Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Holidays from Stampin' Up!


Ways to put lonely socks to good (uncluttered) use

The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada, is a self-described “unique and charming” museum that displays well over 10,000 shoes and hosts podcasts about “one fantastic shoe” every month. And, shoes aren’t the only thing on display. The museum also held an art exhibit featuring socks and the history of their humble beginnings.
The curious thing about socks is that they often lose their mates and become a source of clutter. Unlike those featured at the Bata, the ones in your home can end up under your bed and in between the sofa cushions. They are also often relegated to the dark recesses of shopping bags when Justin Case comes for a visit.
“I’ll keep this sock, just in case its mate turns up.”
Does that sound familiar? When we misplace an item from a matching set, we tend to hang on to them for a while, especially when the items cannot be used without each other (such as a gadget and its power cord). We probably keep lonely socks because we still see some value in them, even though they are now orphaned and we may not want them anymore. Fortunately, there are uncluttered alternatives to keeping mateless socks:
  1. Wear them! This may not seem as obvious (or maybe it’s so obvious that it’s often overlooked), but you can still wear them. You can make a pair using another lonely sock and wear them around the house.
  2. Use them as padding in your packages. Clean socks can be used inside packages to protect the items that you’re mailing. This is a good way to keep the contents of your package safe, but you should let the recipient know that the socks can be discarded.
  3. Use them to protect holiday decorations. You can store some of your holiday decorations (like ornaments) inside the socks before packing them away.
  4. Dust with them. I’m not a fan of dusting, so this is my least favorite option, but you can add mateless socks to your cleaning supplies. Just be sure to keep a specific number of sock dusters so that you don’t end up cramming more and more of them in with your supplies.
  5. Use them in craft projects. This is perhaps the most fun way to repurpose socks (especially for children). From sock puppets to doll accessories, get creative and make something new. Looking for inspiration? Check out the book The Lonely Sock Club: One Sock, Tons of Cool Projects!.
  6. Make a pet toy. If you have pets, you can make a cool tug-of-war toy for them. Have a look at this tutorial from Real Simple on how to make one. If you have a cat, you can stuff a little cat nip inside it, close it up, and watch your cat go nuts. You may also want to check with your local animal shelter to find out if they have a need for them.
The next time you end up with orphaned socks, be sure that they don’t overstay their welcome and turn into another source of clutter. You can use one of the suggestions above to breathe new life into them, but remember that it really is okay to let them go if you have no use for them.
                                        Six things that suck the life out of                                                                            
                                                 your   productivity
When I taught pre-school children (way back when), I would have the kids jump up and down to “shake the wigglies out” before working on projects that required their sustained attention. This allowed them to have a bit of fun before starting to work, and they were ultimately able to focus and complete their projects more easily. Though I should probably be jumping up and down more (exercising) myself, I’ve noticed that my productivity doesn’t get up to full speed until after I’ve done a fewnon-essential tasks. Though they’re not specifically related to tasks on my to-do list, doing them helps me get into a productive mindset. And, while I’m working, I subscribe to the “silence is golden” rule. I have a better chance of completing tasks efficiently when there’s very little noise and few interruptions.
While it helps to identify the strategies that help you do what you do consistently well, you probably need to figure out the things that cramp your productivity style, too. Are there particular things that throw you off track? A recent article on Mashable suggested that there five things that you should stay away from so that you can get more done (like not sleeping enough), and I’m sharing six more that you should consider kicking out of your regular routine.

Having poor eating habits

This one goes along with not exercising enough (or exercising too much), not drinking enough water, and not taking regular breaks. Lest you start thinking that I sound a bit like your mother, there are some statistics to back up this suggestion. A study published by Population Health Management found that …
Employees with an unhealthy diet were 66 percent more likely to report having experienced a loss in productivity than those who regularly ate whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Employees who exercised only occasionally were 50 percent more likely to report having lower levels of productivity than employees who were regular exercisers.
So, in order to be at your best, take care of yourself and refrain from…

Moving at the speed of light

There are many benefits of slowing down and keeping your pace at a speed that doesn’t make your head spin. Taking your time means that you’ll likely be better at deciding what your priorities are. You’ll also be able to give your full attention to your most important tasks without feeling frazzled.

