The John Lewis holiday ad got me again. Yes, I’m fully aware I’m being emotionally manipulated by a department store, and it’s ridiculous and callous on one level, but….it’s really well done blackmail. It did get me thinking about all my past Christmas presents and if any gifts had a similar long-echoing effect into adulthood.
I couldn’t come up with a single gift like Sir Elton, but each year there would be five or six new books laid out under the tree and trying to decide which one to read first was one of my favorite parts of Christmas morning. This year I’ve read over 75 books, written a book, visited the library so much I know all the librarian’s names, and still get excited just to browse through any bookshop. Feels like that had an impact.
On the other hand, the ad also has me reconsidering the kid’s crayon melter gift. I’m not sure there’s a big future job market in smelting….
Working mostly from home can be a blessing and a curse. No commute? Awesome. More things being added to your to-do list? Not awesome. Being able to get the kids off the bus? Awesome. Being constantly at war with yourself over outside distractions? Not awesome.
It’s that last one that can be both mentally and physically draining. You get to the end of the day and find that you have little to show for a so-called full day of work. All those little requests, distractions, and lingering tasks have snuck into and taken over your day like time-eating termites.
How can you take back control of your day and feel like you accomplished something?
Here are the tips, tricks, strategies, and hacks that I use to deal with my top four distractions.
Joy to the World brought on a near epic meltdown at the piano this week. Always a fun situation that gets Michelle reaching for the wine and Ally scuttling to hide in the closet. It also brings to mind what might be the number one question I have as a parent: how do you teach your kids perseverance? Can you teach it? Can it only be learned through maturity and experience?
Did I mention it was the first time she tried to play the song? Cecilia has some aptitude for music, which is probably why we’ve gotten this far, but often has little interest in continuing any activity where mastery doesn’t seem close. She’s still excited about the trombone, but I know we’re getting near that first whiff of resistance where things won’t be so easy. What happens then? What’s the best way bridge the gap between fun and actual progress?
I realize she’s only 9 and perseverance is mostly learning to plod along in the dark until you stumble on a light switch, but I worry she won’t stick with anything long enough to see the results. She’s stubborn as all get out, but stubborn and persistent are slightly different, right? She will try it her way until her fingers bleed and we are all begging her to stop. I’d like to see her be resolute in getting to her goals, not just butting her head against that wall.
Perhaps Saturday would offer some life lessons….
One book that has unexpectedly stuck with me this year is Shonda Rhimes’ memoir Year of Yes. I’m fairly certain I’m not the target audience. I’m not a woman. I’m not black. I’m not a mother. I’ve never even seen a minute of her shows. But I am a bit introverted and increasingly my default position for a great night is reading a book on the couch. Maybe I’d let the dog in the room with me. And a bottle of wine.
So when Michelle suggested, not just adding a side trip to DC, but also to NYC during our drive to see family over Thanksgiving, my knee jerk reaction was a hardy hell no. Nothing could be further from my comfy couch than Midtown Manhattan during Thanksgiving week. It all sounded like a recipe for a stress and anxiety milkshake.
Deep breath. Say yes. Let’s do this….
Like most things in my life recently, I blame most of this adventure on Wicked. While the girls were watching the 15th anniversary show on television, someone (Idina?) said on camera that the original Elphaba dress was now at the Smithsonian.
Now, every other year we travel down to D.C. to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday. Hmmm. The girls are getting older, why not go a day early and hit up some museums. We’ll use Elphaba’s dress as the lure. We played up the dress, the ruby slippers, and the monuments to get the girls excited. It all worked like a charm. Right up until we got the information desk and we were told, yeah, that thing on TV? Not quite true.
Here’s how the rest of our 24 hours in D.C. with kids went…
We learned two things for certain this week. First, despite a lot of trash talking, I can type faster than my wife. Second, Mavis Beacon lives! Sort of.
At this point, even I, as the mildly malevolent task master, am starting to have some sympathy for Cecilia’s daily to-do list. It’s not short, and in the last few weeks we’ve added typing practice. This new addition was actually at her teacher’s request, not mine. See? Mildly malevolent, not madly malevolent.
Like any good modern parent, the first thing I did was do some googling and was I delighted to see that Mavis Beacon was still teaching typing. Or was she? I spent many, many hours looking at her kindly face on the software box as I pounded my way through the home keys. I clicked the link. Who was this? This wasn’t Mavis. Her face and tan power suit are seared into my brain. I know Mavis. Either she had a lot of work done or they swapped in a new Mavis like the Dread Pirate Roberts (RIP, William Goldman). It shook me up for days.
We are only a few weeks into this new life skill practice, but so far there haven’t actually been too many complaints from Ce. Perhaps she recognizes the utility of this skill unlike perhaps the long term usefulness of the Good King Wenceslas.
November brings National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). If you’ve been secretly harboring a desire to write a novel, here are some lessons that helped me and might help you. It goes without saying that if you want to be a writer you need to write a lot and read a lot. But if you want a little more than that. If you’re like me and want a more actionable plan, these 8 steps can help you get started, keep at it, and most importantly, finish it.