Monday, March 16, 2015

Tackling the Big "O" (Dream Save Do, week 19)

Today is the big day. In a matter of minutes -- no more than an hour -- I will begin the process of ruthlessly sorting the hundreds, if not thousands (well, if you were to count all the paper clips, staples, safety pins, straight pins, etc., etc. individually) of items contained in my 8 1/2' x 11' (13 1/2', counting the closet that spans one wall) office.

On one hand, I'm really excited about getting this done. Notice, I said getting it done, not doing this. I really don't want to spend one of my Spring Break mornings/days on this project. In fact, to buy even a bit more time before I begin, I stopped writing to measure the room in order to write the first sentence of this blog entry! It wasn't necessary to include the room measurement, just it wasn't necessary to explain that I measured the room in order to include the room measurement, but doing so allowed me to procrastinate righteously. As a writer, it's important that I provide clear and accurate information, right?

I really don't want to do this. This job is guaranteed to provide no excitement and plenty of guilt. Let me explain.

Several drawers contain office supplies. I like office supplies; in fact, going through my desk early each August and arranging my supplies, determining what needs to be replenished, and then adding to my stock brings me great pleasure. And I get a tiny thrill -- when I venture down the school supply aisle at Target or into an office supply store and see PostIt notes in an interesting size or a new (to me, at least) color. I can't help but pick up a pad or two to add to my stash.

Therein lies the guilt. Although I'm drawn by the interesting shapes -- I love the little "flag" PostIts, for example -- and new vibrant colors, I still prefer to use the standard 1" and 3" (I'm not going to stop to measure the PostIts, so these measurements may be off) yellow stickies. Those two sizes work well for my purposes and blue ink shows up well on the pastel background. And, truth be told, I'm saving the fun sizes and the fun colors for something special. As a result, I have quite a few pads of PostIts in interesting colors and sizes. When I open a drawer and see them, I feel bad for purchasing them or taking them (from the supply closet) when I didn't really need them and for cluttering my office.

I wish I could say it's only PostIts that I've only unnecessarily collected, but that would be a lie.

I have a host of office supplies as well as craft supplies that I've collected over the years. Every time I've forced myself to sort through them and toss some things, I've held on to far too many items, telling myself I'll use them someday.

It's time, though, to face the fact that I'm not going to use most of this stuff.

It's time to get tough with myself and clean out this office.

I'm armed for the task. A box marked "donate" and a trash bag sit in the middle of the office. Everything that can be put to use in a home office or by a crafter will go into the box and taken to the office for the community safe house for women and children before the end of the day; the trash bag will be placed in my outside trash bin at the same time.

I'm also going to prepare myself mentally. Loaded and poised, ready to be seen on another screen, is a segment of a favorite episode of "Hoarders". The episode has nothing to do with piles of office supplies stacked to the ceiling, reading to topple over and bury the homeowner beneath staples and PostIts and ink pens and paper clips. But every time I've seen this episode, I've been galvanized to clean out something, anything. It's just the impetus I need to tackle this office.

It's time to watch "Hoarders" and fill the box and trash bag. It's time to tackle the Big "O" once and for all.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Kindred Spirits

I'm a law-abiding citizen and have always highly respected those who work in law enforcement in my community. Even so, for the past seven months, my appreciation for the men and women who serve in police departments across the country has grown, and with it has come a new sense of brotherhood, for want of better word.

Oh, I would never presume to say that my duties as an educator put me in anything even remotely close to the risk that police officers face every day. Rather, the intense media scrutiny and endless discussions on social media since last August have caused me to realize that there are a few parallels between police officers and teachers.

First, some people who have absolutely zero experience in education know exactly what, in any given situation, a teacher should and should not do. The same is true of police officers.

I have seen this throughout my teaching career and wish I had a dime for each time I have been told, overheard, or read on Facebook or a in a chat room that "Mr. So-and-So should not have punished Little Suzy because there were extenuating circumstances that caused her to cheat/lie/forget to do an assignment/break a rule." Similarly, in the past seven months I have read and heard comments condemning a police officer for executing his duties as he or she has been trained and in a lawful manner. My favorite may well be the comment by an acquaintance that "no matter what, a policeman should never fire his gun at someone more than once."

Second, those who are critical of teachers are most vocal. The same is true of police officers.