Trying every productivity strategy

There are many strategies that can motivate you to get stuff done, but not all of them will be the right fit for you. For example, if you know deep down you’re a paper person, use a paper calendar, a notebook, and handwrite your to do list instead of investigating digital options. Gadgets and digital solutions may seem bright and shiny for a moment, but if they don’t suit you, they won’t really help you in the long run. The same is true for how you set up your environment. If you get tons done when you have music playing, go for it. But, if you prefer silence, then keep the music off.
Once you find “the one,” stick to it. Yes, you may need to use a new technique when your life changes, but when you find a system that works well with your learning and work styles, don’t spend any unnecessary time checking out other things.

Working only on other people’s stuff

Sometimes it may seem that you’re getting a lot accomplished, but are those tasks that you’re checking off your to-do list yours? Or do they belong to someone else? It’s nice to help your colleagues, but not at the expense of your own responsibilities. Set aside time to assist others but ensure that you’re giving priority to your own projects. You also need to be careful so you’re not …

Taking on too much

In the spirit of being helpful and wanting to be a team player, you may say yes to any or all opportunities that are offered to you. (Can you really take that board position and coach the basketball team?) Instead, be more selective about what you choose to take on and figure out if accepting something new will negatively impact your life in other ways. Think about the time commitment and, before you say yes, take a look at your calendar and task list to see if you really can accept new projects. Your stock response when other people make requests of your time should be, “let me check my calendar and get back to you.” Save the “yes” responses only for those rare times when you know your boss will be very upset if you don’t jump right in.

Having no way to keep yourself accountable

Whether you’re working on personal or work-related goals, you will need to find a way to hold yourself accountable so that you can meet those goals. If you have no way of tracking your progress, you probably won’t accomplish the necessary tasks. An easy way to work toward completing your goals/projects is to set deadlines and/or milestones. Add due dates and milestones to your calendar (or project management program) and use “naked planning” to your benefit by scheduling regular check-in meetings others involved in the project.
If you can avoid these six productivity traps, you should be able to get things done on time and done well.

