest part is now, when I am almost normal again. I feel ready to “go back to work” but there is no workplace to go back to. I am missing that part where you walk in the door and everyone says “hello stranger”. I am missing having a tangible list of jobs to get on with and projects to pickup. I am missing the people.

The work that I have been doing from home is really exploratory projects that have the potential to lead to an income, but are not yet producing enough to live on. This kind of work relies on momentum, enthusiasm, creativity, following your intuition. Getting back into that flow is very different to checking your email inbox and sifting through in your in tray. The momentum is building, but not yet flowing. I have been frustrated by the desire to do things, without the energy or concentration to see them through.

I continue to recall the advice in The Luck Factor regarding the habits of lucky people. I feel like I have a good grasp of one of the four behaviours, following your intuition. I understand being open to opportunity and turning a negative into a positive, and try to keep those in mind. The area where I am weakest is “expecting to succeed“.

One characteristic of lucky people is that they expect to be lucky. On closer examination how this works is that they behave in ways that maximise their chances of success. They put in a lot of effort and persevere to make sure they get the outcome they want. I am keeping this in mind as I am recovering my health. I am inclined to try things out without any certainty of success and there is a risk that I will underestimate the difficulty and give up too easily. Getting back out there to sell greeting cards and promote my professional organising business feels daunting as I regather my strength and focus. But I remember how much I was enjoying it before I got so rudely interrupted.

Since I have started making cards from photos I have been looking for a reliable supplier of prints who will fulfill my photographic dream, or maybe I should call it my “ideal print procurement process.” Photographers may not be surprised to learn that this has been a difficult process, and I still haven’t arrived at an optimal solution. The dream is:

– Edit and enhance photos at home on my computer

– Upload selected photos to an online ordering system that allows me to save them in sensibly named folders or albums

– Select from the album the photo I want to print, the number and other requirements such as size, paper etc.

– Order and pay online.

– Pick up the photos at a handy local supplier, or have them delivered to me in excellent condition.

– Open the packet to find beautiful images that are exactly what I expected, and the same as last time.

You are laughing now aren’t you. “How naive”, you are saying to yourself. Because you know that is not what happens, and may never happen. What happens is:

– The place that produces the best prints so far posts them in filmy envelopes and they arrive damaged. Packaging does not improve despite my complaints.

– The place that is the closest to home where I can order online and pick up up easily produces photos which are blurred and a strange and unappealing colour compared to the prints I like.

-Another place thats a bit further from home, but allows online ordering and quick turnaround at a good price, produces images that are dark and flat, and their gloss paper isn’t very glossy.

– A fourth option that is a bit further from home produce sharp images, although they are very light compared to all the other places. They don’t have online ordering so I would have to take images on a USB stick and do all the ordering from the kiosk in the shop, and wait around while the are developed.

Things I have learned to far:

– The image on the screen of my computer varies from the colour of the final print, so that needs to be adjusted for in some way.

– Different professional printing machines have different characteristics and its futile to persist with a provider that has equipment that doesn’t meet basic needs eg sharpness and overall colour cast.

– Enhancements that look fine on the screen can have funny effects in a print.

– Sometimes when you convert colour photos to black and white, if they are not fully “desaturated” a little bit of the colour remains which can seep into the print. (Actually I quite like the effect).

– El cheapo online companies don’t put enough effort into customer service.

– Being able to talk to people who understand digital prints is important, but it costs more.

Well I feel better now that I have shared my tribulations with you. I think I need to get a better photo editing package for the iMac as the standard iPhoto is too limited. I need to be able to improve targeted areas of the image without compromising other areas. This should reduce the washed out sky effect I get from trying to reduce shadows by lightening the whole image. I think there is software available that helps to convert the image on the computer to what it would look like in a print, and maybe I can try that. I am looking into the affordable Pixelmator at the moment. Not sure if I need to go to the full extent of buying Photoshop, but maybe I will regret being a cheapskate down the line.Then I need to find one place capable or producing sharp images with a nice tone that has helpful humans who can help me get prints right and repeatable.

I am working on the assumption that I need to get the photos produced at a shop, rather than print them myself at home in order to achieve the sharpness and overall quality that I am looking for. I don’t have a photo quality printer, and I am assuming I could not get something compact for the home for less that $1000 that would be good enough to produce prints for sale on high quality greeting cards. If I am wrong about that – please feel free to let me know. In fact any tips or commiserations from generous and kindhearted souls would be welcome in the comments!

This is one of the images I have been having trouble with. On my screen, the shadows in the bottom right have been lightened sufficiently to be able to see the details of the paving stones. Some prints do replicate this effect, but most turn it back into a big brown smudge. Some prints make the green of the boat very vivid, but they also makesthe river very yellow, and I am not sure if the Seine ran like a river of gold.

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Wishing us all saturated blue skies, and pleasing detail in the shadows!

I have been spending some time mooching about in charity stores looking for underpriced collectables to see if there is anything worth buying for resale. Theres a lot of very ordinary stuff out there, but in amongst it are some things that catch my eye. When I scan the shelves looking for something distinctive one category that stands out to me is handmade pottery.

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When I talk about pottery, I mean handmade pieces that  were created in the last thirty years, possibly even the last 10 years. I love the colours and textures of pottery. It has a happy, homey feel to it that makes me want to touch it and look at it. Its just nice to be around.

Now I don’t want to be too controversial here, but I would hazard a guess that fairly recent handmade pottery is not fashionable just now. In fact, I am going to be bold and say that I suspect its “out” or even “uncool”.

A beaten up old factory made mixing bowl from the 1960s would be cool. But a set of handmade mugs individually turned on a pottery wheel in 1989 probably aren’t. In fact I feel a little guilty buying hand made pottery items at the checkout. I might as well be buying a Barry Manilow record.

Thats the sad thing about the fashion cycle. If what you like isn’t popular, there is a cringing embarrassment involved in admitting that you like it, or even used to like it. I still have two Barry Manilow records and I used to listen to them all the time.

It saddens me to hear people talking down artists they used to love when they were younger to prove that they “cool” and up to date. It seems like a betrayal, of their younger self, and of the artist. People who were highly successful become the butt of cheap jokes once they slip out of popularity. Its not possible to be on top all the time, as tastes change and energies move in different directions. Its also natural for the value of collectables to go up and down. But just because something has lost commercial value, does not mean its inherent qualities should be devalued or deprecated.

In an age when cynicism is valued above naivety, its not cool to like things that are bright and happy and bring a smile to your face. Oh well, I am already uncool on so many levels, I am just going to give in, and enjoy my pottery while I listen to Barry Manilow.

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