Yes, some parents and some students do express their appreciation for the teachers in their lives, but any educator whose been on the job more than a semester will surely attest to the fact that people are far quicker to complain than to praise. If you've watched tv, read a newspaper, or frequented social media recently, you know that criticism and condemnation of police officers overwhelmingly outweigh accolades being paid.

Last, despite the fact that they could do the job better and will boldly say so to anyone who will listen, those who are most critical would never dream of putting their money where their mouth is and becoming either an educator or a police officer.

Several years ago, a business woman-acquaintance was complaining to me about her son's teacher. The business woman went on and on about what the teacher was "doing wrong" and what she should be doing instead. When I gently explained that her proposed solution was unethical and why, she responded, "Well, if I were a teacher, I'd do it anyway." I then gently suggested that with her passion for education, she might want to consider going back to college and getting the necessary classes to become a teacher. Her response was quick,concise, and derisive: "I wouldn't have that job for a million dollars!"

Similarly, a very vocal and virulent critic of police officers said in my hearing a few weeks ago, "I wouldn't be a cop for all the money in the world."

I'm not a Pollyanna, and I realize that there are some bad teachers -- and some bad police officers -- on the job. They should be criticized, but not on social media or in the bleachers at a basketball game. There are avenues to address legitimate issues when they exist.

But there are many, many fine police officers serving in communities across this country, and recent events have shown me that our paths are, in some ways, quite similar. As a result, I've been making more of an effort to express my support and appreciation to those who protect and serve, and I hope you'll join me in doing so.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Did I Really Say That?? (Dream Save Do, week 18)

Did I really proclaim -- and on a public forum, no less -- that by Summer 2016 I would have my possessions other than furniture pared down to what would fit into 5 trunks and a tote bag? Oh my!

A little respiratory bug kept me home the latter part of this past week, and between blowing my nose and taking care of work-related tasks and coughing and sucking on throat lozenges, I took a quick inventory of my possessions. Nothing too precise, mind you; I simply strolled through each room, opening closet doors to see what they hid.

That little trip only confirmed what I already knew. Once I learn to use my scanner and have scanned all my print photos and memorabilia, and once I ruthlessly sort my craft supplies, I will eliminate a large percentage of the stuff I have been moving from house to storage to house to apartment to house to apartment to house these past eight or nine years.

If I had taken a seat right then, I would have avoided a little meltdown. But oh no, I ventured into the basement and took a look at the items that have been either in the basement or in a storage unit -- out of sight in both cases -- for the past several years.

Perhaps the Dayquil--Nyquil regimen I'd been on for four days affected more than just my respiratory issues, or perhaps the fact that a sore throat and cough have kept me from sleeping well for several nights, but as I began opening boxes and bins, my confidence in reaching my goal began to waver a bit. Each box opened brought more doubt. By the time I had opened every box and glanced in to see what it held, I was feeling overwhelmed and more than a little teary.

I sat on the basement stairs and looked at the plastic bins and cardboard boxes and wondered how in the world I was ever going to find the time to go through each one. How I was going to decide what to keep and what to let go. How I was going to part with things that came to me from my grandmothers or that my husband and I had bought together.

I finally picked my sorry little self off the wooden stairway and went in search of comfort food.

Within a few minutes I was ensconced on the couch with a bag of Bugles and a can of ice-cold Sprite. As Dazey hovered like a vulture, I indulged my inner child by slipping a Bugle on the end of each of my fingers before holding my hands up and cackling like a witch. Silly, yes, but I needed a bit of silly just then.

As I slowly ate my way to Bugle-less fingers, I considered my options.

  1. I could delete that blog post and act like I'd never said I could pare down my possessions so ruthlessly.

  2. I could delete my entire blog!

  3. I could post an entry saying that after careful consideration, I simply could not get rid of so many items and that I was perfectly okay with that

  4. I could face the fact that I'm not okay with it, get down to business, and make some tough decisions

Despite the fact that the past 5 1/2 years have been filled with far too many tough decisions and despite the fact that I'm tired of having to tackle what I call "the hard stuff", I decided to go with #4.

In the end, I know it's the right thing to do. Not the easiest, perhaps, but it's the choice that will allow me to live a more joy-filled life, a life unencumbered by items that are "precious" yet remain stored out in boxes in the basement.

I'll pick and choose what to keep -- again and again -- and when I'm finished, the items that I cherish will no longer be stored out of sight but will be displayed on my desk or a shelf or a fireplace mantle.

And when I move, all I'll need is 5 trunks and a tote.