Saturday, December 08, 2012


Melva George Halliday will be one hundred and three years old this December 9, 2012. Sometimes I think she knows me when we visit. Other times she asks me where my wife is and how the boys are growing. She tells me about her little house on Braid Street and her garden. She wants to go back there by bus. She misses the independence it gave her. She gets lost easily but motors around pretty good with her feet in a wheel chair. I got scared a few weeks ago when she had a fall and would not get out of bed or eat much. She misses her organic home grown vegetables that have a lot more taste than the puree mushy ones at the Kiwannis Care Center. They take good care of her there and provide her with a comfortable living situation safe for her. She is fed healthy meals with a lot of variety and lots of coffee. Her eyesight and hearing are failing making it harder and harder to communicate with her. She refuses to get cataracts removed, consider glasses or wear a hearing aid since she's over one hundred she thinks it's futile. I disagree. The children aren't keen on visiting her room but downstairs is less scary for them and less smelly too. There is a fish tank, a dining and living type room with giant televisions and a garden to look at out the windows. The get a lot of attention from the other residents. They seem to get a kick out of seeing the children. I guess they do not get a lot of children running around there. The center provides a lot of activities but her hearing and sight prevent her from participating. She finds it too frustrating. I love her dearly but feel very alone in that. I think I have a cousin who visits sometimes and possibly my half sister. She has one out of three sons left alive who in his eighties, lives in Ladysmith. He has 4 children that know her too. She has a few pictures in frames but what happened to all her memorabilia and possessions I do not know. Luckily I was able to track her down when she was taken from her home after a series of falls. Every time she was moved I had a job finding her. Now that my father has died I'll be lucky to be notified if she passes away, by my family that is. She always said, "Our family isn't very close." I suppose they aren't too interested as my own dad wasn't particularly interested in us. Actually he would not recognize me sitting next to him outside on a bench or hanging around him as he walked through the mall. He was an alcoholic, womanizer, chronological liar, drinking driver, diabetic, gambler with a few wives and children and destruction in his path but with "No regrets" according to him. He ended up very lonely and had been threatening to commit suicide when he suddenly died. The only way I found out was by accident through the NWPD. Ancient history. I do care about my grandmother and it's difficult to see her gone. In a sense she has already left us. There is a bit of dementia going on and a lot of forgetfulness. "When you are over a hundred you are always tired." she says. I hope I do not live that long because i am already feeling exhaustion frequently and i cannot imagine being like she is now. I was told by my Uncle H not to mention my father's death since she seems to relive her grief each time but sometimes when she recognizes me she knows. I can see it in her eyes and tear fall. Some days she tells us to "Get lost." or "Beat it." When she is having a good day it is a better visit. She still is physically pretty good and able to do a lot more than most her age. I think it's because of all her healthy living. She has out lived two of her sons so far. Bob her eldest died at the Garfield Hotel of Hepatitis addicted to Methadone. He was a walking zombie in the streets of New Westminster long before that. She used to delight in her flowers and vegetables and was forever outside in her garden. She used rain water to wash her hair and a roller washer to washer her clothes under her house. She never wasted anything and was good at repurposing anything she had since she grew up in the great Depression. She stopped giving Christmas gifts then and wasn't starting now she used to say. In her eighties she frequently enjoyed dancing and playing cards at the Century House until someone unknowingly sat in her seat and she refused to return to her weekly cribbage games. Her homemade pies were quite nice made with her neighbor, Mr. Card's transparent apples or her own berries and currents from the bushes outside in her yard. Everyday she enjoyed the puzzles from the newspaper and her index finger was bent to an angle from knitting her own socks and sweaters. Last week she told me about the time she knit herself a long long coat, a whole coat from top to bottom she repeated a few times. She no longer knits and cannot think well enough to play scrabble or crib or do the crosswords but she's hanging in there. After her last fall I was so worried she would waste away, staying in bed, sleeping as long as a cat does, not eating so much. Luckily she decided to get up and be brave. It must be scary to fall and not be able to get up on your own. I cannot imagine. They have cut her hair, very very short. She claims the hairdresser will be returning to finish the job. She used to cut her hair on her own. I was shocked when I first saw it like I saw who she really is now for the first time. I mourn the loss of her personality the most. After about 20 minutes with the children there she lets me know it's time to get going and we say good bye. I'm glad I haven't had to say it for this life so far. Patrick wanted to cook her some roast beef for her birthday but usually she has a hard time chewing and spits food out once there's no more flavour left. I remember she used to say about her sister Laura, "She has a tube down her throat and she cannot eat anything. How dreadful that must be." We'll bring her some chocolate and perhaps some ice cream or a black forest cake. That will make her happy.  She worries about things getting stolen and has every right too. Her room is by the nursing station so lots of residents wander in if the velcro guard isn't up. Things disappear unless you hide them especially sweets. I imagine people just think of it as helping themselves. I am trying to think what we can do with her but am at a loss but thinking of snakes and ladders. It's hard to watch her age so rapidly as she always seemed so young at heart while I was growing up. Avalina likes to say she must have been very beautiful a long time ago. Ella likes to say greatgramma greatgamma when she hears us talking about her or on the way to and from her place, the place where she is now. I too miss her home and the tours of her garden, her meals, her adventures, her laughter but we can usually get some smiles if it's early enough in the day and she has had a good sleep. I remember she would always visit anyone she knew in hospital and in rest homes when she was getting around more easily. She enjoyed writing and receiving letters from family and friends. She loved to talk and usually you could not get a word in edgewise. She also liked to go to the race track and visit Lynn Canon occasionally. She did not like to eat in restaurants or go to the mall too much. Her favorite flower is a pansy and her favorite treat chocolate covered macadamia nuts. 
This was a nice walk down memory lane for me. Thanks for listening. 

Yikes I forgot about you and me

 Lesson Learned by Phil: Don't leave your overgrown haired son alone with scissors at Lola's house or he'll get a haircut and a really bad one!
 Anastasia Grade Two reading up a storm, coping with her emotions, loving art and dancing and rhythmic gymnastics and the photo booth obviously.
 Manong Marvin is looking like a teenager with growing feet, hair where there wasn't any, clogged pores, attitude sometimes, enjoying Scouts, Friends and Food most of all. He's been volunteering at the breakfast club and likes to get up early!